A penalty and a freak goal were enough for Chester to win the Cheshire Senior Cup to add to their Championship trophy, but Celtic's performance was mightily encouraging, despite playing for more than half the game with ten men.
Celtic started brightly in a very windy Wincham Park, with Greg Wilkinson's shot almost curled in early on by the wind. Any notion that Chester had taken their foot off the gas after winning the league were dispelled when Marc Williams was through on goal, only to be thwarted by Alex Cairns. Celtic were a little guilty of not taking chances, with Tom Buckley twice getting into good positions, but trying one pass too many around the box, one went to Lewis Hatch, who snapped off a twenty-yarder, but fired wide, and when Buckley did shoot it soared over the bar carried on a gust of wind. Adam Parkhouse could have given Celtic the lead were his studs longer, just unable to get on Chris Hall's low cross across the face of goal.
Chester took the lead when Antoni Sarcevic got into the box, and was bundled over by Joel Bembo-Leta. A penalty was duly awarded, but to further punish Celtic, Bembo-Leta was also sent off. Sarcevic scored the penalty, power taking it beyond Cairns fingers. A goal down, a man down, the Celtic of Christmas would have given up, but not this Celtic. They dug in and kept plugging away. Kristian Platt was two inches away from equalising, when his free kick cleared the bar at considerable pace, and Prince Haywood put an effort wide of the post. At the other end, Marc Williams tried the spectacular overhead kick, but Cairns flew to his left and tipped the ball away.
Throughout the second half, the ten-man Celtic matched the league champions all the way, and didn't look a man down. Chester created the first chance of the half, a long, high ball brought down well by Danny Williams, one-on-one with Cairns, the Celtic keeper was outstanding in getting down and a hand to the powerful drive, and Callum Warburton got back to deny Marc Williams an acute angle shot from the loose ball.
A moment of vision from Prince Haywood saw acres of empty space, and he fired a cutting low ball through the defence for Chris Hall to chase. Horan did well to track Hall, but the Celtic striker shrugged him, waited for the keeper to commit and slotted home the equaliser with a very well taken goal.
At 1-1, Celtic had a chance, but Platt's pass back to the keeper put Cairns under pressure, with Tony Gray closing him down, Cairns tried to smash the ball off Gray for a goal kick, only for the ball to hold up in the wind, and let Gray steal the ball. His shot was very acute and would have trundled out past the far post had it not been for another gust of wind that saw the ball make a neat corner and roll into the net with Cairns arriving at speed, but too late. There was no doubt Gray had been going for goal, and it was well taken, but he owes the wind a pint.
Chester closed the game down after this, sending long balls for substitute Nathan Jarman to chase, which all sailed far too far down field, with Jarman only having one chance, that he screwed well wide. Chris Hall had a great chance to equalise with just over ten minutes remaining, but Martin Fearon blocked well, denying Celtic a rousing finish to the game.
It was a much improved performance on the previous two time the teams have clashed this season, and despite not taking home the trophy, the players can hold their heads high.
|6||Williams, Ashley||> 57|
|10||Williams, Marc||> 68|
|14||Jarman, Nathan||< 68|
|17||Brown, Scott||< 57|