A goalkeeper worthy of a higher division kept a strong Celtic performance in the shadow at Nuneaton.
Celtic started slowly, but kept their head when Nuneaton won an early corner. Peake played it short to Crowley, who lobbed a ball into the box, though several players went close to contacting with the cross, nobody did, and the ball sailed out of play.
For the next ten minutes, neither side could get very far without a whistle being blown for slight infringements or offside, giving the game a stilted feeling. However, it allowed Celtic time to find their feet in the game, and they began to press. When the whistle stopped blowing for a moment, Kelly (playing in his final game for Celtic) was the first to test a keeper, with a low drive from the edge of the box that McKenzie did well to save. It wouldn't be the first time that McKenzie would be needed.
Moments later, Celtic brought the ball back up field, with Peacock getting into a good position on the right, and whipping a fierce ball into the box. Parr, rushing in from the edge of the area met it firmly, but thumped it past the post. Parr again proved a handful, this time from a Bushell cross from the other side of the Penalty area, which he got on target, producing a second fine save from McKenzie.
Bushell tried the direct route a moment later, skimming a low drive from the corner of the box, which McKenzie read well, and scooped up.
And not only was shot stopping that McKenzie excelled at during the game, he commanded his penalty area well too. When Kelly got the better of Cooper, the defender did the usual and hauled the striker back. Peacock sent in a trademark free kick, that McKenzie claimed through a press of bodies.
Over a five minute spell, Celtic could have been two up had it not been for the keeper.
Nuneaton finally broke out of their own half, and had a couple of shots, the best of which was from Peyton, rushing in on a Williams through ball, and snapping a shot off at the edge of the box, but it cleared the crossbar. The Celtic dominance continued, as Steve Bushell evaded his man, and whipped in a cross, only to see the commanding McKenzie snatch it out of the air ahead of Kelly.
Angus, a tall defender, seemed intent on scything down the entire Celtic team, took out Peacock. Peacock's cross was cut out by Cooper, but not far enough away to clear, and Pickford could put it back in, only to see Cooper hoof it clear again. This time Scott was first to the ball, and sent in another whizzing cross that Love headed clear. Seconds later, Peacock beat Angus with a fine turn and sent in a cross that Kelly dived to meet, but the striker steered it too far away from McKenzie and around the post.
Against the run of play, disaster.
Futcher took a free-kick after Charles had climbed all over Murphy to get to the ball, but it fell to McKenzie's arms. His long punt up field went straight into the Celtic box, for Whitehall to nod home before Futcher could get back and assist with the defending.
Celtic were rocked, and Nuneaton used the time to press the visitors.
Scott conceded a corner, rather than have Whitehall whip in a cross, and Fish claimed the in swinger well. Moments later Whitehall again caused problems, which Woods ended with a foul. Charles could not double Boro's lead from the free kick, when he was allowed to reach Peyton's ball first, but could only head it wide.
Celtic finally got it back together on the half hour, and won a corner courtesy of Kelly off Love. Peacock's ball in was cleared by Love, but only as far as Peacock, who smashed it goal bound, only to see an excellent save by Peacock deny him.
Fate stepped in to put a damper on Celtic's resurgence. From a nothing corner, Peyton met a clearance to drive it back into the box. Wood was adjudged to have deliberately handled the ball on the six yard line, denying a certain goal (he was protecting his face - so the ball wouldn't break his nose). He saw red, and Peyton saw a goal from a penalty. Though he had to take it twice, when his own players rushed into the box before the ball had been kicked. A harsh sending off - even the penalty decisionh was a bit harsh - but if he hadn't handled the ball, it would have hit his head.
Again Celtic were rocked, but Nuneaton could not press any kind of advantage as the now 10 men closed up shop for the rest of the half, with only Kelly making runs into the opposition box. He won throw ins and a couple of free kicks, but nothing that troubled McKenzie.
As the half ended, Peacock joined Kelly up front, and found himself some space 25 yards out. His Beckham-esque curling shot tested the Nuneaton goalkeeper again, and found him in excellent form. It was obviously going to take something extra-special to beat this keeper.
Celtic's half time team talk was obviously something to behold as they came out flashing.
Kelly's runs won free kicks and corners, even scoring once, though he had been offside. It was from one such corner that Peacock floated in a ball that caused consternation in the box, before Love finally headed it back for a second corner. This one fell to Pickford, who forced McKenzie into a full length dive to tip the ball around the post.
Peacock's ball in was met by Kelly who's shot beat McKenzie for the first time, only to find Angus on the back post to knock it clear.
On the break, Williams had a chance it put it beyond Celtic, but could not control his wild shot, sending it well wide of the post.
Nuneaton were devastating on the break, this was evident when Peacock's ball in (after Kelly was brought down by Cooper - and Matty Woods was booked!) was cleared allowing Peyton a shot on goal. Fortunately, Fish was alert, and caught the shot fairly comfortably.
As Celtic pressed, Nuneaton countered, making for an end to end game.
Bushell took a free kick after Angus brought down Kelly, between them Angus and Cooper brought Kelly down 25 times, with only a yellow card a piece to show for it. Persistent offenders. The free kick was cleared by Angus allowing Thackery to take on Scott. Scott conceded the corner, and Bushell blocked Peake's ball in at the near post.
Again Celtic looked for the elusive way to goal. Kelly won his umpteenth corner (his ability will be missed) and Peacock's ball in took a good clearance by Angus to deny Pickford. However, it fell to Perkins at the edge of the box, and it took an magnificent save from McKenzie to tip the volley over the bar.
Though Nuneaton were breaking off Celtic's attacks, it was Celtic that were attacking, making Nuneaton's fans very nervous despite the two goal lead.
All of Nuneaton's plays came from bypassing their midfield entirely, and sending balls up the sides from the back. One such effort saw Angus take a free kick from well inside his own half, fall to Peake who's shot from outside the box was blocked by Woods, before falling to Thackary who laid off Whitehall. Futcher was adjudged to have fouled him, but the tall defender made amends by heading clear the free kick.
The Celtic attacks centred around Peacock and Kelly, who are a devastating partnership. A Peacock free kick was turned around the post by Cooper, and McKenzie caught the near post corner before Futcher could flick it on. Angus finally got his yellow card after fouling Kelly, but not the foul, instead it was for kicking the ball away.
Peacock's ball in was met by Steve Bushell six yards out, whose shot produced the best save yet by McKenzie.
Again, though, Nuneaton went close to finishing Celtic off, with Peyton getting to the by-line and crossing in ahead of Scott's attentions. Charles' header was well struck, but Fish saved admirably.
As the game moved towards the last 10 minutes, Peacock was replaced by Courtney in an extra effort to unlock the defence.
His first job was to get onto a Kelly square ball, which he smacked from 20 yards out past the upright.
This was just getting his eye in, though.
Lavery fouled Pickford as the midfielder was making a rushing run into the box. With Peacock off, Bushell took the free kick putting it into the path of Courtney who thundered his volley past McKenzie's arm from the edge of the area. Celtic were off the mark, finally beating this excellent keeper.
Kelly got to within a whisker of drawing level moments later when his shot from the edge of the box was blocked by Cooper, and he was unable to get on Bushell's free kick as the time started to tick away.
Kelly slid a great ball through to Courtney, who was on fire, nutmegging Angus, and looked set to score as Cooper slid in upending the striker. The referee had to award a penalty. (Though Cooper was not dismissed).
Pickford, scorer of Celtic's last penalty, struck an excellent spot kick - but the superb McKenzie was to deny him, with his best save of the match.
Some may say it was in a good height for the keeper, but it was still an excellent save, and sealed Celtic's fate.
To top it off, McKenzie punted long up field for Sykes to knock over the defence and Charles to pounce onto the ball at the edge of the box. He drove it past the undefended Fish.
Insult to injury.
With Celtic not believing what happened, it took Fish's brilliance to keep the score line as it was.
First he put a shot from Charles around for a corner (cleared by Woods), then tipped Peake's shot over the bar after a fierce drive.
The final ball came from Sykes, but was wild and inaccurate. Celtic left the field, unbelieving at what had transpired in the game.
Celtic were by no means beaten by the better side, outplaying the home side even after the harsh dismissal of Steve Wood. And yet, there were no points in the bag.
To make matters worse, Cambridge have decided that Kelly's loan spell was up, and recalled him back to his original squad, where he will slot straight into the first team. Celtic's position is beginning to look untenable. Some wins are required, but the next two games are home to Yeovil and away at Doncaster.