Match Report -
Keep playing until you score!
By Debbie Taylor

Another classy home performance from the Celtic players left Harrogate wondering where the team they had played at the start of the season had gone. The scoreline flattered Harrogate's nervy performance, with Celtic carving out enough chances to get into double figures.

From the off, both Denham and Eastwood put in crosses that showed the nervousness of the back line for the visitors, with hasty clearances not allowing them to break out of their own half. With Mayers in the middle of the park, acting as target man and provider, the weakness at the back of Town's line was exposed.

Before long, Denham had won a corner off Thompson, as the Harrogate man threw himself in front of a cross, and though Merris cleared it, it was again an ineffectual clearance, that Parr put straight back in onto the head of Mayers. Unfortunately, the powerful utility player could only head over the bar.

In comparison, the Celtic back line was never unduly worried, and when Bowman conceded a free kick 35 yards out, it was easily cleared.

Denham's pace caused problems all evening for the Harrogate line up and he was hauled down on several occasions, but he still managed to create space for himself, but saw his first shot of the night blocked by Merris for a corner. Before Harrogate could blink, Celtic were right back at them, this time, Eastwood testing the keeper with a powerful shot from distance that Connor had to save.

However, it looked as though Harrogate would snatch a goal against the run of play when Jackson got the better of Robertson, and though the on-loan man tugged at Jackson, the striker shrugged the challenge off and advanced at pace one-on-one with Dootson. The Celtic keeper excelled himself, with a great blocking save, only to see his effort wasted when the referee pulled the play back for the earlier foul. Richardson took the free kick, but blasted it well over the bar.

Denham then won another corner off Thompson, which Robertson headed back into the danger area to Mayers. With his back to goal, Mayers attempted the overhead kick, but missed the ball, allowing Connor to scoop up the ball.

But his kicking was poor and Celtic were soon right back at them. Denham raced sideways across the pitch, before cutting a ball through the defence into the path of Eastwood. Eastwood wasted no time, hitting the ball first time, right past the out flung arm of Connor. It was celebrations all around.

Kerr then kept the visitors in the game with a last ditch tackle on Mayers after the ex-Lancaster man received a squirted ball off Denham. Some great interchange play between Denham and Bowman had led up to the move, and Kerr had to be alert.

Harrogate could have equalised a moment later when Bonsall shot powerfully and low through a crowd of players. Dootson saw it late, and tipped the ball around the post with a fine instinctive save. The corner was an easy clearance, and it allowed Celtic to continue pushing.

Eastwood reciprocated on the move that had led to the goal, when he put Denham through with a well weighted ball, but the young striker couldn't quite get the ball under control and Connor smothered at his feet.

Another chance fell by the wayside to Harrogate after Mayers tackled Bonsall in the middle of the park (getting a yellow card for the innocent looking challenge). The long ball was kept in at the back post by Donaldson, and Fitzgerald had to put the ball over his own bar to deny Marcelle. Dootson caught the corner and punted it up field to Eastwood. Connor came way out of his area to intercept the punt, but Eastwood tackled the young keeper, though the tackle forced him wide. With Connor still recovering and Bellis covering the line, Eastwood tried to place the ball whilst falling sideways, and missed the empty net.

It didn't matter, for Parr soon retrieved the ball with a sliding tackle that put the ball into the path of Mayers. Mayers immediately spread it out to Denham in the corner, and a first time cross came sailing in, that Mayers finished with seeming easy. Celtic were in their stride.

To give Harrogate credit, they searched for a way back into the game as the first half time ran down, and when German conceded a corner, it was taken better out to the edge of the box where Richardson waited. He place his shot beyond the reach of Dootson, but Riding's foot lifted the ball over the bar for a second corner - the quality of which failed to live up to the first one - and Celtic cleared.

Colin Potts came on for Ridings in the second half, and made an immediate impact. He raced onto a ball into the corner from Mayers, who had dropped deeper, and lifted the ball over the defence. Parr racing in couldn't fail to thump his header into the back of the net. Mayers then put another fine ball into the path of Denham clearing him one on one with Connor. Thompson was left completely flat footed, but as Denham was crossing the line, Thompson hacked down the young Celtic striker, leaving him in obvious pain. The referee had no hesitation in producing the red card. the linesman indicated to the referee that the foul had happened inside the box, but the referee overruled his assistant, and placed the ball one foot from the line. Potts lined up the free kick, and the wall looked nervous. The free kick turned into a fantastically worked free kick, with Potts rolling it back into the path of Fitzgerald, who blasted the ball towards the net leaving Connor without a chance of getting near it. Celtic were four nil up with an extra man, and obviously were going to take their foot off the gas a little bit.

Even so, Potts had a great opportunity when he overlapped onto Eastwood's ball and advanced on the keeper. With a few options he went for glory and though he beat Connor, Kerr got a leg to the ball to deny him.

Marcelle took advantage of the slowing pace of Celtic's game by leaving German trailing in his wake to go one-on-one with Dootson. The Celtic keeper made another great blocking save to keep the sheet clean, and German hooked it clear before Marcelle could react.

But this was about Celtic's missed chances from this point on. Denham's shot produced a palmed reaction save from Connor right into the path of Mayers, but the ball got stuck in his feet, and Connor smothered the ball before the Celtic man could react. Mayers got another chance almost immediately, when a long throw from Fitzgerald landed right at his feet, but McNaughton was on hand to close him down, and Mayers missed the target. It was only a momentary respite, and Denham was soon lobbing a ball into the box for Eastwood. The ball had pace and swerve and Merris didn't know much about his header over the bar. Celtic then brought on Barker and Clegg to give the pair a run out. Barker missed to glorious chances - the first saw him wriggler the ball through the defence but get it trapped between his own legs allowing Connor to scoop it up, and the second was off a corner, when Merris saw where Barker planned to put the ball, and blocked it. Between the two missed chances, Mayers completed his trio of failed efforts in the second half when he got onto a Potts floated ball thumping it, and producing a stunning, instinctive one hand parry from Connor.

The game passed into Injury time, and Harrogate looked unlikely to grab anything from the game but disappointment. The allotted seven minutes of stoppage time (that more than compensated for the injury to Denham, and the couple of other injuries by a good two minutes) elapsed and turned into 8 minutes when Robertson blocked Marcelle's cross for a corner. With nine minutes of stoppage time now on the clock, the ball was floated to the back post, where Merris was on hand to grab a true consolation goal for the visitors. The referee immediately blew for full time, as though this had been what he was waiting for.

With each league performance recently (I'm ignoring the ignominy of the FA Cup) Celtic have come on in leaps and bounds. The defence was more solid against this overwhelmed Harrogate side, and for once the goals were flowing. Things look bright for Saturday's clash with Lancaster. Another win would see the confidence climb, along side Celtic's position in the table, but Celtic have yet to string two wins together, so it could prove to be a decisive match.

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