Games against Emley are rarely boring, and this was one was no different. Denham made a welcome return to the side, bringing as a dowry three goals and one point.
Denham started his contribution from the off, with a neat interchange with Fitzgerald that put the latter in a great shooting position at the edge of the box, but he blazed over. On the opposite wing was Ian Monk, a new face at the club, brought in because of his pace showed that pace racing to reach a ball going out for a goal kick, and pulling it back for Denham at the edge of the box. Denham swiveled to lose his first marker, he swiveled again to lose the second and unleashed a terrific drive just beyond the reach of Cuss into the bottom corner. Back four minutes and it was like he'd never been out of the blue and white.
Cuss proved that it would take exceptional shots to beat him when Eastwood pulled a ball back for Monk. Monk let it run fro the better placed Keeling, who's low hard drive was well saved by Cuss.
Denham's tenacity got him to the by line, and he pulled the ball back for Monk racing into the box, a first time shot skimmed just past the post.
Bowling was tested quarter of an hour in when Pell shrugged German off and fired off a low shot that Bowling saved with his feet. The rebound fell kindly to Selby, who's blasted shot was punched clear by Bowling who was just regaining his feet.
Twice, Emley went close to putting the ball into their own net. Both from Fitzgerald balls, first Tonks headed narrowly over his own bar, and then toe poked narrowly past his own post. From neither corner could Celtic conjure anything even remotely threatening.
Cuss continued to impress when Keeling teed Eastwood up twenty five yards from goal and the Celtic striker unleashed a ferocious drive that required an exceptional save. The corner eventually fell for Eastwood who tried to turn and shoot, but put the ball inches wide of the post.
Eastwood must be wondering what he has to do to score. Fitzgerald was clumsily bundled over and Wharton floated the free kick in and Eastwood volleyed a superb shot that Cuss amazingly blocked. Eastwood's touches and shooting are superb, but somehow the ball is not going in the back of the net for him this season. The amount of chances he's beginning to create for himself though, this has to change.
Monk showed that he's a great acquisition when he raced onto a through ball most would have given up on. He beat the defender with the deftest of touches and whipped the cross in for Eastwood. Eastwood's diving header was again stopped by a top notch save from Cuss, but there was Denham racing in the clear, unmarked to ram the ball into the back of the net. Celtic were tearing Wakefield apart.
Perhaps this was why Todd got cocky. Under pressure from Pell, German headed the ball back to Bowling. Todd decided he could do something with it, but as he brought it down, he only succeeded in knocking it past his keeper and towards the net, he raced after it and was most fortunate to reach it before it reached the line, hacking it clear.
Denham was prowling for his hat-trick at the edge of the box when Keeling found him with a precision through ball. Denham span on the spot and volleyed it goal-bound, but watched as it went agonisingly wide.
Celtic would rue that miss. Todd conceded a corner in the dying moments, and Pell trampled through his own team mates to reach the floated ball. He left two of his own players down, but got his head on the ball to halve the deficit at a crucial moment. Denham did get one final chance before half time to return the advantage, but Fearon got an unwitting backside in the way, deflecting the ball for a corner, and when Monk's shot was blocked, despite Celtic still threatening, the referee blew for half time.
Coming out for the second half, Celtic looked like they'd had a cocoa. They also came out without Monk, who had succumbed to the Celtic curse, and twisted his ankle in the dying moments of the first half.
Emley got a dream start to the second half. A throw in the middle of the park allowed the visitors to float a ball into the box. Pell nodded it down for Selby who blasted it into the roof of the net and draw the visitors level. In two minutes Celtic had gone from rampaging to soporific.
Pell was allowed to run past Fitzgerald and snap off a shot, but hit the side netting. German was adjudged to have fouled Pell just outside the box, but the free kick was wasted. Celtic were living on a knife edge. Kenworthy too was getting in on the act. A powerful forward, he crashed through Bowker and tried to repeat the same with German who was a different prospect and came away with the ball.
Emley showed an unsporting side. When Fitzgerald noticed two players down injured (Bowker and German) he hoofed the ball into touch. Emley did not do the honorable thing and give the ball back, but instead continued attacking.
Thornley and Denham will need to work on their communication, as they clashed reaching for the same ball. This summed up Celtic's shambollic start to the second half Thornley did manage to squirrel the ball to Wharton at the edge of the box as the visitors defence closed on the entangled pair. Wharton tried to feed Clegg, but the defence cleared. Moments later, Denham got to try and be acrobatic when an indecision in the visitor's defence let the ball come through to Denham who tired the bicycle kick, only to skim the bar on the way out.
But they were momentary spots of brightness in an otherwise dark second half, and it was fortunate that Emley continued to waste glorious opportunities. A long throw was nodded down by Todd, but the intended recipient surely wasn't Selby, who immediately blasted a shot off, but sent the ball over the bar.
It was inevitable. A last ditch challenge from German was slightly mistimed bringing Kenworthy crashing down in the proverbial manner. Pell wasted no time in trundling the ball straight down the middle, seemingly to rub the fact in to Bowling who had dived to his far left post.
Surprisingly, that was the cue the Celtic revival.
Celtic won a couple of corners, but lacked the wherewithal to convert them, so it was from open play where Celtic had to look dangerous, and slowly they began to again. With fifteen minutes left on the clock, German slid the ball through to Clegg who's thirty yard screamer was tipped over the bar at full stretch by Cuss, and the corner was almost well worked as Keeling nodded down to Bowker who squared to Eastwood on the opposite side of the net to the keeper. Eastwood swung, and missed the ball.
Keeling and Denham then interchanged, with the former feeding the latter from the by-line. Keeling's strike was good, but an inch off target, and it hit the side netting.
Celtic had threatened with every attack, and there was a belief behind the goal that this time, maybe, that Celtic could turn it around, and not suffer another Radcliffe result. One of the men responsible for that result was now back playing for us, and again he had a say in the outcome.
Thornley found Eastwood who tapped it into the path of Denham. Denham stepped around Tonks and was left one-on-one with the keeper, though the way he blasted it, he couldn't have known. Cuss tried to reach it, but Denham secured his hat-trick, with twelve minutes remaining, and the fans expectant.
Cuss though would disappoint the fans.
Denham teed Clegg up, and the Celtic midfielder went looking for a sensational goal, but Cuss was on top form, denying Clegg with a sensational save.
With time running out, Radcliffe broke, and Celtic fans' heads sank. Kenworthy got goal side of German and unleashed a goal that Bowling did very well to save. There was still time for both sides to waste a couple of corners a piece before the referee again blew for full time during a Celtic attack.
Celtic's improvements just keep on coming, but the results aren't matching the performances. I cannot point at a player who was not trying his damndest on the pitch, and only four top class saves from Cuss prevented Eastwood from matching Denham's hat-trick, and Clegg getting his first goal for the club. This result now makes the two Christmas Altrincham matches absolutely crucial. We need six points from those two games to avoid a relegation dogfight, and remain instead in the dogfight for 11th and 12th. 6 points could put us 10th in the table which gives an indication of how tight it is down here.