The terror tactics employed by the management in transfer listing 7 of the squad appears to have done the trick in overcoming the recent slump in performances, but even a generally good football performance couldn't get Celtic three points. There was a debut for on-loan Wigan Athletic striker, David Moores, as well as a welcome return to Chris Denham ? indeed, it was the introduction of Denham in the second half that meant Celtic should have taken all three points.
The first half was even, with end-to-end football, starting at the Moor Green end. Debutant Moores showed a clean pair of heels to his marker and made some space for a cross, having it deflected off Bradley for a corner. Bowman's corner was excellent, spinning into the back post where Bowker headed narrowly wide of the mark.
Moor Green danger-man, Middleton almost got behind Bowker at the other end, but the transfer-listed defender blocked well, conceding a corner. The corner was eventually scrambled out as far as Williams, who's quick shot back in produced a great save from Dootson.
Play switched again, and this time it was hit-man Hayward with a lovely little flick turn and run to make some space for a stabbed cross into the box for striker partner Moores. Moores still had work to do, but he turned and shot well, producing a good save from Rachel, tipping the ball around the post for a corner. The corner was spread out to Whealing and pumped into the box, but Moor Green easily cleared.
Bowman then had to track back with Davis as Middleton made a good run past Smith and whipped a dangerous ball to the back post where Bowman and Davis were coming in. Bowman made a superb last ditch tackle to block Davis an almost certain goal at the expense of a corner. The corner was cleared as far as Faulds who slipped the ball back into the box for Davis. Davis had enough space for the shot and took it, producing a good save from the well-positioned Dootson.
Robinson bear-hugged Hayward thirty-five yards from goal, Whealing's free kick was brought down superbly by Hayward putting it into the path of Moores who's well struck shot took an unwitting deflection on route to goal, and giving Celtic the lead.
Celtic didn't have the lead for long. Sykes dallied on the ball in the middle of the park, allowing Moor Green's most dangerous player to rob him of the ball. Middleton ran into the wide empty space beyond Sykes and had enough time before Celtic could close him down to pick his spot and curl a super shot beyond Dootson and inside the upright.
Middleton wanted more, and soon brought the ball back at Celtic, cutting inside Keeling and having a shot across the face from a narrow angle ? which he missed.
Bowman had taken a sever knock from one of the physical Moor Green players and was replaced by Connell. Connell was a bit more robust, and he held off two home team defenders to latch onto Parr through ball and run at Rachel. He made it as far as the area before deciding to shoot, but the shot lacked power and was an easy catch for Rachel. Faulds hacked Sykes down in the middle of the park, and Whealing lofted it into the box. Parr flicked the ball over to Smith, and only some sharp defending from Bradley stopped the simplest of side-foot finishes. From the corner, the ball was spread out to Connell who put a great ball to the far post but Rachel read it well and cut out the cross. In the last act of the half, Parr proved he could do more than head the ball with the deftest of intelligent flicks to lift the ball over the defence for Connell running in unmarked. Rachel reacted well coming across the face of his goal to knock the ball away from the transfer-listed midfielder.
Middleton started the second half looking for another goal, but German intercepted the cross, knocking it out as far as Hall, who shot from distance straight at Dootson. Celtic took the ball down the other end, and had the first of their strong penalty cries turned down when Hayward turned Bradley and was physically shoved with bother hands off the ball and onto his face. Taking advantage of the protestations, Hall received the long ball and cut inside Smith who stumbled allowing Hall the time to shoot from the narrowest of angles producing a flying save from Dootson. The corner was headed clear by Connell.
Halfway into the second half came a sight for sore Celtic eyes. Stood by the touchline was Denham. He came on for Smith, and Celtic looked the more dangerous for it, playing an attacking 4-3-3 formation instead of 3-5-2.
Faulds fouled Whealing thirty-five yards from goal, Middleton didn't retreat and was not forced to, but it was Sanders who deflected Whealing's free kick high into the air, and down into the keeper's hands. At the other end Keeling conceded a corner stopping Middleton's run with a timely interception. The corner was cleared as far as Trainer. Trainer's shot was deflected and had the sting removed by Bowker, making it an easy catch for Dootson.
First German and then Whealing tried lifting crosses into the box for the strikers and running midfielders to run onto, but the Moor Green defence held.
Celtic had to rely on a bit of poor finishing from substitute Dowdall who got onto fellow sub Martin's superb cross, but headed over.
The man who had enlivened the whole Celtic team got a shot of his own after a lot of hard work when he interchanged with Hayward (who held off the mauling attentions of Robinson) to get into the box and under pressure from Bradley put in a scooped shot over Rachel and narrowly over the crossbar. Denham should then have won a corner when he trapped Whealing's low cross, turned inside Bradley and shot towards goal only to see the foot of Rachel divert it around the post for a goal kick.
Poor finishing on the break from Dowdall again let Celtic off the hook, but should have served as a warning when he latched onto a ball hoofed over the defence. Bowker tracked back with him, but Dowdall was one-on-one with Dootson and pulled his shot wide. Middleton did the same moments later and produced an excellent save from Dootson.
Again, Parr had a touch of class in his first game back from injury, lifting the ball into the path of Denham who burst between Sanders and Petty, saw Rachel coming off his line and tried the chip, putting it narrowly over the bar. Celtic kept coming and Denham fed the ball to Hayward just outside the box. Finally the referee noticed that whenever Hayward had the ball, Robinson had his arms wrapped around Hayward and awarded Celtic a free kick just outside the box. Whealing's free kick to the far post was meant for Parr coming in, but Collins got there first and put it out for a corner. Robinson headed the ball clear but when the ball landed at Whealing's feet, appeared to feign injury to get the game stopped. He was forced off the pitch, and from the drop ball Sykes fed the ball to Moores. Moores ducked inside his marker and put a dangerous ball across the six-yard box, and only sharp defending from Sanders denied Hayward a tap in.
German and Denham overlapped before German span the ball to the back post where it was headed clear to the edge of the area, and Moores volleyed it back in, just over the bar. German put another ball in as full time clicked around. This time, Hayward got his head on it, but put it just over the bar.
It was beginning to look like Celtic had got a 1-1 draw when a long pumped ball down field again caught the Celtic defence flat-footed. Dowdall latched onto it, and after two earlier misses slid the ball past Dootson.
If Celtic were rocked, they didn't show it. Hayward brought the ball out of the centre circle, gave the ball to Sykes, he fed the ball to German. German ran down the wing, powered his way past Bradley and whipped a near-post, low cross in where Hayward was coming in, and finally Hayward ended his goal drought with an absolutely sensational goal blasting the ball past the flapping Rachel into the roof of the net.
There was no time for Celtic to do any more as the referee ended the game there. This was a strong performance from Celtic, and showed great mental stamina to not give up going a goal down with less than a minute to go. Hayward scoring and Denham back to terrorise defences the length and breadth of this new division are two factors that may just save beleaguered manager Dave Miller's job.