On Saturday, Celtic will travel north to face Blyth (kick off 3pm). Blyth are currently sixteenth in the league, eleven places and twenty points behind Celtic, their win on Tuesday away at Harrogate lifting them eleven points clear of the relegation spots. Please note, that there will be NO live match centre for this match.
Blyth are unbeaten in seven matches now, and have beaten Harrogate away and Southport and Boston at home in this time, so they have definitely turned a corner since January. We have played them twice so far this season, once in the league and once in the Setanta Shield (both at home). In both games, no goals were scored, and Blyth put us out of the Setanta Shield on penalties. Our last visit to Croft Park was last season, when Blyth ended a run of four straight victories for Celtic in Blyth, beating us 1-0. Our last win there was in the Unibond Premier when we beat them 1-0.
Over the last six games, Blyth have taken 39% of the points available to them in their home matches, winning their last two. Over the same period, Celtic have taken 83% of the points on their travels, losing only once, away at Harrogate. Taking this and relevant league positions into account, the automated prediction algorithm is suggesting a 4-2 win for Celtic.
Celtic do have the third best strike force in the league, with both Chris Hall and Matty Barlow sitting in the top ten of league goal scorers. Robbie Dale and Chris McCabe are the highest placed of the Blyth goal scorers, in seventeenth with eight league goals each. Their combined goal tally is approximately half of the total number of goals Blyth have scored this season. Of the thirty-four goals Blyth have scored, sixteen have come at home. On average, they score 1.1 goals per game and concede 1.5. Their first goal comes on average in the forty-seventh minute, whilst their first concession occurs on average in the thirty-second minute. Fifteen of Blyth's goals come in the last twenty minutes, making this their most dangerous period, whilst the second half in general sees them at their most vulnerable, with thirty of their forty-seven goals conceded in this period.
Striker Chris McCabe is suspended for the match on Saturday after accumulating five cautions. Blyth have been having something of an illness crisis, with Kenny Boyle missing the Harrogate match through illness, whilst Robbie Dale was out with a knee injury. In their last match, the 1-0 away win over Harrogate, Blyth lined up as:
1. Adam Bartlett
2. Ben Christiansen
3. Peter Snowdon
4. Andrew Leeson
5. Gareth Williams
6. Gary Brown
7. Alex Gildea
8. Chris McCabe
9. Phil Bell
10. Andy Johnson
11. Michael Hedley
Celtic will be without Paul Sykes, who misses this and the Workington match for an accumulation of cautions. Steve Payne is fit again, and Barrie Keeling is also very close to a return. Carlos Roca has gone to Altrincham, but loan signing Steve Torpey is still available. In Celtic's last match, the 3-0 win away at Hinckley, Celtic lined up as:
1. Paddy Gamble
2. Ashley Woolliscroft
3. Andy Smart
4. Mark Haran
5. Terry Barwick
6. Paul Sykes
7. Steve Torpey
8. Simon Garner
9. Chris Hall
10. Matty Barlow
11. Alex Meechan
Celtic are the best away side in the league, with the best away attack and the fifth best away defence. However, Blyth are a strong outfit, and have proven this with wins over Southport, Boston and Harrogate in recent weeks. Hopefully, our good away form can continue to cement our place in the top five.
Other fixtures of interest on Saturday:
• Vauxhall v Kettering (predicted 2-4)
• Telford v Hinckley (predicted 3-2)
• Boston v Harrogate (predicted 2-1)
• Southport v Redditch (predicted 2-2)
• Hyde v Hucknall (predicted 3-2)
• Nuneaton v Alfreton (predicted 2-1)
If the games go to form, we would overtake Southport, and be two points behind third placed Harrogate, though the top two would still be tantalisingly out of reach. However, one thing we can predict about the Conference North, is that the games do not go to form, so it is up to Celtic to maintain the push to take advantage of any slip ups by those teams around us.