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Match Report -
Cruising Celtic
By Six Yard Sam

Chester city scraped extra time at the Deva Stadium, but captain Kevin Parr still managed to secure the win into the semi-finals for Celtic.

McNeil put the Bower Boys 1-0 up on 11 minutes, punishing a mistake by the back four, after Parr slid the ball between an indecisive defence and Browne, the City keeper, for McNeil to slot home. This early goal allowed Celtic to cruise a little, conserving their energies.

Chester were unable to take advantage, with the only real chance coming just after the goal when Beesley curved a free kick into Batty's arms. Beesley took the free kick because the usual kick takers of Rose and Porter argued (with much shaking of fist) over the previous one!

Malkin couldn't help the home side either, after receiving a Rose cross just inside the box, he chested it down onto his own volley, which went wide. But it looked good.

The Celtic defence was stalwart though - letting very little past. Thus, Blackburn decided to have a shot from 40 yards away, which sailed over the net and into the crowd of Celtic supporters behind the net.

Celtic were content to sit back on the one-nil lead, as Chester never really produced anything that looked threatening. Blackburn posed a slight threat when he cut a ball back from the by-line, but Batty anticipated it, and smothered it.

So out of ideas were Chester that they made a triple substitution: Kilgannon, Porter and Kerr coming on for Haaroff, Baxter and Ruscoe.

Kerr did win a free kick, which Rose could take quite happily now that Porter was off the field - but he should have let Beesley take it, as he blasted it too high.

Beesley could have squared it after receiving an excellent ball from Rose, but was dispossessed easily by Crookes who looked like he could do it all day. And when Haaroff found him at the corner of the box, he discovered two defenders and a keeper between him and goal, and missed the target anyway.

As the game went into the final 15 minutes of normal time, some of the Chester fans began to vanish, just as Chester began to find some form.

After Ruscoe and Haaroff moved the ball into attack, Williamson blocked a will hit shot from Beesley, who looked almost anxious to score. And Crookes again denied him, blocking on the line after he had rounded Batty.

With five minutes to go, Perkins was unlucky, and Chester relieved, as Haaroff whipped in a ball that Malkin threw himself at, nodding it in off Perkins' head. Though it was difficult to say whether it would have gone in or not anyway.

Batty saved the game deep into stoppage time when Ruscoe beat the offside trap and raced in on Batty. One touch too many meant Batty could steal it off his feet. Celtic pressed after the equaliser, but were unable to prise an opening in the back line.

The game went into extra time with Celtic bringing Bushell on. He made an immediate impact running through the whole Chester team and shooting from the edge of the box. Brown, who had not had that much to do in the game, reacted well, blocking down to his left. Celtic upped the tempo, and started to press in on Chester's defence. Chester responded by knocking the ball down field every time they got it, allowing another wave of Celtic pressure to come at them.

Perkins carried the ball out of defence and took it up the right wing, skipping past two Chester challenges. As a third slid in, he whipped the ball in across the face of goal, just out of reach of Brown. In a mirror of the winner on Saturday against Doncaster, Parr glanced it past the out flung hand of Brown and into the bottom corner of the net.

Celtic perhaps should have gone for more goals against this struggling local side, and put the game to bed much earlier. However they were content to sit on the one goal lead for much of the match, easily doing enough to soak up everything a lacklustre Chester, with few ideas, could muster. If the equaliser had come sooner, there is little doubt that Celtic would have had time to open up the defence again, as it was, they had to go into extra time, at which point Chester were a much easier nut to crack, as Perkins and Parr proved.

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