Match Report -
Stant-in Keeper plays well!
By Debbie Taylor

Gainsborough must have known that they were up against it when their regular keeper got stuck at Heathrow airport, and they needed a stand in.

Phil Stant, joint top scorer at Gainsborough stepped into the breach and donned the keeper's gloves, and what a job he did for them. He was tested in the opening minute when Potts waltzed through the still sleepy defence, and unleashed a close quarters shot that Stant instinctively blocked, fortuitously the rebound landed at the feet of the ex-Celtic defender Chris Timons and he half cleared it, getting the ball as far as Mayers - but Wally blocked Mayers' low drive.

Celtic were in an irrepressible mood, and soon Eastwood flighted over a great ball that escaped Mayers in the box. The defence was more alert now, and protecting the stand-in keeper for all they were worth - with Browne putting the cross out for a corner. The corner came to Bowman, whose half volley sailed over the bar.

But Stant's inexperience between the sticks was to appear time and again, when Mayers nicked the ball from him as the substitute keeper tried to smother. Mayers pulled it back to Potts, but Stant had one thing in his favour - he was agile and quick, and he managed to get across his box, and slid in to tackle Potts just outside the area. By now the defence was back in numbers, and though the ball fell to Eastwood, there were too many bodies between him and goal, and Timons could clear the ball. Moments later, he was almost undone again, but Stant was spared blushes when he came for Clegg's crossed ball, and got nowhere near it. Parr got good contact on the ball, but headed wide.

A goal was inevitable, and when Mayers intelligently sprayed the ball to Eastwood stood in acres of space at the edge of the box, it became certain. Eastwood did not even need to steady himself such was the quality of the ball from Mayers, he could just place it beyond the outstretched hand of Stant.

The first line of defence were found wanting again when Fitzgerald brilliantly squeezed between two to run down Stant's throat. Fortunately Knowles was on hand to put a small, but critical deflection on Fitzgerald's shot to prevent Celtic from doubling their lead and starting a goal rout. Potts, as he would do several times, put his corner too close to Stant, who gratefully accepted it. However, Stant obviously couldn't suppress his goal scoring instincts, and Dootson collected his punt unchallenged.

Potts was on dancing form, despite the quality of his corners, and after leaving Browne trailing bemusedly behind him, his cross required a good headed clearance from Wally to stop Parr burying the ball. Wally was at it again moments later, this time ensuring Hooper's cross didn't reach Eastwood.

If Celtic thought they were going to get it all their own way, the Ellington - Gainsborough's other top scorer, had other ideas. Even so, his first shot didn't arrive until the 42nd minute, and then it was scuffed, and he was lucky that it stuck an unwitting Bowker to grant Gainsborough their first corner, which German dutifully cleared.

Within minutes, Celtic managed to put the game safe, with a breath-taking sweeping move to get the ball up to Mayers, who lifted it over his marker to Eastwood. Eastwood trapped it expertly, turned and volleyed the ball into the top corner in a shot that would not have looked out of place on a Premiership ground, leaving Stant again with no chance, and rooted to the floor.

The second half continued the Celtic dominance. Potts raced forty yards to latch onto a hopeless looking ball, which he whipped in first time. Fortunately for Stant, Wally was on hand yet again to head over his own bar. The corner was a better one this time, and Parr headed it down to Eastwood. He turned and shot from close range, but Knowles managed to stretch a leg far enough to divert it for a second corner. This time Parr headed across the face of goal, but Potts raced in and lifted it back into the danger area. Parr stooped in to head the ball home, but clashed heads with Wally in the process and headed wide. Clashing heads is not something to be done with Kevin Parr, and Wally had to be substituted for Shaw. This was to prove a good move for Gainsborough, as Shaw opened up a new dimension for Gainsborough and gave them attacking options they had lacked in the first half.

Almost his first touch saw Shaw put the ball into the path of Ellington, his first time snapped shot was powerful and Dootson could only palm it onto the bar, and Fitzgerald brought it clear.

Mayers was orchestrating all of Celtic's attacks, with barely any movement, and it was he that put a ball between Stanton and Timons for Potts to run onto. Stanton in homage to Stant, handled the ball conceding a free kick (but receiving no yellow card) 25 yards out. Eastwood, on his hat-trick took the free kick, with a low drive angled to the far corner, aiming to make use of Stant's poor positioning. Knowles's leg once again came to the rescue putting just enough of a deflection to divert it for a corner.

But with unrelenting pressure, Celtic were never going to stay at a two goal lead, and so it proved when Potts worked his magic on the wing to leave two defenders trailing in his wake. Reaching the by-line he swerved in a great ball to Parr running in from outside the box. Without Wally to deny him, Parr's thumping header blasted past the beleaguered Stant, again giving him no chance. After retrieving the ball from the kick off, Potts was sent off on a run by a fine Hooper spread ball, he twisted and turned his way into the box before lifting a great reverse lob into the path of Eastwood, but glory struck Eastwood headed over the bar.

Shaw proved his worth, when he fed Ellington just inside the box, and only a last ditch sliding tackle from Bowker could dispossess the striker, at the expense of a corner. Showing great agility, Dootson twisted himself to palm the ball away from the head of Eshelby and out to safety. Shaw went alone on the next run, and it took Clegg's leg to deny him, at the expense of Gainsborough's third corner. This time, it was a poor effort, and Parr thumped it clear sending Celtic on an attacking run.

The move culminated in Potts bursting into the box onto a Mayers ball, when Stanton scythed him down in the most clear cut penalty ever seen. The referee had a great view of the incident, but chickened out, despite another goal making no difference to the outcome, and he waved play on. Potts tried to take revenge in the best way, and it took a fully stretched leg from Timons to deny his powerful low drive. The ball rebounded back to Mayers, and Timons was called into action again, this time to block a less powerful but well placed shot from Mayers.

The final deliberate shot from Gainsborough came on the hour mark, and it was again from substitute Shaw, who shot from distance, but nevertheless saw Dootson tipping the ball over the bar. Again the corner was poor, and Celtic could clear.

Celtic were still pressing to extend the lead, and Mayers teed Potts up beautifully, sliding the ball beyond Timons for Potts to run onto. Potts struck the ball first time, but went narrowly wide.

Two comical back passes came next. The first from German, who let Ellington in on his short back pass to Dootson. Dootson tried to clear, but it struck Ellington, and the deflection would have been a goal, had it not been for a fine reaction save from Dootson. The second was at the other end of the pitch when Knowles made to pass back to Stant, but putting it ridiculously out of his reach, and out for a corner. Celtic couldn't capitalise on the mistake, as Eshelby headed the ball in for a second corner, which Parr then headed right at Stant.

Denham was brought on (for Potts) for the last 10 minutes to exploit the tired defenders and acres of space at the back to run into. His first touch was to race down the wing, and fire in a low cross for Mayers trundling into the box. Stant got the merest of fingertips on the ball to divert it away from the Celtic man. Denham's second run saw him push the ball beyond Stanton, who cynically and brutally hacked him down. As Eastwood had got the ball in the corner, play was waved on while Denham received treatment on the side line. I'm sure Celtic would have preferred a free kick with this keeper, especially as the play quickly petered out. When play stopped some two minutes later, Stanton was shown a yellow card. As he had already committed three bookable offences, he should have been long gone, but the referee again chickened out.

The final act came in the final minute, when Bowman (who had a good game, battling through the midfield), placed the ball into the path of an unmarked Mayers. Mayers hit the ball hard and seemingly out of the reach of Stant. Somehow, Stant got across to push the ball clear with a stunning save. It fell for Denham, who twisted just outside the six yard box, and fired a second shot in, while Stant was still regaining his feet. Showing great skill, Stant not only got to his feet as though pulled up by string, but threw himself into the air to block Denham's second shot, this time for a corner, which Timons cleared.

It is difficult to judge how well Gainsborough would have played, seeing how they were without one of their prolific strikers and the goal keeper, but Celtic looked to be in buoyant mood, and will go to Worksop on Saturday with a spring in their step, especially with the knowledge that Altrincham had just beaten them.

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