Possibly neither team desired the match ahead of the festive fixtures, both of whom are embroiled in top of the table tussles over the festive period. It was little surprise then to see so many changes to both squads.
Mitch Austin started the ball rolling with a surging run and shot that the young Vics keeper, Arron Morrison, got across well to save, whilst Greg Wilkinson and Arthur Gnahoua both cleared the bar with efforts just inside the box. Michael Clarke was the first to test Craig McGillivray at the other end, but it was catching practice for the Celtic keeper. Both Wilkinson and Austin had shots on target though the game was hardly sparkling.
Northwich opened the scoring from the spot when the assistant spotted a shirt tug by Kristian Platt during a free kick just outside the box. None of the players complained, none of the vocal Vics fans complained, but a penalty was duly awarded when it was insistently brought to the referee's attention. Former Celt, Paul Ennis, stepped up and put the spot kick just beyond the fingertips of McGillivray.
Seconds later and Celtic were almost level when Dennis Sheriff got behind the defence, but Morrison was quick off his line to block, and was there again as Sheriff cracked a shot off that Morrison did well to tip around for a corner. Austin raced the full length of the field skipped past several challenges but his final shot let him down inside the box, clearing the bar.
Celtic had to attack in the second period, and from a corner, Platt could have made amends for the penalty had he connected, but the ball rolled to Morrison to scoop up. After a corner from Northwich was cleared, Celtic moved the ball quickly up the field, pressing in depth with numbers. Mitchell Austin was the runner, with support from Sheriff, Hobson, Warburton and Joel Bembo-Leta. It was the latter Austin selected for the pass, isolating the only Vics defender. With so many options, there was Wayne Riley and Morrison could do as Bembo-Leta's first time ball between them allowed Hobson to finish with ease.
Ennis nearly doubled his tally from another set piece outside the box, but his shot grazed the woodwork on the way out, whilst Sheriff could have put Celtic a goal to the good with a superb header from a corner that required a spectacular save from Morrison, clawing the ball out of the air. Gnahoua tried to put Celtic in front, but again Morrison was in the right place, and again Sheriff was unlucky as he slid onto Austin's ball at the near post, only for Morrison to stick out a leg and force it round the post.
Connor Jennings was brought on for the last ten minutes of normal time, and immediately danced through the defence only to power over the bar with his shot.
With two minutes left, Celtic did get the goal. Michael Roddy raising his arm to deny Wilkinson's rising shot. Hobson stepped up to take the spot kick and sent Morrison the wrong way.
Jennings finished the night off with another skipping run and shot, this time keeping it down but again Morrison was there to deny him. However, Celtic had done enough and are through to the semi-finals.
|3||Law, Graeme||> 45|
|11||Abott, Steve||> 77|
|12||Bailey-Jones, Theo||< 77|
|15||Asher, James||< 45|