Match Report -
A winning performance
By Debbie Taylor

Celtic played with heart and conviction, and as a result, got a result. Because the Cheshire Senior cup is not a priority for the teams in it, it was a good springboard for Celtic to concentrate on putting in a performance without having to worry about the result. With good performances though, comes results and that's what Celtic got.

The opening few minutes saw shots go across the bows of both teams, with Celtic starting first. Mayers spread the ball out to Potts who put a great first time cross in for Eastwood racing in at the back post, but his volley cleared the bar. Play rapidly switched to the other end of the pitch, Gardner put in a similar cross for Welton, and the Robin's striker got a full bloodied header that Dootson athletically tipped around the post for a corner that Celtic easily cleared.

Caldecott was at his busiest best up and down the left flank, and he put a sublime cross in for Mayers, which Talbot headed clear as far as Eastwood. Eastwood responded with an instant shot at full power that Band knew little about when he got in the way. Celtic's passing was a class above that in recent matches, and it allowed them to build up patiently, keeping the ball until opportunities arose. Mayers culminated such a build up with a reverse pass to Potts. The winger turned Aspinall inside out before lobbing a cross to Eastwood, this time his volley was just wide.

Quarter of an hour in, the injury curse struck again. Blocking Adams' sprint, Caldecott came out the worse and had to be stretchered from the field with suspected cruciate damage in his knee. He was taken to hospital and we await the results of tests to see just how bad the damage is. Heald came on to replace him, with Keeling dropping into the defensive line, and Fitzgerald taking Caldecott's left back role.

Celtic did not let the injury deter them from their game plan, and again built an attack patiently before Eastwood put the ball into the path of Wharton as he ran into the box. Unfortunately, he failed to test the young Robins keeper, Timms, as his shot skimmed past the post.

Somewhat against the run of play, Altrincham burst into the Celtic half with Welton running at the defence. With the imposing form of Keeling standing between him and goal, he put the ball across the face to Craney coming in - it looked like it would be a simple finish, but Craney skied his shot over the bar.

With this reprieve, Celtic upped the ante. After Timms had caught Mayers' cross, he went to drop kick the ball, only to find Potts nipping in to take the ball off his foot. The referee decided that this was interference and gave a foul, but it was an example of the new found desire to win. This translated into Celtic's opening goal.

Eastwood released Wharton into the box where he twisted Adams so much that the defender fell over. Unfortunately, Wharton fell over Adams' legs. For some strange reason, the referee decided that this was a penalty, being the only person in the park who thought so. Eastwood didn't complain, he just stuck the ball beyond the reach of Timms to put Celtic in front.

They say that all things equal out in football and moments later a low Potts cross was meant for Mayers, and he would have reached it too, had Adams not hauled him bodily off his feet. Now THAT was a penalty, though it wasn't given.

Wharton continued to make a nuisance of himself around the box, and when Fitzgerald's threaded pass found him unmarked, it took a very good save from Timms to deny him.

After the half time interval, Celtic continued in the same vein. Mayers threaded a ball through to Potts, but it was a very narrow angle for the winger. Somehow he conjured a superb shot attempting to lob Timms. Timms started the half with a save equal to the shot. Heald took the corner, curling it towards the top corner. Timms was alert and punched the ball clear.

Moments later, Mayers again threaded a ball through to Potts, this time Potts cut it back for Eastwood. Eastwood threw himself at the cross but was two inches too short to reach it.

This was an excellent start to the half, but Celtic hadn't finished with Altrincham yet. Bowman dropped the ball off to Potts. An excellent turn from the winger gave him the time to line up a shot, again testing the young keeper, whose parry was right into the path of Mayers - somehow from close range Mayers out the ball over the bar.

From the corner, Celtic were rewarded for their opening efforts. Mayers ran to the edge of the box dragging the tall central pairing of Talbot and Rose with him, leaving Foster unmarked at the near post, and he duly nodded a glancing header into the back of the net.

Celtic hadn't quite finished with the home side yet. Potts nicked the ball when a lax pass from Band never reached its intended target allowing Potts to go one-on-one with Timms. Once again, the ex-Manchester City youth keeper produced the goods with a fine stop.

As the half wore on, a Celtic victory was looking more and more likely, despite recent collapses. There was a confidence in their style of play. Even so, Altrincham were trying to drag themselves back into the game, and Welton almost did it for them, but for a superb tip over from Dootson when the Robin's striker got onto a bouncing ball beyond Pearce. That corner was cleared, but Altrincham peppered the box with crosses in a fifteen minute spell, eventually resulting in Keeling conceding a corner. Talbot should have done better running in from the edge of the box - but his header cleared the bar. The pressure on the defence eased slightly until the final few minutes of the half, when Bowker conceded a corner off Aspinall's cross. Bowker headed the ball clear as far as the corner taker and again Talbot wasted the opportunity with his header clearing the bar.

Celtic finished the game the stronger team, and Heald could have made it three nothing when Eastwood's visionary ball put him into the box, but that man Timms was still on top-form two minutes into stoppage time to deny Heald his first goal with a great save.

This was a superb performance by Celtic, who are once again decimated by injury. Three players in two games have been stretchered from the field. Parr and German in the Spennymoor match, and now Caldecott. All three seem to be severe injuries, depleting an already stretched squad. This squad must now face the stern test of this season's high flyers over the coming week. Bradford and Hucknall are the next opponents before the unknown Guisborough Town in the FA cup.

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