Celtic truly had nothing to beat, but couldn't beat them. There was no end product to the countless attacks that washed across the Ashton defence, and it is not testament to the Ashton players, but rather the shamefaced lack of passion in the Celtic side.
Eastwood started as he meant to go on, tricking the defence into fouling him on the edge of the box, despite the fact that out of 180 minutes of football the only goals scored have come from free play.
The linesman too, started as he meant to go on, when Parkinson lifted the ball over the wall into the path of Eastwood and he pulled it back to Fitzgerald running in. Fitzgerald was, apparently, offside as Eastwood couldn't have been, running with the ball past 2 Ashton players. This is obviously some new interpretation of the offside rule, of which I am unaware, it was to prove telling several times throughout the match.
Celtic never really broke out of a canter, and perhaps they should have done. When they did look threatening, they missed the target, or won corners. First Riordan, then Royle denied Eastwood and Hallows, before the ball could work its way through to Trueman, and from both Corners, Ashton found they could clear without hassle from an attacker. Next it was Connor's turn to protect his keeper from having to do any work, deflecting Fitzgerald's powerful strike when Parr laid him off. Parkinson eventually received the ball, and Riordan knocked it for a corner, which Ashton cleared again.
At the other end, Miller decided to emulate Eastwood, and rolled a good twenty yards after Timons fairly took the ball off his feet. The referee decided to award the free kick based on the athletic nature of the result, and despite being 35 yard out, when Miller took it himself (despite obviously loosing both legs in the tackle) he took it too quickly, and it sailed harmlessly over and wide.
The record at the other end was unchanged. Hallows met the leg of Connor on the way for a corner, which was cleared. Trying something new, Hallows crossed the ball for Parr to head netbound, but Trueman plucked it off Parr's head.
Moments later, Trueman again had something to do when Eastwood suckered Challender and won a free kick at the edge of the box. In the spirit of novel free kicks, Parkinson rolled the ball back into the path of Ridings, who unleashed a ferocious shot, bound for the top corner until it was tipped around. In the world inhabited by referee's inertia is irrelevant, and balls can change direction spontaneously, so he awarded a goal kick.
Dormer (normally a type of house, in Ashton's case it is a striker) made space on the edge of the Celtic box, with some quite intricate and clever footwork, for which I for one would applaud him, had he not finished it off with a shot so weak, it barely registered on my shot-o-meter. Needless to say, Dootson caught it.
A more testing time came moments later when Mayers was pulled well out of position (he was at the wrong end of the pitch) allowing White to run the full length of the pitch and go one-on-one with Dootson. Dootson must be getting a bit used to that by now, and saved well with his feet.
Eastwood, staying on his feet at the edge of the box for a change, laid Wharton off with a perfectly weighted ball, but the midfielder sent it the wrong side of the post.
A minute later, and Eastwood again remained on his feet long enough to lob a ball into the path of Fitzgerald running in from the edge of box. Trueman was left stranded as Fitzgerald headed the ball over the top of the keeper back across the six yard line. Trueman, in a despicable act, chopped his forearm across Fitzgerald's throat, leaving the winger lying on the floor struggling to breath. He would, at half time, be unable to continue. Fitzgerald got treatment, Celtic got a penalty, and the keeper got way with murder. A yellow card only. Again this is some novel interpretation of the rule that states if a foul is committed by the keeper in the box, it is an instant red card, or the rule that if the last man commits a foul it is an instant red card.
Well into first half stoppage time, Eastwood again was unable to keep his feet near the box, though this time with good reason as Mellis scythed him down in a move more at home in a judo match. Obvious yellow card, but while the ref was talking to Mellis, he missed Challender kick Eastwood in the ribs.
Believe it or not, the free kick was wasted.
The second half saw Wharton start it with a yellow card for a two footed challenge on Miller, and some lax Celtic defending allowing Connor a free shot - which he missed by so far that there's a tourist in Paris looking at the sky holding a ball.
Mayers also started with a rash challenge and a card, one foot either side of White's legs. Was this a sign that Celtic were getting a bit of Latin passion?
Unfortunately, it looked more like Ashton would score, especially when Connor found himself on the six yard line, with the ball at his feet, and nobody near him. In his excitement, another ball landed on that Parisian tourists head.
Bowker (on for the injured Fitzgerald at half time) started his half granting a corner, sure in the knowledge that it would be too high for everybody and sail harmlessly out for a goal kick on the other side of the net. Ashton really should work on their corners.
Potts came on for Mayers in an attempt to spice up the attack and kill the game off. However, what it did was leave the back line disorganised for just a moment. But that was all that was required. Denney had a power shot from distance, which Dootson could only block. Timons, thinking of being safe, stuck the ball into the stands.
White through the ball across to Riordan, who lobbed it to the back post where three unmarked Ashton shirts waited. Two impeded Dootson as he flew through the air, whilst Miller nodded down. Almost miraculously Dootson got a hand to the ball, but it was a stubborn affair, and Ashton got the goal they deserved.
A bit of a wakeup call for Celtic, and they started by threading the ball from the kick off around the park, until Wharton got fed up and blasted it wide.
Bowker gave Ashton another corner. This time it curled in a little earlier, and Dootson had to save Blackshaw's header.
But it was at the Ashton end where the action was at the end of the match as Celtic finally realised that this was a derby against a team that they should walk all over, and they were not winning.
Royle stuck a Hallows cross over the bar as Wharton stooped in to nod home, and Ridings powerful shot was straight at the keeper, as Celtic finally upped a gear.
Denham came on to inject some pace, and Eastwood tried a curling looping shot that was from too far out to fool the keeper. Wharton again showed a remarkable aptitude for not finding the net, when he put a nice square ball from Denham over the bar from the edge of the box. Denham didn't risk the pass after receiving the ball off a corner he'd worked so hard to win. He twisted a and turned, drawing more and more defenders to him. There were three or four passes open by the time he emerged with the ball and shot. Disappointingly, he couldn't get any pace on the ball.
Denham and Potts continued to win free kicks and corners, but Celtic couldn't find the back of the net. And off a free kick that was cleared, Ashton were suddenly breaking with a minute of time remaining. Parkinson, facing Miller, did the only thing he could, he quite deliberately palmed the ball out of the air, and probably, justifiably, expected to be sent off. The referee gave him a yellow card, showing at least one good refereeing quality - consistency.
Despite there being a good minute left of the 3 minutes added for injuries, when Parr found himself with the ball on the edge of the box, after yet another corner, and a clear path between him and the goal, the keeper still out of position, and a simple finish required. The referee put him off by blowing for full time.
in summary, this was a terrible performance by a side that can do an awful lot better against thuggish opposition who nevertheless showed the passion that was required in a derby game.
Celtic need to beat Colwyn Bay to get a taste for victory. If they do not beat the side regularly beaten hollow by everybody, then questions seriously need to be asked.