On Saturday, Celtic host the Cheshire derby with Altrincham the visitors. Altrincham are on a bit of a run of late, with four straight wins. This has propelled them into the play-off spots where they currently sit in fifth, three places and twelve points behind Celtic. There will be a live match centre for this game.
Altrincham have the best attack in the league, having scored one more goal than Celtic's thirty-two, mainly through the league's top scorer, Damien Reeves. The Robins are unbeaten at home, but on the road have lost three of their six matches, losing on the opening day to Harrogate, then to Hyde and Solihull Moors. They have managed two draws, at Vauxhall and at Gloucester, with just one win: a 6-1 demolition of Colwyn Bay in their last away match, a current league record. Altrincham also hold the league record for a home win, a 6-1 demolition of Boston at home. Altrincham have scored seventeen goals in their last four games, whilst conceding just three.
We last met them in the Cheshire Senior Cup in November 2008, a game they won 2-0. Indeed, in the last three competitive meetings (there was a friendly, Altrincham won in July 2008), we have not beaten them, with two losses and a draw. Our last victory over Altrincham was back in the NPL in January 2004, when Celtic won 1-0. Although Altrincham knocked us out of the Cheshire Senior Cup, their last league victory at Bower Fold was in March 1994, when they won 3-1. Since then, Celtic have won nine and drawn one at Bower Fold, including the infamous FA Cup Replayed Replay, after a mistake from the FA allowed Andy Mason to play in the replay, and score. Fortunately, Celtic won the replayed replay, even without Mason. According to Altrincham's historians, Celtic and Altrincham have met 133 times, Altrincham have won 51, Celtic 55 and we have drawn 27 times, both teams scoring 225 goals in the process.
Damien Reeves has netted fourteen times this season, including a hat-trick against Boston. He looks a dead cert for the Altrincham Golden Boot, if not the league, with his closest rival ex-Celtic forward Michael Twiss on four, along with James Lawrie and Nicky Clee. On average, Altrincham score two goals a game away (2.5 overall) and concede 1.8 goals per game away (1.4 overall). They have not kept a clean sheet on the road, but have failed to score once (against Solihull); they have kept two clean sheets at home, and scored in every game.
Altrincham are suspension free ahead of Saturday's clash, and appear to be free from injury. Their last match, the last gasp 3-2 win at home to Vauxhall Motors saw substitute Simon Richman grabbing a 95th minute winner. In that match, Altrincham lined up as:
1. Stuart Coburn
2. Mark Lees
3. Ryan Brown
4. Anthony Danylyk
5. Rob Williams
6. Adam Flynn
7. James Lawrie
8. Shaun Densmore
9. Michael Twiss
10. Damien Reeves
11. Nicky Clee
Celtic have the second best attack in the league, but have now crept into the top five defences as well, despite losing 2-0 at Colwyn Bay last Saturday. In that game, Kristian Platt suffered a broken jaw during a clash of heads, and will definitely be out, serving his one-match suspension while injured. In the Colwyn Bay match, Celtic lined up as:
1. Jan Budtz
2. Kristian Platt
3. Andy McWilliams
4. Rhys Meynell
5. Chris Lynch
6. Jack Rea
7. Connor Jennings
8. Greg Wilkinson
9. Phil Marsh
10. Stephen Brogan
11. Callum Warburton
Saturday looks set to be a great game of football, with the league's two top scoring teams coming together, and the league's top two scorers facing off. The automated prediction algorithm is suggesting five goals, with as narrow 3-2 win for Celtic. This would be the perfect answer to last Saturday's first league loss in months. With Hyde having a tricky away tie at Guiseley, it offers another opportunity for Celtic to grab top spot and keep some distance from the chasing pack.
Other games on Saturday:
Boston United (20pts 7th) v Workington (8pts 21st)
Colwyn Bay (20pts 12th) v Corby Town (20pts 9th)
Droylsden (17pts 12th) v FC Halifax Town (17pts 13th)
Eastwood Town (9pts 19th) v Histon (13pts 16th)
Gainsborough Trinity (24pts 4th) v Hinckley United (15pts 14th)
Gloucester City (13pts 15th) v Blyth Spartans (9pts 20th)
Guiseley (25pts 3rd) v Hyde (32pts 1st)
Nuneaton Town (18pts 10th) v Solihull Moors (7pts 22nd)
Vauxhall Motors (11pts 18th) v Bishop's Stortford (12pts 17th)
Worcester City (20pts 6th) v Harrogate Town (18pts 11th)