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Match Report -
Enemy Returns
By Debbie Taylor

Celtic saw the unwelcome return of Wizzo, Jonah and Sully in a far from boring 0 - 0 draw.

Two master defensive tacticians went head to head, and a goalless draw could probably have been predicted. Though a missed penalty could not.

It was almost like a fencing match, with neither team wanting to make a mistake, and both doing so.

The initial thrust came from Southport as ex-Celt Steve Jones lobbed a ball over the box, which Parke headed down into the 6 yard box. Fish was alert to the danger, and collected the ball before Southport could react.

However, Celtic dominated the play for the remainder of the match.

Peacock was allowed some time and space to find Courtney at the edge of the box. Robertson shoved Courtney out of the way, and looked surprised when the referee awarded a free kick. Peacock tried to curl it around the wall, but it caught a deflection that sent it spinning high into the air. Dickinson, the Southport keeper, watched the ball descend, along with the rest of both teams, but only he was ever going to catch it.

His clearance was quickly returned down field, where Southport granted Celtic a throw, level with the six yard box.

Southport again allowed Peacock the time to pick out his cross, which he put to the back post where Kelly was steaming in. The keeper back-pedalled and managed to get a hand to it before Kelly could nod home, putting it out for a corner.

It was put back in, and cleared by Teale, badly. Peacock received it back off Pickford, and cleverly made space three yards outside the box, curling a shot around Dickinson, and also around the post.

Steve Jones in an odd position on the left wing, looked uncomfortable there, but he still managed to win a corner of Murphy after receiving a long diagonal ball from Teale.

Owen took the corner, to Parke, who's miskick looked to be going wide, but the other Jones somehow managed to perform a scissor kick near the six yard box. Fish watched the ball sail harmlessly over.

The long kick down field saw Kelly thread into the box, but the ball was cleared, again very badly by Teale, allowing the ball to fall to Pickford who fed it out to Peacock. With defenders converging on him, he knocked the ball off one to get a corner.

Robertson rose higher than Parr to clear the ball out.

A quick long ball to Grayston allowed the winger to turn Matthew Woods inside out and leave him on the floor as he fired in a cross. With so few Southport players up yet, Murphy had time to defend it, but put it out for a corner. He made amends by making the clearance at the near post look very simple.

Robertson made a rare mistake at the other end allowing Kelly to latch onto his poor pass, and feed Courtney with a beautifully weighted ball that split the offside trap. Dickinson was off his line like a whippet and gathered the ball at Courtney's feet, forcing the striker to leap over the prostrate keeper.

Within a minute, an exact same pass from Kelly again split the defence, and again Dickinson was alert enough to gather at Courtney's feet.

Courtney wasn't giving up though. He forced a mistake from Clark, taking the ball inside. The keeper again came out to him, forcing Courtney wide. At the by line, a flick back to Kelly racing into the box came squarely to the striker's feet. As Kelly was about to pull the trigger, Clark stuck his leg out bringing Kelly crashing to the floor. The referee instantly pointed to the penalty spot, and Steve Wood stepped up to take.

Wood sent the keeper the wrong way, but only because the keeper would have needed a ladder to reach the ball. Wood cleared the Lockwood & Greenwood stand as well as the goal. All he needed to do was keep it down, and Celtic would have come away with three points.

As though to punish Wood, Jones brought him down outside the centre circle, crashing in from behind and receiving a yellow card.

Courtney, Peacock and Kelly were having the run of the Southport defence, but unable to provide a final telling ball.

This was never more apparent when Courtney laid off to Peacock who sent in a trademark cross that Pickford could somehow not quite reach, though Kelly managed to whip it back across to Peacock, only to see Steve Jones intercept and clear.

Southport's attack was slowly gaining ground, and when Sullivan was brought down on the edge of the box by Scott, Fish had to be on his toes. Parke's wicked free kick cleared the bar, but only by inches. Fish's long goal kick looked set to leave the field of play level with Southport's box, when Kelly raced onto it and somehow managed to keep it in. Kelly started an attack from a nothing situation, crossing in to Parr and Courtney in the box. Teale again lashed at his clearance, and it fell to Wood in an excellent position.

The midfielder would have had a good shot on goal, had Clark not slid in an up ended him.

Peacock's curled free kick cleared the wall this time, and would have been in the bottom corner had Dickinson not managed to grow an extra couple of inches to tip the ball around the post. Peacock's corner was met by Futcher, who headed down. This time Teale's clearance managed to get some distance.

Sullivan was allowed past by Scott, and raced through onto Parke's through ball.

Fish was quick off his line, and smother the ball at Sullivan's feet. The ex-Celtic winger was not as lithe as Courtney, and crashed into Fish. There was a worried couple of minutes whilst Fish received treatment from Annemarie, but a dose of the magic spray had him back on his feet, and Batty still on the bench.

After wasting a corner, Southport regained the initiative with a free kick near the corner flag. Owen curled it in, aiming for goal. Futcher was alert and cleared off the line but only as far as Parke. Parke's initial shot was blocked by Fish with an excellent stop, and smothered before a Southport foot could stab it home.

The long Fish clearance was met by Courtney who laid off Peacock. The wing wizard dummied his way past Robertson, then nutmegged Teale to make some space. With the keeper off his line, he tried a delicate chip. Dickinson stumbled backwards and somehow managed to tip the ball over the crossbar.

Matty Woods tried the acrobatic overhead kick from the corner, but missed, and Southport cleared.

At the other end, Murphy was on hand to make sure that the only place Grayston's cross went was behind for a corner.

Southport never really troubled the Celtic defence from corners, and this was no different. It was a long corner, which Parke headed back into the six yard box, and Matty Woods cleared.

Lane, who had been rather quiet all half for Southport, mainly taking the throw-ins, decided to get in on the act, first brining Pickford down with a scissor tackle that should have seen him receive a yellow card, but he got off with a warning. Seconds later, he swung high at Kelly after the attacker has raced past him, bringing Kelly down, and in obvious agony. It was a dangerous high tackle that would have meant arrest had he done it on the street, but he got off with a mere yellow card. He should have had a yellow for the first, and a red for the second. Celtic could do nothing with the free kick.

Dickinson was brave for a third time in the half, when Pickford fed Kelly, and the keeper took it off Kelly's outstretched boot.

Stalybridge started the second half in a similar vein, and when Owen brought down Parr in a dangerous position, the crowd held their breath while Peacock lined up the free kick. But it was charged down, and sent clear, allowing Southport to race up field and win a corner off Woods. Again, there was no problem defending the corner.

Murphy started making forays up field, and his first ball in was met by Robertson, and headed out, as far as Peacock who was fouled. His quick free kick was met at the back post by Pickford, but diverted wide of them mark.

From nothing, Kelly managed to wrestle the ball of Robertson, and whip in a first time shot from the edge of the box. The keeper tipped it around the post, and smothered it, blocking the linesman view of the corner it should have been.

Southport's second yellow card was a nothing affair, as Pickford had his shirt pulled. If that was a yellow, why was the dangerous tackle also a yellow in the first half?

Wilson tried to sort out the Southport's lacklustre performance by swapping Owen for McCauley. As Owen had just received a card, perhaps Wilson thought that his midfielder was getting out of hand.

McCauley could do nothing as Peacock squared to Wood, who knocked it over the top to Courtney. Inside the box, Courtney took the ball on his chest and brought the ball down. As he turned, Teale and Robertson converged on him, sandwiching the attacker, and allowing Dickinson to collect the ball.

The Celtic Conference Curse struck again on 68 minutes when Parr was clumsily tackled so long after the ball had gone that not only were the officials not looking, but the majority of the crowd missed it as well. Parr received treatment on the spot, but Annemarie called for the stretcher, and Parr was clapped from the field of play and replaced by Bushell.

After the restart, Southport won two corners in quick succession; firstly a Sullivan long ball was put out by Woods, then Futcher took the ball off Parke's outstretched boot for the second. In neither case did Southport look like they would score.

Whilst Bushell was not the linking player Parr had been, he linked Peacock to Kelly, with a long diagonal ball that Kelly met at force, sending the ball around the post.

After substitutions by both sides (Perkins for Scott and both Jones' for Whittaker and McGorry), Southport won a free kick off Perkins. Parke sent it in, and Fish covered ground well to deny the curling shot, putting it out for a corner because he forgot to shield the smothered ball from the linesman, like Dickinson had.

Going into the last 10 minutes, Pickford's continuous running engine allowed him to catch up with Whittaker, and knock the ball from his feet. Nothing wrong with the tackle. Or was there? The referee decided it was from behind, and though he got the ball, it was a yellow card. Southport obviously agreed because McGorry just knocked the ball into the Celtic penalty area for Fish's easiest catch of the night.

Celtic finished the game with a dramatic flurry. A knocked through ball from Bushell saw Kelly and a defender chase it. Lane shielded the ball, letting it run out. Kelly ran around him, and knocked it towards the side line. Again Lane tried to shield, and again Kelly ran around him, and nutmegged him to further Lane's embarrassment. A one two with Pickford put Kelly at the edge of the box, but his shot clipped the cross bar for a goal kick.

Pickford again fed Kelly, who raced into the box, and slammed the ball goalwards. It smacked the crossbar, and came back out to Peacock, who volleyed the ball back goalwards, the keeper beaten, but for the millionth time this season, Peacock struck woodwork instead of netting, and the ball came to the keeper's arms.

Though Southport got a corner, Celtic pressure earned them one at the other end, with only last ditch defending preventing Kelly from getting on the score sheet, something he must do soon.

Peacock's corner in was met with a thumping header by Futcher, down into the bottom corner. Dickinson at full stretch just made it, tipping it around the post.

Southport cleared the ball from the corner, but only for a throw.

As Celtic pressured, the ball was flying into the box almost constantly, with Southport defending with some desperation, unable to clear far or for long.

Murphy finally put them out of their misery by firing a shot over the bar. Even so, though Southport harried and pressed, Celtic crisp passing moved the ball about well around the midfield, but Southport were defending to the last and Celtic just ran out of time.

Kelly got a deserved man of the match and it won't be long before his name is climbing the top-scorer's list.

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