After meeting Nuneaton three times, and getting one of each kind of result, these two teams could be said to know each other. But it would take the man who had impressed Nuneaton enough to make an offer for him, Sammy Ayorinde, to take this game, turn it around, and give the score line a professional finish.
Celtic were the quickest out of the blocks, after the minutes silence, with Parr nodding down a Pickford cross into the path of Pickford. Courtney wasted no time in curling it around the out flung fingers of MacKenzie. Though it beat the keeper, it also beat the post. Celtic knew after their previous encounters that any goals scored were going to have to be special.
Courtney got a chance moments later, when Ayorinde slid the ball between Howey and Angus, for Courtney to race onto. Courtney read the Nigerians mind, and was on it. MacKenzie had also read the mind of Ayorinde, and met it at the same time as Courtney. Courtney's shot was blocked by the midriff of the keeper and left Courtney in some pain on the touchline.
Whilst Celtic were down to ten men, you would never have guessed. Peacock put an inch perfect cross onto Pickford's head, only for MacKenzie to pluck it off the tousled hair.
After five minutes of treatment, Courtney hobbled on, and perhaps blamed a tender foot for the reason why his turn and shot from Murphy's cross lacked any power, allowing MacKenzie to scramble across and claim comfortably.
Nuneaton finally got into the action, when Peake got to the by-line and whipped a cross in that Murphy blocked for a corner. The corner evaded everybody, before coming to Angus on half way line, who lobbed it back into the box, for Walker to catch.
Nuneaton weren't finished. After the ball had been in their third for a good two minutes without any noticeable inroads into Boro's defence, a long ball from Angus was met by Turner, who's first time volley/cross was met by Harkin who had acres of space all game. As Futcher closed him down, Thackery steamed in behind the defence, and got on the end of a whipped in cross by Harkin, nodding it past Walker, who could do nothing.
This was not the Celtic that rolls over after a goal, and they were soon probing the Nuneaton defence again. Courtney chested a ball into the path of Pickford who struck well, first time, with a lot of pace. MacKenzie had plenty of time to see the shot, and saved well, even if it stung his hands.
Courtney then received an excellent cross from Perkins, but his placed shot was not placed accurately enough, and again MacKenzie proved his worth getting down to block.
As a provider, Courtney would have more luck. He held the ball 10 yards outside the box, and released his partner with a beautiful weighted ball that Ayorinde took into his stride. One touch and he had MacKenzie committed, sending the Boro keeper the wrong way, and drawing Celtic level.
Walker continued to be a spectator as Angus sent a long, over the top ball to Charles, but Charles' shot was woeful.
Thackery gave Ayorinde a corner, as the Nigerian tucked inside him but couldn't take the ball with him.
Kevin Parr steamed in on the corner, and thumped it past Howey and MacKenzie, clashing heads with Howey as he did so. MacKenzie was way out of position, but Peake was on the line to head clear. His header was not comfortably cleared, falling to Murphy. Ged's first time shot was the right move, but MacKenzie leapt through a crowd of players to pluck the ball out of the air near the edge of his box.
Peake again, moments later would clear off the line, as Celtic won a second corner. It was beginning to look as though Celtic's luck had turned bad again.
This looked more true when Murphy found himself in acres of space, and Ayorinde saw him, and reached him with a good ball. Murphy could have brought the ball closer than he did, so MacKenzie had enough time to adjust himself for the shot, catching well.
When Peacock gets to the edge of the box, and has a shot, the crowd normally hold their breath. But when Pickford's whizzing pass reached him, Peacock had to use his left foot, and his shot was so woefully wide, Nuneaton had a throw-in.
Pickford gave Nuneaton a way back into the game, as half time approached, when he fouled Turner 40 yards out. Fortunately, it was wasted and Celtic raced clear again.
But it was a way in, as Nuneaton took heart from getting into the Celtic third, and raced in again. Burgess slipped past Beasley, and knocked the ball in, for Charles to meet at the back post, completely unmarked, and knock a simple ball into the back of the net.
Though Celtic got a double corner at the end of the half, but eventually, MacKenzie claimed, and the referee ended the half.
Celtic came out of the half time team talk rejuvenated. They knew they had not been outplayed, and they just had to start converting chances.
Angus continued where he left off, when Ayorinde continued where he'd left off. Ayorinde ran past Angus, who tripped him. This time Angus got a card, yellow.
Nuneaton packed the box, and cleared the free kick. Moments later when Peacock's cross came in, there was panic among the orange shirted ones, as the ball pinged around. Somehow, they scrambled it clear, but not before two separate handball incidents were waved away.
Ayorinde's persistence was beginning to break down the Nuneaton resolve. He won a throw, level with the box, which Peacock took quickly, to Murphy, who snapped off a shot that went over the bar, seconds later, we had a corner, thanks to Angus and Ayorinde. As the ball came in, it fell to Murphy just outside the box. His shot was on target, until Charles stuck out his hand, and deflected it away. Well, why not - they had got away with two other hand ball decisions, so a third was a must!
Peacock got the ball onto his right foot, as Parr's cheeky flick into his path allowed Peacock to run to his favoured position, and curl the ball in. MacKenzie had seen that Peacock curler before, and made an acrobatic save.
Half time substitute, Peyton, was put through by Peake, with an excellent ball that left Peyton one on one with Walker. Walker closed him down, Beasley shadowed him, and Peyton scuffed his shot very wide.
Celtic than began to dominate. Murphy crossed to Parr, with MacKenzie flying into palm the ball clear. As the ball fell to Pickford, MacKenzie continued his forward motion to smother the ball at Pickford's feet.
Peacock tried another curler, and this time, MacKenzie looked to be yawning when he caught it. However, moments later, MacKenzie was not yawning, as Ayorinde went one on one with him again. This time Ayorinde went to run around the keeper. MacKenzie was caught flat footed, and stretched out a hand to grasp the ball. Ayorinde's experience meant the ball was not there, buyt his ankle was - and MacKenzie brought Ayorinde down. Ayorinde stepped up to take the penalty himself.
MacKenzie read the penalty well - it was a good height for him, if struck well, and punched it clear. Nuneaton hoofed it up field.
Celtic looked all at sea. A Peacock throw was whipped in to Parr by Murphy. Parr saw Futcher completely unmarked, still up from a corner. Futcher could have taken the ball down, introduced it to his family and then used a straw to blow it into the net. he tried to head it though, and bent his ear in the process. MacKenzie walked over and picked it up. Fortunately, it was not going to matter. He was going to make amends.
Murphy missed again, this time from distance as he and Peacock made mincemeat of the Nuneaton defence.
Pickford won a corner, moments later, off Angus, which Peacock put onto Futcher's head. Futcher's nod down was perfect to Courtney. Reminding the crowd of an earlier attempt, Courtney turned and shot on the volley. This time, he got the pace and the accuracy and put Celtic back on level terms.
Then Ayorinde got the second denied him on the penalty. Peacock raced up the line, and whipped the ball in. Courtney miskicked it, passing to Ayorinde instead of shooting. Ayorinde made no mistake, stabbing the ball past MacKenzie.
Wood, who would have been man of the match, if it had not been for Ayorinde's hat-trick, saw Peacock free on the wing, and an inch perfect pass allowed Peacock to nod the ball past Howey in to Ayorinde. Ayorinde turned past Love and shot low into the corner of the net. Two goals in two minutes, and suddenly the score line looked very different.
Nuneaton then tried to get back into the game.
Williams had a shot from near the half way line, and missed. But with time running out, it was necessary. Then Nuneaton won a controversial corner, and Peake sent it in to Angus, who brought the best out of Walker, who to be fair, had been a spectator all game, he tipped the ball onto the bar, and Celtic scrambled clear.
Mike, brought on for Courtney, won a free kick, and Celtic held it in the Nuneaton third until the ref got bored and blew his whistle. The Celtic fans were cheering the passes as Celtic ran the clock down.
A fantastic game. Special mention has to go to Steve Wood, who's fantastic performance in the centre of the park was overshadowed by an even better performance from the man Nuneaton had tried to sign. Irony? No - football.