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Match Preview :- Hucknall Town - Monday April 25th, 2005 (19:45:00)
Monday night sees Celtic hopefully take that final step to secure survival as the visitors as Hucknall Town for a 7:45 kick off. Hucknall, though, are currently ninth in the table, ten places and fourteen points ahead of us. They are currently in the middle of an unenviable fixture backlog, which will also see them play Wednesday night against Droylsden.

It looked for a short while like the games in hand might be enough to get Hucknall into the play off spots, but too many games in too short a time frame started to take it's toll against Lancaster, and then on Saturday against Southport, both of whom beat a mixture of youth and experience in the Hucknall side. With so many games, the Hucknall manager constantly has to adjust the squad, always with one eye on May and their Trophy Final appearance at Villa Park against Grays Athletic. It is that Trophy Final place that has caused the fixture congestion.

They have won three of their last ten matches, with good results over Hinckley and Kettering, and with draws against Worksop and Altrincham. There is no denying the quality of the Hucknall side. This is the side that won the Unibond last year and have got to the FA Trophy final this year. Though they have failed to score in the last two matches, they have scored ten in the last ten games, failing to score in four. They've kept two clean sheets over the same period, (with one 0-0 draw), and conceded thirteen.

They might not score many goals in the first half, with only twenty-two of their fifty-five goals coming in the first half; but they do score in the second, with eleven in the last five minutes of the game. Eight of these second half goals have come from top scorer, Danny Bacon who has eleven league goals this season. Andy Todd is right on his heels with nine. Conceding wise, they have let in eleven goals in the last five minutes of their games, with another spike around the hour mark.

On average this season, they have scored 1.4 goals per game away from home, and conceded only 1.1. A good ratio, indicating a good away form. And this is the case. They have had some good away results this season, only losing five games. Celtic is their last away game of the season (and our last home game). So far this season, they have taken six points off Alfreton and Stafford, and having beaten us earlier in the season at their place, will be looking to add us to that list. That is not something that Celtic can afford. A win for Celtic would guarantee Conference North football next season, and the Great Escape completed, so in that regard it is of greater importance than the final that Celtic are in two days later.

The Head-to-Head automated prediction is favouring Hucknall with a 2-1 score-line for the visitors. After all, they are better placed in the table, have won two of their last away games, generally have a better away record that Celtic's home record, and have beaten us four times in the last five meetings. Off those stats I'd back Hucknall to win. The automated prediction doesn't take into account what is at stake for the two teams. There is nothing at stake for Hucknall, but their desire to win. Everything is at stake for Celtic.

In their last game, the 1-0 defeat away at Southport, Hucknall lined up with a mixture of reserves and first team players as:
1. Greg Smith
2. Alistair Asher
3. Michael Plummer
4. Roy Hunter
5. Simon Brown
6. Nathan Winder
7. Mark Smith
8. Phil Rowlands
9. Gary Ricketts
10. Danny Bacon
11. Aziz Khoshimov

Celtic lined up in their 1-0 win over Stafford as:
1. Craig Dootson
2. Grant Black
3. Tony Whealing
4. Barrie Keeling
5. Paul Sykes
6. Paul Shepherd
7. Steve Smith
8. Scott Willis
9. Andy Parton
10. Aron Wilford
11. Nathan Wharton

With the prospect of an incomplete Hucknall side, Celtic have every chance of getting the three points that will see them safe. Anything else will leave a huge task ahead of them on Saturday against Redditch who are difficult to beat at home.

The best possible result is a win against Hucknall so that the team can relax and enjoy the final, and then go and play Redditch secure in the knowledge that they are safe. If this happens, Redditch will probably be in for a shock!
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