Celtic slumped out of the Integro League Cup after a lacklustre first half display left them with a mountain to climb in the second half. Though Celtic did put in a better shift in the second half, it was too late.
Celtic started brightly enough, with Adam O’Reilly finding space at the edge of the box for a curling shot that passed the far post by a hair’s width and almost set up Jonathon Ustabasi with a cracking cross that was just beyond the head of the Turk.
From barely threatening, Atherton put their nose in front with a perfect set-piece. Their set-pieces were excellent all night, and their second, just past the quarter hour mark was met by the thumping head of Matt Markinson. Markinson went close again moments later from another set-piece, this time a free kick that Markinson couldn’t keep down. Gareth Peet went for the direct shot on another free kick, his rocket impossible to stop as it flew into the top corner and the Colls were cruising.
Celtic looked shell-shocked and Atherton took advantage, Danny O’Brien racing to the by-line and whipping in a fabulous cross that was met by the head of Louis Myers, curving in to meet it to give Atherton a three goal cushion at the break.
Celtic changed it up at half time, Ustabasi and Kallum Mantack making way for Declan Walker and Alfons Fosu-Mensah. They immediately looked more comfortable. Anthony Whitehead an Harry Freedman both went close as Celtic looked to do the impossible, but it was Chris Holroyd who came closest to reducing the arrears at the start of the half, sneaking onto Fosu-Mensah’s low cross to the near post, bundling it just wide under pressure. Max Taylor went close from a Walker’s free-kick, his header unwittingly deflected past the post. Holroyd got his head on the corner, but former Celtic keeper was well placed to make the catch. Walker went direct from a free kick, curling across the face towards the top corner, but a top drawer save from Wharton kept Celtic goalless.
After heading the corner over, Celtic’s pressure finally paid when Celtic kept trying to break through the mass in the box, with Fosu-Mensah, Holroyd and Whitehead all had attempts blocked by last-ditch defending. The ball came out to Ross Dent, who found the smallest of gaps to fire a low shot into the bottom corner.
With fifteen minutes on the clock, Celtic went looking for more. Scott Bakkor went close twice and Wharton denied Fosu-Mensah at the near post with a scrambled save from close range, but with the game going into stoppage time, it was looking increasingly desperate and the fresh-legs of substitute Iwan Murray raced onto Ben Conway’s through ball and lashed a coup-de-grace past Alex Fojtíček, who in truth had very little to do in the second half.
The Colls will go onto face Marine whilst Celtic turn their attention to the league, when Warrington come to visit. Celtic will be hoping to stem a tide of seven home games without a win.
|9||Myers, Louis||> 70|
|10||Bentham, Tom||> 62|
|11||Conway, Ben||> 90|
|12||Cover, Jordan||< 70|
|15||Murray, Iwan||< 90|
|16||Glass, Dylan||< 62|