At half time in the tie, Celtic are one-nil down thanks to a well taken goal from Blakeman midway through the first half. Both sides probed and prodded during the opening exchanges, with Duffy almost opening the scoring in the first seconds, firing a blistering shot over the bar. Celtic responded with a looping Hall header narrowly going wide, and Dean putting the ball into Drench's hands from the edge of the box after a Meechan lay-off.
Barratt had Southport's first shot on target just inside ten minutes, though it was through a crowd, there was very little power to trouble Gamble. Duffy's effort ten minutes later was better, forcing Gamble into a decent stop. It was end-to-end stuff, with a pair of corners for Southport creating mayhem in the Celtic box, but somehow bodies on the line kept Duffy's close range shot out, before Meechan raced down the other end and forced Drench into a comfortable save at his near post.
A spell of Southport pressure saw Prince fire over the bar before Celtic failed to clear a ball into the box properly, and Blakeman was allowed a clear sight of goal and took the opportunity well with a great goal deserving of being the match winner, curled over Gamble and into the top corner. Blakeman tried twice more from a similar range, but couldn't find the same connection, barely troubling Gamble, whilst Dean at other end was getting among the back four for Southport and causing them no end of problems, almost scoring snapping off a shot from a Torpey cross that Drench saved well. Just before the interval Dean was given a great chance, Hall laid Dean off and the striker went one-on-one with Duffy, expertly taking the ball around the keeper, but lifting the ball into the side netting.
The second half saw an improved performance from Celtic as their passing game improved, and Meechan was unlucky as Holland got in the way of his shot, putting the ball out for a corner, that Payne got his head on, but headed straight at Drench. Some great footwork from Torpey got him half a chance, but again, the shot was too close to Drench. Ellington was brought on for Dean, but there was no respite for the Southport defence, with Ellington getting among them as much as Dean had, getting onto a Woolliscroft cross, but Drench was right there with him to collect. A catalogue of missed efforts from Winn, Hall, Ellington and Torpey for Celtic and from Duffy for Southport saw the hosts ride out the late pressure to secure a precious lead going into the next leg, knowing any kind of result will see Southport through.
Conversely, Celtic now know exactly what is needed: a win by two goals is all that stands between Celtic and a place in the final at Burton.
Pictures courtesy of Mike Smith