Celtic were forced to play with ten men for the full game when Kristian Platt pulled down Leighton McGiven who was threatening to burst through one-on-one with Jan Budtz. From then on, Celtic put in a sensational shift, and outplayed their hosts for an hour, fully deserving their half time lead.
Altrincham had the first chance of the game from the free kick conceded by the loss of Platt, which new signing Leighton McGiven smashed towards the top corner, producing a great save from the Celtic number one. Celtic made a switch after the free kick was cleared, bringing Chris Lynch on at the expense of Arthur Gnahoua, and immediately looked more settled, letting the ball do the work.
With the extra man Altrincham should have been creating more chances, but the Celtic defence was immense, and James Lawrie was forced to shoot from distance, with Budtz tipping the ball around the post for a corner. Budtz caught the corner and sent Celtic on an attack. Ollie Banks held up play extremely well and as Jack Rea sped past him, he put a great ball into his path. Phil Marsh drew both Altrincham defenders to the near post and Rea’s ball into the box wasn’t meant for him, but for Craig Hobson coming in at the back post who smashed the ball past an angry Stuart Coburn for the opener.
Altrincham were on the back foot, but were still carving out chances, McGiven wasting two good opportunities with a weak shot and a shot from an impossible angle with Reeves begging for the pull back. John Miles got the benefit of the doubt for a tight offside decision and raced one-on-one with Budtz who pulled off a great save, and deserved his luck when Reeves fluffed his chance sending his shot high over the bar.
Just before the interval, it could have been two for Celtic, when Celtic again got themselves into a great position, and Phil Marsh received the ball off Hobson, firing past Coburn only for Marlon Broomes to slide across and deny him, the ball falling to Ollie Banks who had to try and curl the ball over Coburn, and missed the target.
Something had to change for Altrincham, and they made the brave decision to take off both full-backs and bring on wingers. This move paid off in general, although Marsh nearly made them pay as he got around the back, but in trying to steer the ball between Matt Flynn and Stuart Coburn he hit the side netting.
Altrincham’s goal required the kind of luck that seems to have deserted Celtic. Immediately after Callum Warburton who had worked tirelessly in the middle of the park for an hour, Celtic had to readjust the back line, with Joel Bembo-Leta slotting into right back. A simple through ball into the box, Budtz came to collect. The ball skidded out of his hands and fell to the most dangerous man in non-league at the moment, Damian Reeves. It still required an exceptional finish, and he produced it to equalise.
Budtz then had Rhys Meynell to thank when Scott Phelan got to an uncleared corner and the Celtic captain blocked Phelan’s goal-bound effort as Altrincham started to dominate the game. McGiven got one-on-one as Altrincham found space and time down the flanks, but Budtz was more than equal to it, blocking the low drive with his foot.
With ten minutes to go, Mitchell Austin (on for Craig Hobson) got on the receiving end of a corner that Altrincham couldn’t clear and rifled in a powerful effort, but Coburn produced a top-notch save to prevent Celtic from regaining the lead.
With stoppage time looming, Altrincham took advantage of the most outrageous decision when, from a corner, Flynn was stood behind Budtz, virtually on the goal-line. When the shot came in, Budtz couldn’t hold it, turned to pick it up, but Flynn was there to poke home, looking completely offside, but it wasn’t given and Altrincham could celebrate a win.
The grit and determination that Celtic showed for the full game playing with ten men means that they can say they played well, and this bodes well for the run in.
|2||Lynch, Chris||> 45|
|3||Lynch, Mark||> 45|
|11||Lawrie, James||> 69|
|14||Phelan, Scott||< 45|
|15||Clee, Nicky||< 45|
|16||Twiss, Michael||< 69|