Runcorn had not come to Bower Fold to be a sacrificial lamb on the Celtic alter, they had come to win.
And it looked for nearly an hour as if they would manage it. Runcorn had obviously done their homework about Celtic's current team, and were nullifying our front two quite adeptly, whilst not forgetting about Parr.
From the off, Celtic's back four were under pressure, conceding a corner almost from the kick-off, as Crookes made a timely intervention from a Runcorn cross. This was the first of many corners for Runcorn, as they pressed Celtic hard on a difficult pitch.
Sullivan did manage to break down the wing, but his shot was over, after being forced to shoot from distance.
Dave Nolan repeated the act for Runcorn down the other end, where most of the action was in the first half an hour. When Filson managed to intercept two crosses in quick succession to put them out for corners, it looked as if Celtic would weather the early storm. However, when Runcorn's fifth corner came, this time Paul McNally made no mistake, heading back across goal into the bottom corner of the Celtic net.
Celtic tried to regain the impetus, with new signing Ian Cooke pushing the ball through the middle of the park. Indeed, the majority of the chances fell to Celtic after the goal, as Runcorn pulled everybody back to defend.
Cooke scraped the post, and Scott cleared the goal and the stand from distance. Sullivan managed to put a great ball in, but Cooke was stretching to reach it, and the resulting header was too easily caught by Richard Acton between the Runcorn sticks.
Now the corners were coming to Celtic, but not the goals. Kev found the ball at his feet at the edge of the box, but his powerful drive was well saved by Acton.
Filson's free kick in the last five minutes of the half saw Peter Ellis stretch a foot to deny McNeil, and after a three successive corners, Filson headed over.
Celtic were pressing forward so much that a counter was inevitable, and Nolan broke from his own half, and had a clear run on goal. Fortunately, Ingham was on hand to save superbly!
A Phil Wilson wonder talk at half time changed the team around. Green and Scott started causing problems down the left, whilst Ward and Sullivan interchanged well on the right, and Cooke laid off, and flicked on through the middle ably assisted by Parr. Runcorn began to see the true Celtic and a goal was inevitable, and when it came it was superb!
McNeil latched onto a Green through ball, and took it into the corner. Somehow he squeezed out between two defenders, and put a cross into the box.
It looked too far, and Cooke and Sullivan both were unable to reach it. Stealing in on the back post was none other than Derek Ward, who's half volley was as perfect as any you might see, straight into the net past the diving Acton.
Realizing the game was back on, Runcorn pressed up the field, only to see Ness blast over and Nolan's well judged shot from a tight angle was well caught by Ingham.
But this was just a side show as Celtic began to dominate. Cooke headed across the face, but Sullivan just couldn't reach it, and Acton tipped over Parr's thundering header. Acton again saved athletically, from the corner saw Filson and Acton go for the same ball, and Filson came out on top, but the ball stopped in the mud, and Acton twisted to grasp it.
Just after the hour, a fine throw in from Locke saw Filson head it back across the box, where Ian Cooke latched onto it with a half volley from twenty yards. The ball zipped in through a mass of bodies, and Acton threw himself to the left, but could not reach it. I think that McNeil may have got the vital touch to divert those extra few inches, but I'm sure Matty will allow Cooke a goal on his debut!
To cap the game off, as Runcorn started pressing more up the field, Sullivan broke from his own half, and had a clear run on goal, exactly like Nolan's end of first half attempt. Sullivan showed him how it should be done, drawing Acton, rounding him and slipping it into the net before any of the defenders could get back.
Cooke was replaced by Evans, who gave the defenders something else to think about, forcing Neil Whalley to take off two midfielders and replace them with two defenders. The last few minutes ticked away with the ball consistently in Runcorn's third of the field. Several throws and corners resulted, but Celtic were unable to grab a late goal to ice the cake.
A fine second half performance showed true team spirit!