Celtic advanced to the quarter finals of the Presidents Cup with a clinical demolition of a youthful Workington. The Reds fielded only four players who had featured in the starting line-up on the previous Saturday, but even with a full team out they would have struggled to cope with a Celtic side who are getting used to the habit of winning.
The main feature of the night though was the arctic-like weather. With an easterly wind bringing the air temperature down to well below freezing both sides deserve enormous credit for creating such an entertaining spectacle to warm the hearts of most of the shivering crowd. Believe me, it was one of those nights where Emmerdale and Eastenders were an attractive alternative!
Celtic took the lead in the 34th minute thanks in the main to the unfortunate Steven Pape, the Workington goalkeeper. He fumbled Kevin Parr's long range shot directly into the path of Colin Potts and he celebrated being taken off the transfer list by rolling the ball into the empty net for his fifth goal of the season. The visitors had one or two chances to equalise, with Lee McCullough and Richard Prokas both rousing Craig Dootson from his cold-induced hibernation. Prokas was lucky not to be booked when he squared up to the returning Jerome Fitzgerald, and he appeared more intent on riling the Celtic players than doing anything constructive with the ball.
Half-time must have come as a blessed relief to the players and officials, and it certainly came as a relief to the freezing spectators, with virtually every single one of the 159 hardy souls cramming themselves into the social club for a little warmth.
The air may have been cold but the action certainly warmed up in the second half as far as Celtic were concerned. Goal machine Phil Eastwood doubled the lead just three minutes after the restart with a clinical finish after Potts superbly created space by turning the Workington full back. Ten minutes later it was three when poor Pape fumbled a speculative 25 yard free kick from Colin Potts, and the Celtic man celebrated by doing a passable impression of the Statue of Liberty (minus the crown of course!).
Workington to their credit never gave up, although that could have had as much to do with keeping warm as anything else, and finally gained reward for their persistence when Lee McCullough took advantage of a loose ball in the Celtic area to plant a loose drive firmly past the sprawling Dootson.
Then came the magic moment that made the sub-zero vigil worthwhile. Nathan Wharton had come on at half time in place of the limping Danny Hooper and had impressed with his work rate and instinct for attempting to play the killer ball. What really took the breath away though was the absolutely magnificent strike from the midfielder that resulted in Celtic's fourth goal. Picture Alan Shearer's goal against Everton, add ten yards distance to it and it still won't do justice to the cleanest strike I think I've ever seen at Bower Fold or any other non-league ground for that matter. Quite simply the 159 that witnessed it were privileged, and Nathan had every right to celebrate it in the way he did. Quite simply, it was Goal of the Season, because we won't see a better one.
Celtic are on a roll in the league, and now they're on a roll in the Cup as well.