Celtic pulled Solihull Moors apart in the opening stages to record an excellent win in Birmingham.
Straight from the kick off, Celtic attacked the Solihull goals. They had the home side struggling to get the ball off them as they passed the ball up the pitch, before Meechan cut the ball inside for Hall who found Dean with his back to goal. Dean flummoxed the defence and the keeper with a smart turn and shot that was just beyond the reach of Ghent in the Moors? nets despite crossing the line in slow motion Ghent could do nothing but watch.
Celtic set up camp in the Solihull half, with several good crosses that kept the home defence on their toes, before Moors got their act together and broke, with Anderson forcing Pearson into an early save with a weak effort. Celtic continued their probing, with Winn going narrowly wide after a pull back from Hall, before Woolliscroft surged forward and latched onto a poorly cleared ball firing just over the bar.
A series of corners was not well dealt with by the home side, and eventually, Ducros fouled Barlow near to the corner flag. After the initial free kick was forced to be retaken due to the advancing wall, Smart whipped an excellent free kick to the back post where a queue of Celtic players waited unmarked. It was a case of who would score, not if, and it was Hall who applied the coup de grace thumping his header down into the bottom corner. As the Solihull Moors players looked to the linesman, wondering how three players could get into such a good position without being offside, the referee gave the goal.
Moors made a fist of it through the rest of the half, and both Cummins and Gould went close before a fine cross in from Winn found Barlow storming in and only a superb reaction save at close range denied Barlow Celtic's third. Keeling then latched onto a loose ball outside the box, but thundered his shot over the bar with Ghent stranded.
Collins put a free kick wide of the mark after a foul by Winn, and Middleton got his free kick on target after a foul by Sykes, but Pearson made the catch look comfortable.
Moors subbed Ghent at half time, brining on Rachel, also bringing on the big and powerful Davidson for Cummins.
The half started with two good chances for Celtic, with Meechan shooting woefully wide when a pull back looked more on the cards, and Winn forcing Rachel into an excellent early save. However, the substitutions had the desired effect for Moors, with Davidson making a nuisance of himself with strong running, and he set up Anderson for a shot that Pearson had to save at the second attempt, before shooting wide moments later. Davidson set up Middleton for a good effort sneaking into the box, but Pearson clawed the ball into his grasp, and Middleton followed it up with a dismal effort that put the corner flag in more danger than the goal.
Barlow again tested Rachel and found him on sparkling form, and a Smart corner drifted just over the bar after curling back in, before Woolliscroft again got forward but blazed over the bar. Moors rode their luck a little bit and again attacked, with Davidson unleashing a low drive that Pearson missed, but Smart was on the line to hack clear. Middleton got his head on a corner but directed it straight at Pearson as the half went into the final throws.
Moors seemed to run out of ideas, and the introduction of Ellington for Dean saw Moors once again on the ropes, with Ellington putting a superb ball into the path of Winn. Rachel advanced but calm as anything, Winn chipped the substitute keeper with the outside of his boot the ball sailing under the bar to effectively end the game. It was all Celtic then as they ran rings around their hosts, and it was only a matter of time before Celtic added to their tally, and it was an Ellington Winn combination again that unlocked the home defence, Winn stealing in and curling a drive beyond the fingertips of Rachel. It could have been more, with Rachel called into action for a double save right before the final whistle, Ellington's drive only parried by Rachel, coming to Winn and Rachel smothered on Winn's feet to deny him a hat-trick. Celtic now need to follow up their solid all round performance and close the gap still further on the top spots. It was a fine send off for assistant boss Dave Moss, who left to join Liverpool at the end of the match.
All pictures courtesy of DeanB Photography