Truth be told, the first half performance from Celtic was not up to their usual high standard, and mistakes were made. However, Celtic still found their way around the back of the Southport defence a few times, with Torpey firing across the face of goal in the opening minute, and the bobbled pitch around the away end box causing the ball to skip away from Dean and Hall when in good positions for a strike.
After missing chances, it was no surprise when Southport took advantage of a series of mistakes by Celtic. After losing the ball in the middle, Celtic didn't pick up the wide man, or Gray in the middle of the park, and when he played it into the box, Sykes slipped allowing James to go one-on-one with Gamble, and though the Celtic keeper got a toe on the ball, it wasn't enough to keep it out.
Celtic could have equalised almost immediately, Drench with an excellent full stretch save to deny Meechan, and from the corner, Smart tried to use the wind to curl the ball in at the far post, only for Holland to head off the line. A kamikaze back pass from Sykes lobbed Gamble, and fortunately went for a corner, with Sykes making up for the howler by getting in the way of Powell's shot.
Whilst looking for a pass, the path to goal opened up for Woolliscroft, and he took it, forcing Drench into another good stop, whilst at the other end, Gamble had to be on his toes to deny Barratt, whilst Holland and Prince both blazed over the bar from the edge of the box as the half turned into the interval.
At the start of the second half, Celtic looked more comfortable, more composed and began to play like they can. Dean was unlucky with a turned in cross going narrowly past the post, before Torpey found Winn who turned his marker and fired past a defender and under Drench's body to equalise.
Celtic never looked back and less than two minutes later, Torpey put in the cross of the match for Meechan creeping in at the back post, unmarked he powered his header past Drench with little the Sandgrounder's keeper could do. Celtic kept pressing, and won a corner out a hapless defence, which Torpey whipped into the box for Hall to flick on to Sykes, who could nod the ball into an empty net to score his first goal since October 2006.
Hall could have made it four with a powerful shot that zipped past the post, before Southport grabbed one back from the spot. Payne slid in to dispossess Houghton, looking to have got a good contact on the ball, but the referee did not see it that way, and indicated to the spot without hesitation. Gray stepped up to record his eighth goal in four matches, though Gamble's fist almost put it over the bar.
It could have led to a grandstand finish, but Celtic never let Southport have another sniff, and instead it was Dean who almost restored the two goal cushion but for a decent stop from Drench, and Torpey's shot lacked the power to trouble the Southport keeper. Meechan and Hall both shot wide as the Celtic team calmed the game down and ran down the clock to ensure victory.
With the news that Harrogate had drawn, increasing the gap between Celtic and Harrogate to four points, the same as that between Celtic and Telford in second, the win was all the sweeter. Second spot is in our sights, but it will require more of the same to get there.
|7||Prince, Neil||> 66|
|9||James, Oliver||> 74|
|14||Smith, Terry||< 66|
|16||Speck, Neil||< 74|