Celtic are back on the road on Saturday when we make the long trip to Blyth for a Conference North fixture (3pm kick off ? there will not be a live match centre for this game). Blyth are currently six points from safety in the relegation zone, in twenty-first position, with twenty-three points, sixteen places and twenty-six points behind Celtic, with two games in hand.
After starting the season brightly, with four wins in seven that gave them a season high of fourth, Blyth?s FA Cup heroics were not matched by a corresponding league form, and they lost seven straight games and went eleven games without a win. A rally in mid-January saw them string three wins together, beating Fleetwood (3-0) and Hinckley United (1-0) at home and King?s Lynn (3-2) away, but in their last five games, they have lost four and drawn their most recent game 1-1 away at Alfreton Town. Having looked certain winners against Harrogate at the end of January, four goals from Harrogate reversed the result to end 4-3 to Harrogate starting their most recent run of poor results. Blyth have the unfortunate league records of longest goal drought (four games), longest losing streak (seven games) and longest run without a win (eleven games).
Last season, after holding us to a 0-0 draw in September, Blyth then knocked Celtic out of the Setanta shield just a month later, after holding us to another 0-0 draw in normal time and going through on penalties. Celtic went to Blyth and came away 1-0 winners. Blyth?s last league win over Celtic was in Blyth the season before when they beat us 1-0 in April 2007. However, Celtic have a good record against Blyth, and in our last eight visits, we have won five and lost three. Apart from the penalty shootout win in the Setanta Shield, Blyth have not won at Bower Fold in their last ten visits, with Celtic winning seven, and two draws.
Blyth?s top scorers this campaign are Gareth Williams and Shaun Reay, both of whom have six, between them this is nearly half of Blyth?s goals this season. Only Hucknall and Stafford have scored fewer goals this season (both on twenty-five) to Blyth?s, giving them the third worst attack in the league. Defensively, they are mid-table though, having conceded forty-four goals. On average, they score 1.9 goals per game at home (1.5 overall), whilst conceding 1.4 goals per game at home (1.7 overall). They have kept six clean sheets (five of which were at home), the last of which was a 1-0 home win over Hinckley on the 20th of January. In the last five games, they have scored five and conceded eight. Their most dangerous period is just before half time when they have scored seven of their thirty goals this season, whilst their most vulnerable period is the half hour mark, where they have shipped eleven of their forty-four goals.
Blyth will be without first choice goalkeeper Marc Bell through injury, though other injuries to their squad seem to be abating, with Chris McCabe back for their 1-1 draw with Alfreton, albeit as a substitute, as is Marc Walton. Blyth are hoping to sign two new players ahead of the clash on Saturday: Gareth Waite a midfielder from Spennymoor, and Shildon striker Warren Byrne. In their last match, the 1-1 draw against Alfreton, Blyth lined up as:
1. Paul Farman
2. Kenny Boyle
3. Gary Brown
4. Gareth Williams
5. Richard Pell
6. Andy Leeson
7. Adrian Webster
8. Chris McCabe
9. Robert Dale
10. Shaun Reay
11. Marc Walton
Celtic will be without Andy Smart for the match, who is recovering from an ankle operation. Celtic will have Chris Denham, who is on-loan from Altrincham for the rest of March, and he played a considerable part in Celtic?s last match, the 7-1 dismantling of Hinckley United at home. In that match, Celtic lined up as:
1. Paul Phillips
2. Ashley Woolliscroft
3. Rhys Meynell
4. Barrie Keeling
5. Michael Bowler
6. Paul Sykes
7. Steve Torpey
8. Keith Briggs
9. Matty Barlow
10. Lee Ellington
11. Chris Denham
Celtic will be full of confidence after their campaign record score-line over Hinckley, and their away form has seen Celtic go five games without conceding a goal, and winning them all; indeed, conceding just twelve and losing just twice on the road this season. Couple this with Blyth?s home record of two wins in seven, the automated prediction algorithm?s suggestion of a 2-1 win for Celtic may not be far off the mark. However, this will be a very tough match with Blyth fighting for their lives. With Alfreton and Harrogate both queued up behind us, only a point away from the play offs, another win is vital to maintain our promotion push.
Other matches on Saturday:
AFC Telford United (54pts, 3rd) v King?s Lynn (36pts, 12th)
Droylsden (42pts, 8th) v Alfreton Town (48pts, 6th)
Gainsborough Trinity (42pts, 9th) v Workington (31pts, 16th)
Harrogate Town (48pts, 7th) v Redditch United (29pts, 19th)
Hinckley United (40pts, 10th) v Fleetwood Town (39pts, 11th)
Hucknall Town (21pts, 22nd) v Solihull Moors (30pts, 18th)
Southport (54pts, 4th) v Gateshead (63pts, 1st)
Tamworth (60pts, 2nd) v Farsley Celtic (31pts, 15th)
Vauxhall Motors (35pts, 14th) v Burscough (30pts, 17th)