Halifax were a good, strong, well organised team, and pressed Celtic who soaked up the pressure. Naively, the home team left just one man to defend against Phil Marsh. Greg Wilkinson's ball over the top of a high Halifax line let Marsh run at Simon Eastwood in the home nets. As Marsh got into the box, Scott McManus almost kept up with Marsh and lunged in. The penalty was nailed on, all that remained was whether McManus would walk, he didn't. Marsh made no mistake from the spot with a powerful penalty.
Halifax were soon back on terms however, through some good play that more than matched Celtic, getting in among them. Ex-Celtic forward, James Dean took down a good ball and slid a great ball into the centre for Lee Gregory steaming in to blast past Jan Budtz.
Halifax kept upping the pressure forcing Celtic deeper and deeper back, but it played into Celtic's hands, and once the Halifax play was broken up by a solid tackle from Joel Bembo-Leta, the ball was moved quickly through Adam Kay and Jack Rea to Phil Marsh who ran at the fullback and then placed a perfectly weighted ball into the path of Connor Jennings who easily outpaced his marker, rounded Eastwood and put Celtic back into the lead.
Before the fast paced first half was up, Celtic had a Jennings goal chalked off for offside, Greg Wilkinson curled a sensational shot against the crossbar, which Adam Kay was about to put home before he was apparently offside and Connor Jennings lobbed Eastwood only to leave the ball on the roof of the net. Celtic were the better team as the half wore on. Even worse, when Liam Hogan up-ended Connor Jennings when he was through on goal, Celtic were not awarded a second penalty despite looking as nailed on as the first.
The second half saw Celtic again soaking up the pressure from Halifax, which the home side were only too happy to provide. Halifax could have equalised when a lobbed ball was miscontrolled by Budtz as he slipped on the rain soaked pitch, but Budtz did recover enough to get back and stop the ball, even though James Dean tried to rugby tackle Budtz before he could. Celtic let Halifax come to them, and tried to break quickly.
This led to the most ludicrous decision ever witnessed in a football match. Phil Marsh trapped the ball on his chest at the edge of the six yard box when he was hauled off his feet by Greg Anderson who had an arm clearly round Marsh's face; so violent was the foul that it left Marsh with a nose bleed and a need to change shirts. Anderson should have been shown a straight red, but play was waved on to the mystification of the entire stadium.
Celtic had to get on with it, and Jennings did force Eastwood into a cracking stop with a skimming effort before Wilkinson's powerful free kick was batted away by the home keeper. For all of Halifax's pressure they were unable to get a clear cut chance, the best being Hogan's header from a corner that zipped the wrong side of the post. At the other end, a free kick twenty yards out was driven in by Marsh, but it was straight at Eastwood.
The game ticked into the final seconds and Aaron Hardy's driving run into the box was brought to an abrupt end by a needless and late challenge by Callum Warburton. There was no doubt as to whether it was a penalty, but given what had gone before, it was harsh.
Ex Celtic midfielder, Tom Baker stepped up and though Budtz guessed right, the shot was just beyond his fingers into the bottom corner.
Given the amount of pressure Celtic were under in the second half, perhaps a draw was a fair result, but at the final whistle, the team must have felt mugged by the officials.
|6||McManus, Scott||> 24|
|9||Dean, James||> 66|
|11||Garner, Simon||> 80|
|14||Anderson, Gregg||< 24|
|15||Gray, Nick||< 80|
|17||Needham, Liam||< 66|