Celtic came close, very close, to promotion, but the last step was just a little too far. Barrow and Celtic faced each other at Burton Albion, and in the first half, the two teams cancelled each other out, with chances at a premium. Torpey and Meechan got half chances, but no more than that, Torpey firing into the arms of Deasy and putting a free kick inches over the bar, and Meechan shot wide after being put in by Winn.
Barrow's best chance of the half came from a free kick after Ellington was harshly adjudged to have impeded Walker. Twenty-five yards out, Boyd curled in a solid free kick that had Pearson scrambling across his goal line, but it thumped into the side netting. Barrow were starting to create chances as the half drew to a close, with Boyd and Bond both firing high, and the half time whistle gave Celtic a chance to recoup.
Celtic came out of the dressing rooms with the words of Burr in the ears. From the off, it was Celtic who looked to have the edge, and early corner caused problems from the Barrow defence, before Hall got behind McNulty and one-on-one with Deasy it took a fine save from the Barrow keeper to keep the scores level.
Barrow got a free kick out wide, and treated it like a corner, floating the ball into the heads. There was a near post flick and nobody tracked the flight of the ball except Henney, who latched onto it and put it into the unguarded net. After the fine defending that had preceded it, it was a soft goal to concede, but they all count.
Energised by the goal, and exploiting the gaps that Celtic left looking for an equaliser, it took a superb goalkeeping display from Pearson to deny Barrow a comfort zone. Twice Rogan got in behind the defence and twice from close range Pearson denied him. Something needed to change for Celtic to get back in it, and that something was the introduction of Dean and Barlow. Dean immediately got in among the defence and started causing problems, forcing Deasy into a fine save with a low shot virtually from the touchline. Barlow ran at Elderton with renewed legs, and found a cross for Torpey to volley over the bar.
Celtic were looking, but running out of time. A Barlow touch and run with Hall put him a great position at the edge of the box, and his drilled low shot beat Deasy, but thumped against the post, and fortuitously fell to Winn, who half volleyed it back in, the ball an inch wide of the upright. With seconds to go, a looped ball from Torpey for Hall to run onto was clearly brought down by Jones? hand, but as with the two handed shove on Hall and the trip on Barlow, nothing was given.
Celtic brought Keeling on, went to 2-3-5, with Keeling and Payne at the back, Torpey, Sykes, Dean, Barlow and Hall as a front five, Garner, Winn and Barwick just behind the front five. Pressure was mounting on the Barrow goal, as Barrow camped into their own box, but the closest Celtic came was a last minute shot from Hall that beat everybody, but also cleared the crossbar by half an inch.
All credit to Barrow, they defended staunchly, and Celtic never did find the one ball that would unlock them.
Despite losing, the fact that Celtic were in that game at all, is all down to the genuine ability of Steve Burr and the team he has assembled. The width of a post from promotion cannot be seen as a bad season in anybodies eyes.
Pictures courtesy of Mike Smith
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