It normally takes a pre-season to bed new players in, Celtic are doing the bedding in whilst playing some very tough matches. Another new player, Sam Madeley, made his debut against Darlington in a windswept Heritage Park.
It was Madeley who had the initial effort of the game, spotting an opening whilst still some thirty yards out, his shot whistling over the crossbar. At the other end, Darlington showed why they have had successive promotions, and walked each league they’ve been in, punishing every mistake. It required Tony McMillan to be on his toes as Mark Beck found space, but there was nothing the Celtic keeper could do moments later when Stephen Thompson got past Tim Ryan and whipped in a low cross through the danger area, Liam Hardy was the player at the end of the cross with a simple side foot.
It looked like Celtic would equalise immediately, when Kelly cut inside, did a one-two with Madeley and swung in a decent effort that had Paul Woolstan in the Darlington nets beaten, but Jordan Watson got in a telling head. Celtic did equalise moments later and it was a good move. Madeley and Owens with a one two cutting out the Darlington defence and Andy Owens with the finish from the edge of the box.
Madeley and Matty Hughes both went close from set pieces, before Darlington pulled ahead, this time Watson with the pull back, and again Liam Hardy on the end of it with the space.
Andy Owens almost equalised, but his skidding shot was gathered by Woolstan, and Kelly’s effort was straight down Woolstan’s throat.
McMillan pulled off a great save just before half time, but statuesque defending meant the parried shot from Thompson came straight back to the Darlington man; he spotted Josh Gillies arriving and squared into Gillies’s path, allowing him a simple tap-in.
The game got niggly in the second half, with rash challenges flying in from both sides. Substitute Anar Purewal was the first to see red, more for the afters than the challenge on Callum Bagshaw. The man advantage didn’t last long. After already receiving a yellow card for using his hands at the back post from a cross, although he claimed he was pushed, he received a second for stepping across Leon Scott, and joined Purewal in the changing rooms.
Although the balance of play was fairly even, Darlington added gloss to the scoreline, Stephen Thompson pouncing on a half clearance, and firing it straight back in to put the hosts four to the good.
Danny Wilkins, on for Nick Ryan, nearly pulled one back, but Woolistan flew across the face of his goal to push the ball around the far post for a corner. At the other end, it took two goal line clearances to prevent Darlington from increasing their lead, Graham Kelly coming across to hook from off the line as Mark Beck tried to force it home, and Terry Galbraith’s late effort was blocked next to the post by Matty Hughes.
Despite the scoreline, Celtic didn’t do much wrong, and probably weren’t expected to get anything out of the game either. Altrincham and Bradford also both lost, preventing Celtic from falling further down the table. It’s another Anything other than a loss is a bonus game next weekend when we face Halifax for the second time, this time in the FA Cup.
|8||Portas, Tom||> 45|
|10||Hardy, Liam||> 73|
|11||Gillies, Josh||> 58|
|12||Cartman, Nathan||< 73|
|15||Purewal, Anar||< 45|
|16||Scott, Leon||< 58|