That said, the game could have been different had Jan Budtz not been alert in the opening minutes when the excellent Levi Reid tested him from twenty yards with a good strike that required a sharp stop from the big Dane. From then on, it was mainly Celtic, with both Connor Jennings and Greg Wilkinson going close after cutting in from opposite sides of the box. Wilkinson tested Lee Evans from a free kick moments later, whipping it in, with Stafford struggling to clear Evans' parry, eventually conceding a corner. Lloyd Ellams found some space outside the box, and smashed a shot wide of the upright, while a super cross from Jennings went begging with Ellams and Phil Marsh unlucky not to get something on it.
Marsh again went close drifting onto Lee Elam's diagonal ball but dragged his shot just wide of the upright whilst Jennings sailed over the bar. These two combined when a sensational ball from Lee Elam put Marsh in acres of space inside the box, with only an excellent stop from Evans denying him, but there was nothing that Evans could do as Jennings got onto the rebound, and slid it into the bottom corner.
Stafford came out of the restart looking more composed, with Budtz at full stretch to deny Chris Sterling's thirty yard low drive, and Ben Mills heading the corner over the bar. However, it was soon business as usual as Phil Marsh went one-on-one with Evans. The Stafford keeper stood up well, and Craig McAughtrie did well to get across and slide in to try and block Marsh's fierce drive, succeeding in only deflecting it over Francis and giving Celtic a two goal cushion. Stafford almost got back into the game with a screamer of a shot from substitute Tyree Clarke that looked to get a bit of deflection off Tim Ryan to take it just beyond Budtz's fingertips, but seconds later Craig Hobson was clumsily taken down in the box by Craig McAughtrie who saw red. Tim Ryan took the responsibility after a brief discussion with Phil Marsh, sending Evans the wrong way.
With a two goal cushion and a man advantage, Celtic played a possession game that gave Stafford no chance, and it was Celtic that carved out the better chances, with Marsh firing low from the edge of the box narrowly wide, followed by a superb stop off a Connor Jennings effort, however, the save of the match came in the dying minutes when Marsh was one-on-one again, after classy build up play from Hobson and Callum Warburton, with Evans getting across the face of his goal and throwing himself in front of Marsh's strike, though 4-1 would not have been an unrealistic score-line.
|6||Mellor, Kelvin||> 63|
|9||Mills, Ben||> 78|
|11||Patrick, Jon||> 55|
|12||Kasiama, Fabrice||< 55|
|14||Moss, Tom||< 78|
|16||Clarke, Tyree||< 63|