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Match Preview :- Blyth Spartans - Tuesday March 24th, 2009 (19:45:00)
Tuesday night sees Celtic face relegation threatened Blyth Spartans visit Bower Fold for the Conference North clash (kick off 7:45pm, there will be a live match centre for this game). Blyth are currently nineteenth in the table, level on points but with a better goal difference than Redditch. They are fourteen places and twenty-two points behind Celtic, having played two games less.

Blyth have won their last two games, and are now unbeaten in six. They beat Stafford and Telford at home, and have picked up creditable draws at Tamworth and Alfreton on their travels, whilst also drawing against us and Alfreton at home. Since the start of September they had picked up just ten points out of an available fifty-four, with a good end to January seeing them win three on the bounce over Fleetwood, Hinckley and King's Lynn. With ten points picked up in the last eighteen they look to have turned their season around, and are making a real stab at staying in the Conference North. Their mid-season poor form stands as a league record this season as the longest run without a win (eleven games).

We last met Blyth a couple of weeks ago, at the start of March when we visited the north east. That game ended in a stalemate and goalless. Blyth's last two visits to Bower Fold were also goalless, though their last visit was the Setanta Shield that they won on penalties. This is the only win over us in the last ten attempts, with Celtic winning seven, and losing just the Setanta Shield. We will need to continue that kind of form if we are to reverse the just one point in the last nine, and get our promotion push back on track.

Blyth's top scorers this season are Gareth Williams and Shaun Reay, who both have six goals. Robbie Dale is right behind them on five. None of these three have scored many away from home, though, with Williams and Reay scoring one each on Blyth's travels. On average, Blyth score 1.2 goals per game (0.6 away), whilst they concede 1.6 goals per game (1.8 overall). Their most dangerous period is the end of the first half with twelve of their thirty-seven goals coming in this period. Their most vulnerable period is around the half hour mark when they have conceded fourteen of their forty-eight goals this season.

Blyth do not have any suspension worries ahead of the match, though Chris McCabe will probably be missing through a hamstring injury, though first team keeper Mark Bell has returned to fitness he will have to fight for a first team place with stand-in keeper Paul Farman having played so well since he was given his chance. In their last match, the 2-1 win at home to Stafford, Blyth lined up as:
1. Paul Farman
2. Kenny Boyle
3. John Brackstone
4. Gareth Williams (Captain)
5. Richard Pell
6. Andrew Leeson
7. Adrian Webster
8. Gary Brown
9. Robert Dale
10. Marc Walton
11. Simon Todd

Celtic will be without Andy Smart, but will most likely be giving a home debut to John Hardiker. With Nathan Joynes going on loan and Nicky Platt being released, Celtic will be at the bare bones for Tuesday night. Chris Denham picked up a knock early on against Gateshead, and will have to have a fitness test ahead of Tuesday night. In our last match, the 1-0 defeat away at Gateshead, Celtic lined up as:
1. Paul Phillips
2. Ashley Woolliscroft
3. Michael Bowler
4. Barrie Keeling
5. Terry Barwick
6. John Hardiker
7. Steve Torpey
8. Keith Briggs
9. Paul Sykes
10. Matty Barlow
11. Chris Denham

Our cushion between ourselves and sixth has been eaten into over the past three games, and Celtic really need to re-establish that. With Telford in a bit of a rut of poor form of late, we have a chance to overtake them on Tuesday and move up to fourth, but we will probably have to break down a five man defence as Blyth come looking to pick up whatever points they can to preserve their Conference North status. The automated prediction algorithm does not think that they can manage it, and is suggesting Celtic will win 3-2 – which will be a surprise given the last five meetings between the two teams have seen just two goals.
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