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Match Report -
Rampant Celtic
By Ian Barker

Squires Gate were warm and hospitable hosts , so I hope they will forgive me for reporting that today they were no match for a rampant Celtic.

The first half could have been a rout .From the moment Marcus Hallows brought down a superbly flighted Fitzgerald cross in the 7th minute and lobbed it over the advancing keeper , Celtic never gave Squires a look in.

Moments later Phil Eastwood ghosted into a good position only to see his shot blocked ; seconds after that he was tucking the ball inside for Wharton to hit a fierce drive which keeper Peter Summerfield dived on to smother.

Before half time there were a further eight chances and another goal to brighten up a chilly Blackpool afternoon.

The missed opportunities included a rising drive from Hallows that flew just over the bar ; a 30 yard wallop from Wharton that knocked over a defender , but would otherwise have hit the net; a similar confident strike from Colin Potts that a defender nudged past the post without knowing much about it ;a howler of a miss from Kevin Parr who had a clean run onto a ball sitting invitingly for him no more than 8 yards out ; a glaring miss from Hallows one minute , followed immediately by a great shot from the same player that brought a magnificent diving save from the home keeper.

The second goal when it did come resulted from a delightful one-two between Wharton and Eastwood. The former Southport hitman always looks deadly turning players on the edge of the box , and so it was today as he drew the keeper and clipped the ball over his diving body from 15 yards out.

A number of substitutions before and after half time allowed Squires some relief from the onslaught. Potts limped off with a worrying groin injury , and Kevin Parr was taken off moments after a niggling confrontation with Squires' man of the match Paul Paynter , a midfield player of no mean ability .

Chris Denham took Parr's place , and Glynn Barker came on for Phil Eastwood.

While Glynn still appears to lack the physical strength needed at this level , Denham came on determined to stake his claim for a first-team place. He was at times over-eager and rattled around the pitch like a lottery ball in the prize draw. But he still came up with two winning numbers - 61 and 88.

His goal in the 61st minute was an individual effort which saw him beat off a defender's challenge before curling a low shot out of the keeper's reach from 15 yards out.

His second , two minutes from the end , followed several minutes of insistent Celtic pressure. The home players were chasing shadows as the Bower boys kept possession at all costs . Seizing the moment , Nathan Wharton overlapped Hallows , took the ball down to the goal line and chipped in a beauty of a cross for Denham to finish off from 10 yards out.

It is clear that in Eastwood, Hallows and Denham Celtic have unearthed three quality strikers, but the main worry so far has been the defence. Well , good news there too.

Despite facing lightweight opposition, Timons, Ridings and Mayers presented a formidable barrier which never looked likely to be breached. Even Terry Bowker , who has struggled to convince in these warm-up matches, put in a hard running , powerful display . Like Denham , he too played like a man with a mission.

The true test of this side's growing self-belief will come next Saturday with the visit of Vauxhall Motors. But for now , the lads can enjoy their night out on the town and look forward with some confidence to what promises to be an exciting season.

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