Just three days after the New Year’s Day horror show, Celtic showed a great deal of resilience to not only put the past behind them, but look like a team that more than matched the table topping hosts.
The game was very even in the opening exchanges; stand in keeper, Dave Stevenson, providing the defence with the confidence it needed, by claiming Reece Fleet’s early effort. Also coming in, Alec Mudimu took over the left back spot, and was harshly adjudged to have blocked off Junior English just inside the box, with the referee awarding a penalty that Omar Bogle cheekily chipped straight down the centre.
Celtic certainly didn’t panic, and Jasbir Singh had to stop Sean McConville’s effort, before a suicidal backpass from Stuart Pierpoint left Jasbir Singh in a world of trouble as Obi Anorou reached the backpass first. Unable to pick it up, Singh tried to tackle Anorou, who wriggled his way past the Solihull keeper, looked at the referee to see if he would have stopped play for no apparent reason, and then walked the ball to the net, before slotting it home.
The second half saw the home side somewhat on the back foot, a great move saw Mudimu cap off a good move in which Keith Briggs had been instrumental, but screw his final shot horribly wide, however, Briggs continued to cover the pitch, and found Sean McConville who’s vision slid the perfect ball into the path of Anorou, and the Celtic striker took his one-on-one superbly well, rolling it past Singh into the far corner.
It should have been 3-1 a moment later when McConville’s inch perfect cross wrong footed the Moors defence, Singh out of position going to Anorou at the near post, only for it to be left to comeo to Briggs arriving at the back post, there was a good connection, a powerful shot and somehow Singh got across his net, into the air and one handed tipped the ball out for a corner. It wasn’t the only great save, as at the other end, Stevenson’s reactions were tested with a close range effort from Omar Bogle that Stevenson parried superbly well.
With ten minutes to go, Celtic looked to have made it safe during was becoming an increasingly nervy run in to the final whistle, when Kristian Platt pulled out a peach of a free kick curling the ball up and over the wall and back down again into the bottom corner just out of the reach of Singh.
Celtic just had to keep it tight, but Solihull appeared to have switched to five at the front, by passing the midfield, just hoofing ball into the box. The defence was coping, and Gary Birch’s first effort was nothing to write home about as it trundled into Stevenson’s waiting arms. The sheer number of balls being pumped into the Celtic box from all over was making the defence show creaks and cracks, and Junior English’s ball to the back post was reached just ahead of Stevenson by Birch, and he slotted it home to reduce the deficit to one with just five minutes remaining.
Pierpoint’s running shot was acrobatically tipped away by Stevenson, and the corner was well defended. Four minutes of stoppage time came and went, when Paul Ennis clumsily fouled Bogle near the half way line. It looked like there wouldn’t be enough time. All Celtic had to do was defend for seconds more, one more hoofed clearance would do it. But it was not to be, Birch using his considerable size to plough through Celtic and Moor players alike and put his head on the ball and across the face of goal and just in at the far side.
It was a heart-breaking goal, with barely enough time to get the ball out of the centre circle on the restart. Celtic deserved the victory, but when your down, the cards are always stacked against you.
|5||Elvins, Rob||> 59|
|7||Denny, Jay||> 45|
|8||Wint, Aron||> 74|
|12||Blackwood, Michael||< 45|
|15||Birch, Gary||< 59|
|16||Knights, Darryl||< 74|