Match Report -
Flattering score-line
By Debbie Taylor

This was a game that should never have been. Canvey were handed a get out of jail card in the first match when the blatant penalty was denied, and they used it to full advantage on their home turf.

It couldn't have been a worse start for Celtic. In the middle of the park, Mayers slid in to dispossess Minton, only for the rebound to fall into the stride of Boylan. Boylan jigged to the right to get past Pearce and struck his shot low across the face of Dootson and in at the far corner while Celtic were still shaking off their six-hour journey. Celtic slowly got back into the game, and the defence melded into a solid unit, Keeling conceding a corner when Midgeley slipped a ball into the box for Duffy to run onto. Parr cleared the corner.

As the whole team settled down, they began asking questions of the home defence. A super sweeping ball from Fitzgerald was meant for Mayers steaming in at the back post. Cowan threw a leg out and diverted the ball narrowly past his own post in what could have been a marvellous own goal. The corner was curled right into Potters' hands. Eastwood then brought the ball in at the wing lofting a cross for Clegg coming into the box. Clegg had no route, and dropped the ball off to Wharton whose well-struck low shot struck a defender and went for a throw. Eastwood collected Fitzgerald's long throw just outside the six-yard box, and stabbed it towards goal, Potter made an excellent save with his foot, the rebound falling to Parr, though he was closed down immediately, Parr tried an instant shot, which was blocked. The home side were rocking.

Fitzgerald saw an opening to goal as he brought the ball down the wing; he cut inside and tried his luck from thirty yards. The shot took a slight deflection, but was given as a goal kick. Mayers earned a yellow card when he was adjudged to have impeded a free kick. Clegg had been bundled over by Minton, which was given to the home side. Mayers remained more than ten yards away when he jumped, he blocked the ball and could have sent Clegg on a run, but the badly positioned referee decided that Mayers must have gone within the ten-yard boundary, despite the ball barely getting three foot off the floor.

Gooden tried to relieve the pressure by threading a ball through the defence for Boylan to run onto. Boylan easily outpaced Pearce, but had his back to goal, he tried the reverse shot, but it was wide.

Wharton was the next in the book. He slid in and disposed Duffy with a well timed challenge, taking the whole of the ball, and Duffy fell over Wharton's body. The referee decided that this was a foul serious enough for a card. Gregory nodded the free kick towards goal, and Fitzgerald nodded it clear off the line.

A crossed ball from Boylan that looked to be going for a goal kick was left by Pearce, but Gregory was right behind Pearce and manage to wrap his foot around the ball, but he couldn't divert it far enough, and hit the side netting.

What should have been a yellow card, when Heald slid straight through Midgeley without getting the ball was just a talking to by the man in black. Heald took the reprieve and used it to collect the ball in midfield and race towards goal. Canvey were struggling to get back, and as he entered the box, he pulled the ball back to Mayers who struck the ball sweetly enough, producing a good low stop from Potter.

Canvey were so worried by the attacking pressure from Celtic that when a free kick went against his team, the Canvey manager steamed onto the pitch, and was immediately banished to the stands by the referee. Mayers nodded the free kick down to Clegg who had a shot from just outside the box, producing another good stop from Potter who had to hold onto the ball, and did.

A long punt from Dootson bounced over the defence and allowed Clegg to race one-on-one with Potter. Potter had to come out of his area to reach the ball, and was by no means favourite, both players leaped for the ball, and the slight height advantage of Potter allowed him to get it clear.

Canvey finished the half with a free kick, when Keeling jumped for the ball and Minton didn't get out of the way. Celtic comfortably cleared the free kick in a measure of how much more solid the defence was compared to the opening three minutes.

The start of the second half sealed the win for the home side. But it was Celtic who got the first chance. Wharton bundled over by Cowan just outside the box; Eastwood's curling shot around the wall cleared the bar.

Then disaster.

A nothing cross into the box was headed by Keeling back to Dootson, but it was too high for the Celtic keeper to catch, he went to tip it over the bar, but succeeded in pushing it into his own net. This drained the confidence from Dootson, and he looked a lot shakier from then on.

Celtic were by no means out of the tie though. Wharton picked up the box at the edge of his own box, took on the whole of Canvey's midfield and beat them, reached the edge of the Canvey box where an illegal challenge from Cowan dispossessed Wharton, the referee played advantage when the loose ball fell to Heald. Heald found Eastwood unmarked at the back post, but the normally composed striker lashed at his shot, and the result was wild.

Celtic hammered the home side, and created a few half chances, the best of which was Parr, Mayers and Clegg trying to extricate the ball from Cowen next to the penalty spot, which was somehow scrambled clear.

If Dootson needed a shot of confidence, then he got it.

Boylan was found unmarked at the corner of the box, he volleyed a superb shot that required an exceptional save, which Dootson produced. However, it wasn't enough. German bundled over Midgeley just outside the box. Dootson would ordinarily have punched such free kicks clear, but was rooted to the spot, forcing German to come across and try to head clear. Midgeley got revenge with a knee in the back of German knocking him to the ground, the referee didn't see that, he saw instead Gregory with a free header nod the ball into the back of the net from close range.

Celtic got a pair of free kicks, first from Cowan bear hugging Mayers, then from Duffy sliding in on Wharton. The first was caught; Pearce unwittingly cleared the second.

Canvey made an inspired substitution to bring on Dobinson. Celtic cleared a cross from Boylan, but it fell sweetly fro Dobinson, who unleashed an absolute screamer. Dootson had no chance of reaching it. It was a wondrous strike, and worthy of winning a cup-tie. Such a shame, then, that it was the icing on the cake for the home side instead.

Celtic could have been forgiven for giving up. But they kept plugging away, but Canvey were by now rampant and full of swagger. New substitute Berquez won a corner off Celtic's sub, Caldecott, which was floated to the back post. Berquez was there again, but his volley actually went backwards. It fell nicely for Boylan, but his shot was well wide.

Celtic's other substitute, Smith, got to the by-line and despite the best efforts of Potter, kept the ball in and pulled the ball back for German. German's first time cross was meant for Mayers, but Cowan got there first and put it out for a corner. The corner was cleared. However, Caldecott appeared to have been given the instruction to be everywhere, and so it was that he put a ball in from the opposite side of the pitch to his normal position and put a cross to Parr, the Celtic captain scooped his shot and put it wide.

Canvey were forced to punt hopefully up field. Pearce tried to head it back the way it came but couldn't get contact, putting it instead into the path of Boylan. Boylan fired a thunderous shot that Dootson tipped over the bar with an outstanding save. The corner was taken quickly and wasted.

Caldecott's terrorising of the defence continued, and he robbed Chenery before pulling the ball back to Clegg. Cowan blocked the shot, and Wharton blatantly used his hand to control it, robbing any momentum that Celtic had been building. When Cowan passed the ball back to Potter, Caldecott was on him like a flash. Potter tried to be clever with a little drag back and clearance, but Caldecott got a block on it, but it wasn't enough to steer it into the goal.

Fitzgerald cut in from the wing, looked for an option and instead saw the net thirty-five yards away. His shot was terrific, but just over.

Smith latched onto a missed clearance from Theobald, before speeding a dangerous ball through the six yard box, but tired legs meant that Mayers had not yet got there, but Caldecott had, and only a last ditch tackle in the box from Cowan at the expense of a corner, stopped Caldecott finding Mayers. The corner was cleared.

Dobinson thought that he would have another attempted wonder strike, from the same position, and with the same venom, this time it went over. Perhaps the first one had been lucky then?

Right at the death, Caldecott pulled up short, and collapsed onto the floor. With only seconds remaining Celtic didn't replace him, and we'll now have to wait on the outcome of the injury-blighted fullback.

The four-nil score-line didn't reflect the balance of play, it reflected the balance of finishing. Canvey defended extremely well, but were let off the hook on several occasions. It is a shame to go out to such a silly goal as the second, but these things happen, and Celtic need to pick themselves up and ensure a place in Conference North next season now. We'll get a chance at revenge on Canvey that way.

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