Match Report -
Improvement required
By Debbie Taylor

In possibly the worst home performance of the season, Celtic went down to a ludicrous Twiss goal that highlighted the problems with the formation Futcher senior had selected.

Only a string of superb saves from Leigh Walker stopped Celtic receiving a hammering, whilst Celtic never looked likely to score.

Monk had the run of the park, and breezed past Beesley twice early on. The veteran defender quickly adjusted to the pacy Monk, but Monk adapted his strategy swerving twice into Beesley, earning free kicks twice, and Beesley a yellow card for the second, despite their innocuous appearance.

Mammria did not look fully fit, and it was left to the other Leigh leading goal scorer, Twiss to produce the shots on target.

With every rebound falling to the acid yellow shirts of the visitors, Celtic looked jaded and tired, second to every ball, and half hearted in every challenge. Leigh on the other hand were hungry for the game, and took it to Celtic. A very heavy pitch was not helping either side, and in parts, the ball skimmed, and in others it stopped dead, making a passing game more difficult. Somehow, the Railwaymen overcame these problems, to get the better of Celtic.

Twiss produced the opening shot of the game, with Walker getting across the face of his goal to deny the striker an early start.

Celtic did then manage to string some kind of cohesion together for a short period, with Peacock flicking the ball through the air, rather than crisply passing it along the floor, trying to compensate for the poor conditions. After some good movement by Ayorinde, he twice got into a scoring position, and both times put the ball around the side of the goal. Indeed, throughout the first half, Westhead, the RMI keeper, did not have a save to make. And Celtic did not look willing to press him. On several occasions, after receiving a pass-back, he just stood there with the ball at his feet, and Celtic did not look inclined to pressure him.

Courtney got into a great position at the edge of the box, when Ayorinde laid him off, but as he turned past Durkin, leaving Durkin lying on the floor, Durkin somehow twisted himself, breakdance style, to hook the ball away from Courtney's feet.

Leigh pressed the home side remorselessly, attacking through the middle of the park, and though Pickford looked to have covered every square inch of the pitch, he couldn't rev up his team-mates in similar fashion, and even his passing game did not look as crisp as it has, though his commitment and tackling remained first rate.

As the half came to a close, Leigh had two excellent chances, both saved well by Walker, and when Monk raced into the box ahead of an out of position Murphy, he looked certain to open the scoring, until Walker raced off his line, and slid in to dispossess the winger.

Celtic's defensive pressure looked to have eased when Mammria limped from the pitch, after pulling up short, but he was replaced by the hungry Hallows.

Walker again would be called into action just before the interval, when an arcing long ball fell to ground just outside the box. Walker raced out as Futcher and Twiss raced onto it. Twiss was the first there, beating Futcher for pace, but the ball didn't bounce, it stopped dead, forcing Twiss to readjust, which allowed Walker to rob him of the ball with a traditional tackle, and spread it sideways to Futcher to clear.

The second half saw Celtic persevere with Matty Woods at right back, and he almost gave Celtic a good start, when he raced onto an overlapping ball from Peacock, driving it well into the Leigh half, and whipping in a great cross, but Durkin was having a great game at the back, and nodded the ball wide for a corner millimetres ahead of Courtney nodding it into the box. Though nothing came of the corner, Celtic continued to improve, though they could have done no worse, and Courtney was denied a cracking opportunity, when Peacock's low ball into the box was poked narrowly past the post again by Durkin. A flick on by Futcher from the corner eventually fell to Pickford just outside the box, and his thunderous effort was blocked by German, striking the defender with some force, and could have been a contributing factor to his substitution later in the game.

Peacock finally got a shot on target, after trading passes with Courtney, and curling one through the crowd in the box, only for Westhead to make his first catch of the game.

Then disaster: just past the hour mark a clearance from the Leigh lines looked to be going out of play, and was left by Woods, Futcher and Walker, with only Harrows chasing hopefully after it. Fortunately for the Leigh substitute, the ball stuck in the mud, allowing him to cut the ball back past a static defence, to Twiss stood patiently just inside the box. The goal scorer took one step to the side, and blasted the ball past Walker. There was little Walker could have done once the ball had fallen to Twiss.

The side was rebalanced, by taking off Woods, and replacing him with Perkins, resorting to the more traditional style. This allowed Murphy and Perkins to get forward more, though when they did, there was little to show for it, as the imposing Westhead caught the crosses, and the defence tackled Courtney and Ayorinde in numbers.

Walker proved his worth as Leigh continued to try and double their lead, saving a Hallows point blank header from Black's cross, and then moments later stopping Black himself, as the number 10 tried to side foot it from two feet, which Walker with great agility got down to his left to smother.

A Paul Beesley free kick aimed for Kevin Parr's head midway through the second half almost produced an equaliser in bizarre fashion. Parr, Durkin and Harrison all went up for the ball at the edge of the box, and Westhead had come forward to try and catch any flick on, but all four players missed the ball, and it skimmed the paint off the post on the way out.

Steve Wood had two chances when he tried his luck from distance, but on both occasions, the keeper had plenty of opportunity to see the screamers, and saved in his midriff. Westhead's ability was called into question when he spilled a simple catch from a cross, but he recovered before Adie Mike (on for Ayorinde who looked injured) could stab the ball home.

Maarivat was brought on to replace the tired looking Parr, and should have made a nuisance of himself, but the rest of the team seemed unable to see the Frenchman. He continued to be unmarked on the left wing for his spell on the pitch, and he fought for every ball that came within reach, but when he should have been a natural outlet, he was overlooked, with Celtic preferring the more central pass into a crowded midfield. The little he did get to do, he looked to do well, and looked like an exciting prospect.

Celtic trudged from the field at the final whistle, knowing that they had not performed 100%. Various excuses could be made, but the fact remains, that Leigh wanted this victory more than Celtic on the night, and they got it.

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