Hume was making his first trip back to Bower Fold since joining Harrogate at the beginning of the season, and stamped his authority on the match in the first minute, scything down Ellington and Hall just outside the box. For some, it would have been a straight red, and Hume was lucky to escape without any sort of punishment. He compounded it moments later with a flagrant trip on Ellington just inside the corner of the box. Again he escaped punishment, but the penalty was conceded. Barlow stepped up to take the spot kick and McLaughlin did well to save the low drive down to his left.
Harrogate took heart from the penalty save, and put sustained pressure on the Celtic goal, with Hackworth, Burton and Merris all seeing their efforts saved, including one from a thunderous distance shot that Gamble acrobatically tipped over the bar. For twenty minutes Celtic rode their luck and slowly started to get their game in gear, Ellington shooting narrowly wide, and Hall missing a tap in at the far post from a Smart cross. After a foul on Meechan Sykes got his foot on the free kick, but diverted it wide, and Harrogate attacked again, Merris getting to the by line and pulling the ball back for Burton coming into the centre of the box unmarked. Gamble got across to the shot, but it zipped between his legs to open the scoring in Harrogate's favour.
Barlow could have equalised just before half time when Meechan won a corner, but his rasping drive from the edge of the box snuck narrowly wide of the mark.
For the third time in succession, Celtic went in at the interval a goal down.
At the start of the second half, Winn was brought on for Garner, and Celtic came out of the blocks at full speed. Hall could have pulled a goal back in the first minute of the second half, but McLaughlin pulled off a good save. The corner came to Smart and he forced McLaughlin into another good reaction block through a crowd, shortly followed by yet another save from a Meechan drive.
The Celtic defence were holding Harrogate at bay, but Dunning still managed to find the space from a narrow angle to fire off a shot that hit the outside of the post, before Peet up-ended Hall near the corner flag. A Smart corner saw Barlow surge into the box and plant his header beyond McLaughlin to put Celtic back on terms. Seconds later, and another foul, this time by Burton, and it was fed through to Ellington who turned well and fired across McLaughlin into the net. Hall followed it in to make sure, but there was no need as Ellington's shot flashed across the line to put Celtic one to the good.
Gone were any time wasting tactics from the visitors, and Holland and Merris both forced Gamble into action before Barlow narrowly missed extending Celtic's lead. That fell instead to Meechan who latched onto Ellington's through ball, took it past Hume and fired under McLaughlin to give Celtic a two goal cushion going into the last ten minutes.
Five minutes into stoppage time, and it looked like the referee was waiting for Harrogate to pull one back, and Hume didn't disappoint. When Barlow was adjudged to have tripped Merris just outside the box, the ball was lifted over the defence for Hume to bundle past Gamble at the far post. With the referee asking if Hume was offside to the linesman, he got a negative, despite it looking like he was, and the goal was given.
There was no more time for Harrogate to do anything, and the referee blew for full time, and Celtic go to the Kettering game on the back of a seven game winning streak, equalling Kettering's record set earlier in the season.
Something will have to give in the Kettering game, as both sides are on a roll, and are the form sides in the league.
|9||Hackworth, Tony||> 77|
|12||Holland, Danny||< 77|