Celtic signed off their home games in a season to forget with a game to forget.
In many ways the game summed up the reason for Celtic’s relegation, from the opening set-piece goal that saw Ben Parker pump a ball into the box for Tom Platt to flick across goal where an unmarked Danny Ellis came leaping in to thump a header past Grant Shenton. The examples continued when Danny Wilkins went one-on-one twice with Peter Crook, only for the Harrogate goalkeeper to win both battles. James Roberts too got into the box with only Crook to beat, but a strong hand denied Roberts.
Shenton was the most tested keeper on the night, despite the score-line, he acquitted himself well, flying one handed across his goal to deny Liam Agnew what would have been a well worked goal.
Celtic did equalise, after some decent build up play the final ball into the box from Adam Mather was great, dipping down at the back post where Roberts was arriving for a tap in. Luke Shields go there first: had he connected to his clearance, the ball would have hit Roberts and gone in, but instead Shields sliced the clearance into his own goal.
At the other end, Shenton twice kept Celtic in it with two superb saves, first from Marcus Day’s across the face of goal shot, and then just before the interval, from Simon Ainge’s powerful header. Celtic had half a chance too: Adam Mather leaping high enough to reach Danny Morton’s cross, but not high enough to keep the header down.
Seconds after Porya Ahmadi had headed tamely into Crook’s arms, Ainge at the other end got more power and direction on his header, again forcing Shenton into a full stretch save to tip the ball around the post.
At this point, the game was finally balanced, and it was Celtic that took the lead, Adam Mather again producing a perfect cross, and this time, it was Gary Gee arriving. Shields was not there this time, and Gee turned the ball into the net.
The lead lasted less than ten minutes, as it seemed Harrogate had another gear to go up, the gear being specifically Dominic Knowles, introduced just after seventy minutes, he showed outstanding pace to beat the offside trap and latch onto Paul Thirwell’s ball over the top. Shenton came racing out, but misjudged the bounce for the header, sending it backwards, allowing Knowles to continue his run and head the ball into goal from the edge of the box.
Harrogate took the lead seven minutes later when Knowles again sprinted like Usain Bolt to break the offside trap. This time, Shenton stayed in his box, but Knowles rounded him with ease, and slotted home. Harrogate were definitely finishing the stronger of the two sides, and the game finished with Ainge heading home a long pumped in ball into the box.
The game was marred by an injury to Darren McKnight, who will now likely as not miss the final game at Brackley and the cup final along with Matty Hughes (suspended), Danny Wisdom and Danny Pilkington (both also injured). What with cup-ties and injuries, Celtic’s bench for the cup final may well need wheelchair spaces.
|7||Day, Marcus||> 72|
|12||Knowles, Dominic||< 72|
|15||Pittman, Jean Paul|