Lancaster were no pushovers, and testament to this is the fact that they survived a dozen corners in the opening fifteen minutes with some excellent last ditch defending. Ellington came close when Brindle in the City nets spilled it, but Henry was on hand to block at the post. On yet another corner, Sykes was denied by brave keeping from Brindle; whilst Cowan was denied a goal on his debut when Uberschar blocked on route to goal as he lashed in a half cleared corner. Ellington brought down Cowan?s difficult ball into the box, dropping it to Sykes who poked his shot just wide of the post.
The pressure was all Celtic and it had to tell, and it did. Ashley Winn put Prince clear on the right, and he left Marshall for dead before whipping a curling ball across the face. Ellington came racing in down the centre beating Brindle to the ball flicking his header into the top corner.
Lancaster?s first chance came when Sparks got behind Cowan with a twisting mazy run that had Cowan in knots. His shot forced an excellent save from Bishop. Celtic went straight down the other end and caused mayhem in the Lancaster box, Ellington nodding down a Prince cross, with Sykes getting his head on it, Brindle acrobatically palmed the ball, and with both Sykes, Brown (his marking defender) and Brindle on the floor, Sykes tried to loop a header over the keeper, only for Brindle to somehow get a hand on it and keep it out. Ellington beat his man to try a curling shot, an initial parry by Brindle fell to Sykes who tried to knock it in at the far post, but Brindle again made the double save tipping it out for a corner.
The Lancaster players just were not going to give up, and both Elderton and Love worked half chances that the Celtic defence did well to block, but Celtic were being penned into their own box during a spell of good pressure from Lancaster.
Celtic eventually broke out and Olsen lifted the ball to Sykes who tried to guide the ball past Brindle, and with Brindle completely wrong footed he could only watch as the ball trundled agonizingly wide.
Celtic made it to half time without conceding a goal ? a rare thing this season! But with Celtic?s defence, the opposition always have a chance, and right at the start of the second half, Lancaster?s best chance resulted in a goal. Helliwell was given the time and space to bring down a low cross, and he made no mistake diverting it past Bishop.
The goal seemed to shock Celtic out of the complacency that had been creeping in, and once more they applied themselves. Brodie was replaced by Ben Smith, and almost immediately, Smith had an impact on the game, interchanging with Black he got the space to put a great ball across the face of goal, and there was Ellington at the back post to nod into the top corner restoring Celtic?s lead. Smith was relishing in the space he had on the right wing, and he continued to wreck havoc down that side. He latched onto Parr?s through ball to take a shot from the corner of the box, but there was insufficient power and Brindle got down well to smother.
It was Smith again who gave Celtic a more comfortable score-line. He checked back losing Marshall in the process, and whipped in a looping cross that isolated the keeper and his defence and allowed Ellington to steal in and nod in his third goal of the game. Ellington could have made it four when Smith fed it low into the box, he turned around Brindle, and Brown on the line cleared it for Celtic?s eighteenth corner of the match. But though Celtic couldn?t convert it, it didn?t matter.
Lancaster?s work rate could not be faulted, and they were undone by one of the best strikers in the Conference North. Their fans too have to be applauded, for they sang their hearts out for the full ninety minutes, right to the final whistle.