Match Report -
The Just-Over-the-Bar Club
By Debbie Taylor

What is put into the half-time drinks for Celtic? Cocoa? Repeatedly this season, Celtic have emerged from the dressing room and been unable to get started again, allowing previously defeated teams back into the game, and get something out of the game.

Marine showed that they were going to be no pushovers almost from the off, with a long free kick floated into the box from the centre circle by Hussin that Taylor was allowed to reach first. Fortunately he headed wide.

If football nets were three inches higher, Celtic would have scored a hundred goals already this season, and German joined the ranks of Celtic players clearing it when he tried to loft a cross into the box, only for it to divert towards goal and end up a near miss. Monk though, was guilty of a similar crime; Eastwood provided the perfect defence splitting pass, which Monk ran onto, with only the keeper to beat, he slid the ball too sharply, and it went wide. Monk got a chance again moments later when a drive from Clegg pingponged into the box and falling to the winger. He dallied too long and Randles nipped into to steal.

One person not expected to join the JOB Club (Just-Over-the-Bar Club) was Dootson; however, join it he did, with a long punt down field that skimmed as it bounced just outside the box. Crookes looked worried as he back-peddled toward his goal with the ball floating over his head. A foot lower and Dootson would have grabbed his first goal for the club, because Crookes was well beaten.

Monk was causing the Marine defence no end of problems, and he earned a foul off Mullin, who'd been pulling him down all game, but finally got punished just before Monk could enter the box. Wharton has been relegated from taking the free kicks, as Fitzgerald has shown an aptitude for it. His free kick bent around the wall, but not quite far enough to bend in the near post.

Clegg brought down Hussin with a late challenge that possibly should have been a yellow card, but just a stern talking to was the referee's decision. From the free kick, Marine got the ball in the back of the net: McNally's flick on to an unmarked Whitehall, who lobbed Dootson. The linesman's flag was raised, and the goal was disallowed. What's the point of marking somebody clearly offside?

Mullin finally got a yellow card for his fourth late tackle on Monk. Thirty yards from goal, to one side, Fitzgerald opted to float the ball into the box. Mayers beat Crookes to the ball, but put his shot, you guessed it, over the bar. Mayers tried to make amends with an intelligent pass that cut the defence wide open and was set for Monk to run in. A last ditch tackle from Mullin had to be timed to perfection, or he was off. He did, and conceded the corner. Celtic seem unable to cause any kind of consternation from corners, and this one was no exception. That said, the throw that resulted from the clearance won Celtic a second corner. This time, Mayers nodded it back down to Pearce, who's shot had a too circuitous path to take, and was an easy catch for Crookes when it eventually reached him.

Dootson punted the ball up field. Eastwood's knock down found Mayers in acres of space. Mayers didn't lash at his shot, but took his time to ensure that it went right into the back of the net with Crookes rooted to the spot.

Marine went for the instant response, attempting the same route one approach. Whitehall brought down Crookes' long punt with a deft urn to beat Keeling, volleying the ball wide of the mark. Celtic were running rampant. Monk easily had the match of Mullin, and raced past him to get onto a threaded Clegg ball. Eastwood expertly brought down Monk's first time cross, and his shot was equally expert. Crookes pulled off a purely instinctive one handed save, the ball rebounding out to Mayers, who had too much to do, and Marine gratefully cleared.

Monk's honesty was possibly the best policy given the events that would unfold in the second half. Connolly's late challenge in the penalty box would have brought a Premiership player crashing down, but Monk recovered and swept a cross to Eastwood. Hussin had tracked Eastwood well, and just beat him to the ball, heading narrowly past his own upright for a corner. The corner was cleared as far as Wharton, he brought it back the direct route, but found too many bodies in his path, dropped the ball off to Clegg, who shot was deflected off Elias for a second corner. In a copy of last week's goalkeeping howler, Crookes backed into a crowd of his own and Celtic's players to try and catch the ball, and couldn't keep hold of it. Unlike last week, the referee called a foul on the keeper, much to the relief of Crookes.

As the half began to run out, Clegg found Eastwood, who worked a bit of magic to make some space. His shot lacked power and Crookes was able to scramble across to make the save. Mayers outpaced Mullin to reach an otherwise certain dead ball, back heeled to Monk who's first time cross took a deflection off Dolan for a corner, which was cleared, but not for long as Fitzgerald ran Elias all the way to the touch line, before the Marine defender slid in to put the ball for a corner. Crookes punched the ball a good thirty yards only to find that it went straight to Fitzgerald. The Celtic fullback unleashed a superb volley shooting the ball back where it had come, Crookes flew to try and reach it, but saw it arc over his hand and was ever so happy to see it (yet again) zip narrowly over the bar.

The second half saw Marine go for the throat. Roly Howard gave his team hell, while Dave Miller gave his cocoa. Celtic's defence coped admirably well, and looked like they could let Marine's attacks break against them all afternoon. However, the introduction of a pair of fresh legs on a heavy pitch on the hour was enough to turn the result. Thurston drew Pearce and German too him, leaving Keeling alone in the box to deal with Whitehall. Dootson had the near post covered when Thurston burst between German and Pearce. Thurston rolled the ball past Keeling's outstretched leg and Whitehall simply swept it into the back of the net from close range.

In the lead up to the goal, Monk had pulled up sharply, and disappeared from the game, but it would be about quarter of an hour before it was noticed and Heald was introduced.

In the meantime Wharton tried to bring the ball between Dolan and Connolly only for the pair of them to make a Wharton Sandwich inside the box and leave the Celtic midfielder sprawling on the floor. Celtic appeals for a penalty went unheeded, and Marine got the goal kick (neither of the defenders touched the ball).

Eastwood found his route to goal blocked so instead slid a beautiful ball over to Captain Parr. From just outside the six yard box Parr hammered his shot, adding his name to the list of players who shoot just over the bar. Moments later, Wharton brought the ball into the box; Mullin clearly and absolutely brought Wharton down with a late challenge inside the box. No whistle was forthcoming, and the ball fell Parr stood in a virtually identical position to his earlier miss. This time his shot was low, and cleared off the line by Randles. Celtic appealed to the referee, but their appeals fell on deaf ears. Sometimes I wish for video evidence so that the referees can see just how wrong they were. One penalty turned down is bad enough, but three in one game is appalling! The referee could possibly argue a case for Monk's and Wharton's first, but the second was outrageously obvious.

To prove that he can see late tackles, when Randles fouled Eastwood (just outside the box), the referee gave a free kick. Fitzgerald curled it around the wall, and it was well read by Crookes who made a comfortable catch.

With the seeming leniency of the referee, Marine's fouling became more and more dangerous until Hussin sliced across the back of Mayers knees a good two seconds after the ball had gone, thirty five yards from goal. He should have walked, but didn't even get a talking too, and to make matters worse, the free kick was awful.

Eastwood found Clegg with a threaded ball. Clegg didn't known but he could have gone closer before shooting, as it was, his shot was right down Crooke's throat, and an easy catch. Failing with Clegg, Eastwood tried again, this time putting Wharton through. Connolly and Randles were leaning on him, trying to push him wide, and they pushed him just far enough for when his shot came, it was wide.

Marine, with less than ten minutes to go, had a chance to take their place in the next round, which would have been a cruel blow to Celtic. Johnson took advantage of a loose ball in defence from Fitzgerald to Keeling, to strike a decent enough shot at Dootson. Dootson caught comfortably enough but bizarrely threw the ball to Fitzgerald. The ball never reached Fitzgerald, as Whitehall nipped in and blazed a shot over the bar.

Heald, who had been unable to repeat Monk's success down the right flank, on account of being a left-winger, switch instead to a supporting role behind Mayers and Eastwood. He tracked the ball across the edge of the penalty box, before dropping it into the path of Eastwood. The Celtic top-scorer (in all competitions) could not get enough power in the shot, and Crookes was able to walk across to collect.

Celtic won a corner off Elias as Fitzgerald tried to cut inside. Eastwood collected, ran the ball all the way along the touchline to the post before picking out an unmarked Wharton, who was stood at the corner of the six-yard box, but somehow put his free header seven yards wide.

There was still just enough time for Marine to get a stoppage time corner, when Keeling blocked Whitehall's cross. Dootson got a vital touch on the ball to knock it away from Connolly, and that was it, a replay was going to be required to decide this game.

Tuesday night, Celtic must, and I cannot stress it hard enough, must kill Marine off when they are in the ascendancy. It is all too easy to point to the three denied penalty decisions and blame the ref. The fact of the matter is that Celtic put a dozen good chances into the stands. Sometimes it's going to be inevitable, but if Celtic could just keep their shooting low, more goals would be scored. Our lack of finishing is not finishing teams off when we have the chance. Marine had three shots on target, against a team that is going to work more chances, Celtic will struggle.

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