Match Report -
Hall bags four
By Iain Benson
Celtic got an early blow in the match at Alfreton, with Gamble succumbing to illness, but Martin Pearson stepped into the breach between the sticks for Bridge in an entertaining game for the neutral, but a nerve wracking one for the fans at either end.

Both teams stormed out of the blocks, and in the first minute Ellington had forced Senior into an early save, and Bowler hit the woodwork with a cross that almost crept in. However, it was Celtic that emerged from this early period on top, with Smart bombing down the wing before launching a sensational cross to the back post that left the Alfreton back line static and Hall was allowed through to tap in from close range at the back post to open the scoring.

Celtic were not content with the one goal, and passed Alfreton off the park, forcing a corner that was played low to the front post, flicked past Senior by Ellington and Hall virtually on the line going on hands and knees to nod in his second of the match before the game was ten minutes old. Celtic kept the ball, and kept winning it back, before Senior again denied Ellington and a last ditch Santos block denied Meechan.

Slowly, Alfreton got themselves into the game, and Celtic came under increasing pressure. Reet and Santos both shot wide, before a Barwick foul some distance out gave Alfreton an opportunity and they didn't waste it. The ball was fired to the centre of the box, and Reet powered in unmarked to thump a header past Pearson to halve the deficit. Last ditch defending from Sykes earned Alfreton a corner, which was put out at the near post for a second, and Law got his foot on it to force Pearson into an outstanding save to keep Celtic's lead going into the interval.

Celtic came out of the interval fired up and within seconds had won the ball back and broke with alacrity, Hall again the man in the box with a finish that Senior couldn't deal with to claim his hat-trick and to restore the two goal cushion.

Alfreton didn't let their heads drop and forced themselves back into the game, with Barnard thumping looping crosses into the box time and time again from just about anywhere on the pitch. Alfreton won a trio of corners as Celtic defended these high balls well, but after a foul by Smart near the wing, it was pumped in by Wilson, and it was Butler this time who came in unmarked to thump his header past Pearson.

Alfreton upped their game, and Pearson had to be on hand to smother a low drive from Wilson, and again from Reet, as the Reds went looking for an equaliser. The equaliser when it came was a gift. A sliced kick out from Pearson fell kindly to Reet who raced unhindered towards Pearson, who stood no chance with the curling drive and the scores were level.

Winn, who had been brought on for Garner, was getting stuck in, and he provided the pass that won Celtic the game, slipping the ball past the defence for Hall to race onto, which he did. A quick look at the linesman to ensure he was onside, and with half the pitch to play in he slowed, drew Senior and then slotted the ball calmly and neatly between the young keeper's legs.

Not content with just four goals, Hall almost added to it with a thumping drive as Celtic sought to restore the two goal lead going into the end game. Barlow too forced Senior into a good stop as time started to run out for the home side.

Deep into the third minute of the two added minutes, Glass (on for Law) got behind Smart and fired in a shot that flew across the face and wide in the last move of the game that left Celtic sitting pretty, with enough games on hand to overtake Hyde and Nuneaton and go into the play off spots. Those games just need to be won now. With Hyde not playing in the league next Saturday, Celtic have a good chance of edging ever nearer, but the opponents will be Harrogate, who will be smarting after their loss to Kettering, and looking to return to second spot.

1Senior, Phil  
2Wilson, Laurie  
3Brown, Anton  
4Santos, Georges  
5Butler, Tony  
6Warne, Stephen  
7Law, Josh  > 76
8Bowler, Kris  > 11
9Clayton, Paul  
10Walton, Christopher  
11Reet, Danny  
12Barnard, Mark  < 11
14Glass, Matthew  < 76
15Knox, Peter  
16Sutcliffe, Kyle  
17Wilson, Matthew