Despite the predictions, despite the cynical Ellender fouls, despite the overwhelming difference in league position, despite over 5 hours without a league goal, and despite the referee's nine minutes of stoppages, Celtic produced a stunning display to take all three points in this game. They had passion, commitment and ability, and Boston forced Celtic to draw on every ounce of self belief. Nobody can take this victory away from the Bower boys, and they deserved their standing ovation at the end.
Though Boston kicked off, it was Celtic who took the game to the visitors, knowing only a win would be good enough. Peacock forced Ellender to give Celtic the early initiative, winning a corner off the cheating scumbag*. The corner fell to Courtney, who lashed the ball goal bound with some pace, but Lodge was on hand to block at the edge of the six yard box.
Boston broke, with a long ball up field. Perkins tried to run the ball out, but Ellender was there to put him under pressure. Beasley stormed in and knocked the ball out for a throw. The long throw from Russ Weatherstone found his brother Simon, but he could only head wide.
As Boston pressed, Futcher gave a free kick climbing over Ellender. It looked fair, and Futcher was to deny Ellender for the entire first half. However, as McGarry swung in a fierce, curling shot, Walker could only parry the initial shot. Murphy, Beasley and Simon Weatherstone surged in on the ball, and Walker had to be brave smothering the ball on Weatherstone's feet.
When Rusk swept a ball in, Pickford granted Boston their first corner of the afternoon, skidding in to knock it wide before Ellender could pounce. McGarry and Angel swapped the ball between them, allowing Angle to curl a good ball into the box, but Lodge headed well over. With Celtic getting compressed into their own half, it looked like Boston were going to fulfil everybody's expectations.
But Celtic were going to use this afternoon to confound their critics. Courtney battled through three defenders, and squeezed off a shot, that narrowly missed the target, hitting the side netting. And the game was barely 15 minutes old.
Peacock evened up the goals, by hitting the other side netting moments later. A long free kick from Angel's offside was nodded down from Ayorinde into the path of Courtney. The striker's way blocked, he fed Peacock running behind him. Peacock smashed it first time, but saw only the side of the net bulge.
Ayorinde's persistence saw Scott give away a throw level with the six yard box. Murphy dropped it to Peacock who swept a ball into the danger area. Courtney had to use Ellender as a spring board to reach it, and Boston could breath again.
Celtic's 10 minute domination continued as Wood slid a fantastic ball past the offside trap to send Courtney scampering down Bastock's throat. His shot was well parried by Bastock, but only as far as Pickford. Under pressure, Pickford could only knock the ball past the upright for a goal kick.
Boston tried to put an end to Celtic's purple patch, as Elding raced past Beasley and skidded a great low cross to Simon Weatherstone racing in past Futcher. Walker was alert to the danger, getting down well to cut out the cross.
Wood gave away a free kick 35 yards out as Boston searched for a way past the Celtic back four. Angel's ball in was almost met by Ellender, but again Futcher beat Elding in the air to put it out for a corner. Ellender was clearly unused to being out dominated in the air by a defender, and you could see his frustration growing. As the corner came in, Ellender held Futcher down, right in front of the ref.
Ellender took a further measure of punishment out on Futcher moments later as the tall defender came up for a Celtic corner. As everybody watched the ball, he swiped at Futcher's hamstring, bringing the tallest man on the pitch crashing down. Unseen by the ref, and the assistant, Ellender walked away, secure in the knowledge that he was no unrivalled in the air in the box.
But it would be a while before Boston could get a chance to make use of this advantage.
As the first half went into the last ten minutes, Peacock found himself with plenty of space at the edge of the box. Cue the trademark curling shot - this time it went wide and over.
On 37 minutes, Pickford won a battle with Scott, and slid the ball into the path of Ayorinde running at full speed past Lodge. Ayorinde relished the chance to open his Conference scoring account, by running down Bastock's throat. With all the time in the world, the Nigerian chose his spot, and slid the ball under the unfortunate Bastock. 5 hours and 8 minutes after the last goal, Ayorinde ended Celtic's goal drought.
Boston tried to respond immediately, but Ellender could not wait for the ball to get into the box, and shot from distance, through a crowd. Walker saw it in plenty of time, and saved comfortably.
Pickford gave Elding a corner shortly after as Boston through people forward to grab an equaliser before half time. The corner was intercepted by Ayorinde, and knocked ahead of Courtney sending him on a run. Courtney ducked inside Lodge, leaving the defender sprawled by the touchline. However as Courtney struggled to get the ball back under control, Lodge recovered to make an excellent last ditch tackle.
The penultimate action of the half fell to Celtic. Ayorinde rode two challenges, but could not escape the third, which gave Celtic a throw level with the 6 yard box. A long Murphy ball into the box was headed down by Peacock, but Bastock was alert and made the good header his quite comfortably.
But the final act fell to Elding - and he really should have done better. With Futcher limping, he left him and got into a great position. Simon Weatherstone found him after rounding Beasley, but despite being alone in the box, and Walker struggling to make up the ground - he put it around the post.
At half time, Matty Williamson came on to replace Futcher as the manager's son obviously could not continue after the pernicious swipe from Ellender.
Courtney tried to regain Celtic's initiative when he brought down Wood's flick on from the opening kick off, and shot from 40 yards, but it sailed over the bar.
Ayorinde brought down a Pickford ball well, taking it around Russ Weatherstone. Weatherstone recovered well, putting in a good tackle to give Celtic an early second half corner. Bastock plucked the ball off Williamson's head.
Anything Courtney could do, Elding could also, shooting from distance when all his avenues were cut off. He too went wide and over.
If Ellender had thought that removing Futcher from the equation would make his life easy - he was wrong. Williamson played well, beating him to an Angel cross to give Boston a corner, and then beating him again to get the ball clear off the corner. Angel soon received the ball back again, and put in a wicked pass across the six yard box, but nobody could reach it.
Simon Weatherstone was racing down the wing unchallenged, Pickford slid in to disposses him - but he was late, very late, and got a yellow card for his troubles. Walker punched the free kick clear, and after a weak distance shot, punted well up field. Courtney brought it down, and tried to square it to Ayorinde., but it was too far ahead of the Nigerian, and Bastock claimed.
Pickford's commitment then made him see red.
He slid in and took the ball off Angel's feet. Though it was from the front, with 100% of the ball and 0% of the man, Angel flew through the air, like his namesake, crying all the way. The referee decided that Pickford had fouled the winger, and sent him off. Pickford was amazed, and Angel was grinning from ear to ear. But it would prove Boston's undoing, so Pickford should have the last laugh. From the free kick, without Futcher, Ellender's job was made all the more easy, when he rose higher than anybody else, to nod the ball into the back of the net, and put Boston back on level terms with a man advantage.
Peacock, still feeling the effects of his earlier flu, was replaced by Wharton, in an effort to bolster Celtic's midfield in the absence of Pickford.
Wharton's first job proved to make him an inspired substitution. Wood was pulled down by Ellender, but still manage to lob the ball into the air. Wharton brought it down and fed Ayorinde, at the edge of the box, who smashed a great shot in, but Lodge blocked, as far as Courtney. Courtney still had some work to do as Scott was marking him closely. He span around Scott, and slid it past Bastock to give Celtic back the lead only minutes after they had lost it and a man.
Boston then had to rue their chances. A hopeful punt up field saw Angel bring it down. Walker raced towards him as Angle beat Murphy for pace. After rounding Walker, Angel slid his shot in, and saw it come back off the post.
Boston saw their initiative slipping away, and piled the pressure on. Brown, on an ineffectual Beasley (Boston's not ours!) received an Angle cross at the edge of the box. He controlled it well, turning and volleying, but Walker saved quite comfortably.
Boston poured forwards, occasionally removed all but Bastock from their half, as the game went into it's final official 15 minutes. Ayorinde beat Ellender to a free kick floater, leaving the ex-Altrincham midfielder fuming at the Nigerian and Williamson, the latter especially as he beat Ellender to Angel's curling, testing cross. The corner in was headed clear by Beasley, but only as far as McGarry. The striker's fierce first time volley travelled with some pace, just clearing the crossbar.
After Ayorinde won a corner off Gould, Ellender tried his earlier trick, this time on Williamson. As the ball came in, he kicked Williamson's hamstring bringing the young defender crashing down. Again, he walked smugly away as none of the officials saw his surreptitious action. Williamson then got a yellow card when the referee ordered him to come on at the halfway line, despite the effect that would have on Celtic's defence as Boston broke forward.
Though Celtic were compressed into their own third, Courtney waned a second goal. With most of the Boston team in the Celtic half, when Ayorinde beat Ellender to a free kick floater, and sent Courtney off and running up the wing, it was left to Angel to stop him, and he did, bringing the Celtic front man crashing down with a scything tackle. As the last man, he should have seen red, instead he saw only yellow.
Despite favouring his left foot, Williamson still beat his man to Angel's cross, granting Boston a corner, as the visitors probed for a defensive weakness as the time ran out. Wharton cleared the corner.
Whenever Celtic got the ball as the official time ran out, they raced into the opponent's corners, holding the ball up, winning throws, and corners, but unable to create anything from them.
Suddenly every little thing was resulting in a Boston free kick. Every decision went their way as stoppage time began. However, they were vulnerable, with only Bastock in the Boston half. Twice Bastock had to come well out of his area to deny Courtney from latching onto offside beating passes. But Boston were looking for that late, late goal that Celtic had been prone to, early in the season, with corner, after corner.
As pressure mounted, and nervousness spread through the Celtic faithful, Ayorinde was crippled - a kick in the hamstring, in the melee of a Boston corner. He was replaced by Marivat, and Celtic continued to defend, defend, defend. Cross after cross was pumped into the box, whilst the ref continued to provide them with free kicks to pepper the Celtic box with. Time ticked on, well past the few expected minutes. Celtic just intercepted the crosses and corners, long throws and free kicks, sending it as far up field as possible, all hands manning the pumps.
Seven minutes past the end of the game, Marivat emerged from the Celtic final third, and ran the ball into the corner, winning a throw level with the penalty area. The throw was dropped to Courtney, and from somewhere he produced the stamina to take the ball past two defenders, and shoot from a narrow angle. Bastock made a great save to keep it out, and Boston in with a chance. Celtic had a corner. Perhaps the sensible thing to do would have been to hold it there, but Celtic whipped it in, trying to get the goal that would kill the game. But Boston cleared and broke.
With nine minutes on the stoppage time clock, Wharton brought Angel down. Celtic were back into the cycle of defending desperately. Boston had two more free kicks and a corner, but still Celtic kept it out.
Then finally, the referee decided that there was no way Boston could get through this resolute defence, and blew his whistle.
Celtic left the field to a standing ovation. A man down, against the best team in the Conference according to the table, and Celtic came away the victors. Now where have we seen that before?