Celtic banished Saturdays diabolical "Mr Hyde" performance, but sadly the welcome appearance of their alter ego couldn't prevent them slipping to a single goal defeat at Nuneaton.
With Paul Sykes pushed alongside Keeling in the back four, the surprise selection was Ben Smith in a central midfield role to compliment Parr and Wharton. A first starting role this season for Chris Denham raised expectations amongst the Celtic faithful, as he made up the three prong strike force with Hayward and Moore.
After early Nuneaton pressure, Celtic settled down and started to produce the flowing football seen earlier in the season. With the ball being played to feet the 'Celts' looked the better side and things looked promising. Celtics defence, although kept on their toes by the speedy Nuneaton wingers, were holding their own well and Keeling and Sykes looked solid in the centre.
Despite some neat approach play Celtic couldn't find the final incisive pass, not helped by over indulgence at times by both Denham and Wharton, and it was left to Ben Smith with an impressive debut in a central role, to provide most of the attacking threat, with jinking runs and powerful shooting.
Not long after the thirty minute mark Nuneaton grabbed the lead, as Dave German sold himself badly and was left for dead. The opening was gratefully accepted by 'Borough' moving swiftly down Celtics right flank, and with the defence sucked into the near post the resulting cross found Noon completely unmarked eight yards out. The Nuneaton man appeared to choke his shot but the ball still managed to elude Dootson and ended up in the net.
The goal was a sickener as once again Celtic found themselves behind in a game where they had looked the better side. Without quite reaching the heights of the first thirty minutes, the 'Celts' still easily held their own up to the half time whistle
In the second half it was Celtic dominating possession but still unable to produce the final pass and finish. This despite another good, hard working performance from Andy Hayward and the usual lead from the front attitude of Kev Parr.
David Moore, who seemed to be finding it hard against the uncompromising Nuneaton defence was replaced by Ian Monk, but with Chris Denham flagging and also, perhaps understandably, opting out of any serious challenges, Celtics encouraging performance was to no avail. Nuneaton took all three points and Celtic finished with nothing, except maybe some pride in performance, which I suppose can't be all bad !
This was a good performance from Celtic which just lacked the final finish. The Sykes/Keeling combination provided a very solid centre to the defence and Ben Smith in midfield, a bit of a revelation. Up front though, we looked a bit lightweight.
The lack of substitutions by Dave Miller was somewhat surprising. Chris Denham faded badly as the game progressed and the introduction of Hindle looked as if it wouldn't have gone amiss. Even pushing Paul Sykes forward into midfield for the last fifteen minutes might have been a strategy to employ to try and salvage something from the game, after all, it's still three points whether it's 1-0 or 2-0.
The travelling fans, though disappointed with the undeserved result, found the journey home a little more pleasant after a performance which promised better to come. But come Saturday, who will we see.......Jekyll, or Mr Hyde ?