Match Report -
Lucky, lucky Stanley
By Debbie Taylor

Celtic did not deserve to lose this match. Indeed, the only thing they did wrong was to fail to get their shots on target - something which Stanley did, in three controversial goals.

From the off, it was clear that Celtic's game plan was to relentlessly attack the Stanley goal, and in a sweeping move starting from the centre circle, they proceeded to do just that. The play was switched from side to side, leaving Stanley chasing shadows, and culminated in Fitzgerald swinging in a deep cross that Bowman headed just wide of the mark.

Fitzgerald then seized an opportunity himself after good work by Timons and Parr dispossessed the Accrington attack from the long goal kick. His opening though, was thirty yards from goal, and his shot was curling out the whole way.

It looked like a certain goal, as Denham and Hallows made a mockery of the Stanley attack, dancing between them with a rapid succession of triangular passes. The final ball from Hallows was a touch too strong, and Denham struggled to keep it in, but he did, and cut it back for Hallows who had continued his run. Speare in the Stanley goal, was alert, and smother the ball before it could reach Denham's strike partner.

Before 15 minutes was up, though Celtic were caught with a classic sucker punch. As they moved the ball up field, a sloppy Mayers ball allowed Carden to sweep the ball into the path of Williams, who raced one on one with Dootson. Despite the rapid and close attention from both Bowker and Timons, Williams still managed to somehow dance around Dootson, and slide it between Timon's legs into the corner of the goal.

Accrington used the psychological advantage gained by the goal to press Celtic onto the back foot, winning a succession of corners, but all were poorly executed, and Celtic could clear easily each time. Celtic slowly overcame the surging Stanley, and Denham was again at the heart of it. However, to stop him, Smith took the cloggers route and hacked him down at the edge of the D. Potts took the free kick, curling it around the wall, and down into the bottom corner. Speare earned his money, keeping Stanley's lead with a great diving punch the saw the ball go for a throw. Stanley looked disorganised and brutal at the back, in evidence again when Halford hauled Fitzgerald out of the air as the winger leapt for a swinging German cross. This time, Speare wasn't tested, as Halford got back to hoof the ball in clear.

Celtic continued to press for the equaliser, and Bowman sent a wicked ball in, but Denham looked to be suffering from his earlier challenge and Halford was able to steal in and clear, but he could only clear as far as German, but the fullback's cross was too close to Speare, who plucked it out of the air.

Accrington may no longer have been in the driving seat, but when it came to set pieces they knew their stuff. When Parr gave away a dubious foul in Accrington's half, Cavanagh booted it into the Celtic box, which Celtic scrambled clear, but only as far as Calcutt, who's wicked ball in flew across the face of the six yard box, and out for a goal kick.

Denham, looking to be shaking off his injury, one-two'd with Potts, putting him into a fantastic position, and he wasted no extra touches, before sending the ball towards the back of the net. Sertori stuck out a leg, and gave Celtic a corner. With Parr and Denham on the back post, it was Parr who reached Potts' corner first, much to the dismay of the better placed Denham, especially when Parr headed wide.

A Bowman cross in moments later was missed by the head of Hallows, but Denham contacted with an overhead kick that flew scant inches above the bar.

Again from a set piece, this time a corner given to them by Bowker, called Dootson into action to punch the ball off Mullin's head, after James had knocked the deep corner into the danger zone.

But Mullin wouldn't be denied. When Bowker was adjudged to have fouled James out by the corner flag - a dubious decision to begin with as it looked like a legitimate tackle - Cavanagh's ball in was met at the back post by an unmarked Mullin, doubling Stanley's lead.

Again Accrington looked to press the psychological advantage, and it took a timely interception from Timons to rescue Parr's poor back pass that James looked set to scoot onto. It was at the expense of a corner, but James could only head right at Dootson from it.

Then Celtic got the break their play had deserved. Speare fluffed a catch from a corner, when he clashed with his own defender. The ball fell kindly to Mayers, who made a simple side foot home, right on the stroke of half time.

Denham was swapped for Eastwood, the earlier injury having been too much for him, but Eastwood would have nowhere near the impact on the game as Denham had.

That said, the first chance fell to Potts, after Smith skied the ball in an attempted clearance, when it came down (with snow on) Potts and Smith tussled for the bouncing ball, Potts eventually snapping off a half volley that sailed just over the bar.

A game changing clearance was then made by Cavanagh. After winning a corner, Bowker's powerful header beat everybody, but Cavanagh somehow managed to raise his short leg high enough to deflect the ball over the bar. Parr's header was then deflected out for a second corner by Mullin, and Mayers released the relentless pressure on the shaken Stanley defence by volleying the third corner over the bar.

It took a while for Celtic to get back into the box again, a fact not helped by the referee handing out cards like confetti to the Celtic players, whilst steadfastly ignoring identical incidents going the other way. When they did, it was Hallows on the end of it. He trapped a Potts ball, and turned between two defenders with the ball into the box, snapping off a shot. Again Speare was not troubled as Halford threw himself across to head it out for a corner.

The corner was cleared as far as Fitzgerald, who put a great ball back across to Potts, who took one too many touches allowing Halford to make another block before it could reach the keeper. From the corner, Stanley broke, with only German back in the Celtic half. As Mullin raced past him, German scythed him down, and got a deserved yellow card, but it had been a crucial tackle.

Fitzgerald moved up field with the introduction of Douglas for Bowman, and he made an immediate impact skinning the defender and whipping in a great cross to Potts at the back post. Potts was unmarked, had acres of space with no defender in the immediate vicinity. All he had to do was volley toward the net, and Celtic would have equalised.

He fluffed it, slicing the ball away from the goal.

Celtic tried and tried again, a blue wave crashing on a red shore. But that miss by Potts cost them dear, when Parr shrugged Mullin off his back, when the striker had his arms wrapped around Parr, the foul was given Stanley's way - and not for the first time. The consistency of the referee's decisions was appalling. Stanley decided to make a substitution before the kick was made, bringing on Shuttleworth for Williams. Before the referee could blow to indicate play should continue, Cavanagh fired the ball towards the Celtic net, catching everybody, Stanley and Celtic, on the back foot. Dootson saw it late, still organising his defence. he flung his arm at it, but it crept in at the far post, and despite Celtic's protestations, the goal stood.

Celtic looked distraught, and Stanley managed to win a succession of corners, as they defended with their backs to goal. When Carden broke along the flank, he took the ball a foot and a half out of play, both Dootson and German stopped, expecting a whistle, but it didn't come, and Carden won't get an easier goal. He knows it was out of play - but the linesman was very badly positioned, a good ten yards up the line, trying to catch up with play. Celtic should have continued to play to the whistle, but with such an obvious goal kick, it made them pause for that dangerous second too long.

Eastwood finally got into the game, moments before the full time whistle, when he curled a soft shot from distance into the keeper's arms.

Celtic did not deserve this score-line, and three of Stanley's goals should not have stood. Two were for dubious 'fouls' and one had gone out of play. Stanley rode their luck, and threw everything in the path of goal-bound Celtic shots. That is the sign of a championship winning side though. One which gets the breaks, rides it luck and gets shots on target to grind out results even when they are out played. Stanley have now won seven out of seven, and look like championship winning material.

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