The first half was a fast-paced affair with plenty of action at both ends. Trinity started well, and a free kick floated to the back post was headed down by McMahon, requiring an excellent reaction save from Gamble to deny him. The first of the key moments was Celtic?s first chance. Ellington outpaced Drury and pulled the ball across into the penalty area, when both Winn and Burbeary were waiting, Winn had only the Trinity keeper, Reid, to beat and he did so, but put his shot wide of the far post when it seemed easier to score.
With two Chris Halls on the pitch, it was Gainsborough?s Hall that opened the scoring. He cut in from the wing, rode tough heavy challenges to get into the box, switched feet and scythed a low shot into the bottom corner under pressure.
Winn got a chance to equalise and put his miss behind him when Barlow pushed the ball out to him, but he curled his distance shot narrowly over the upright. However, Celtic were beginning to get on top in the match, but Gainsborough?s physical approach to defence was keeping chances at bay. However, in a good passing move, Ellington capped it was a cushioned pass into the path of Barwick, and McMahon stuck out a leg and sent Barwick sprawling, inside the box.
Up stepped Ellington, against his former club, he slipped the ball into the net giving Reid no chance.
The second of the key moments was when Burbeary whipped in a cross that Barlow planted his head on, sticking the ball into the top corner. The referee disallowed the goal. There hadn?t appeared to be anything wrong with Barlow?s goal, he wasn?t offside, and nobody tackled, or even touched a Trinity player. Still, with Celtic looking on top, it seemed only a matter of time before they scored again. Hall came close, turning Barlow?s cross goal-ward, and it looked for a moment that Reid would be dismissed when he reached out of the box to catch a ball to deny Hall a goal-scoring opportunity, but a yellow card was all that was proffered.
Just before the interval, Gainsborough should have restored their lead when Hall?s ball in from the wing was missed by both his team mates, Callery getting the closest when he threw himself at the place where the ball had been. The lead was doubled moments later when Barlow conceded a corner right on the stroke of half time. It came in, three Celtic defenders were at the back post, but somehow could not hack it clear, a couple of blocks on the line and a save before Trinity?s Hall got his foot on the ball and forced it over the line.
It was a bad time to conceded, but it was made worse when Celtic came out, and failed to continue their good form of the first half. It was the home side that looked the more likely to score, and Mallon should have done when he blazed over from eight yards with Gamble out of position.
Celtic?s problem was breaking through the mass of players around Trinity?s box. They defended deep to counter Celtic?s pace, and were not averse to making the odd hefty challenge, resulting in a dozen free kicks around the Gainsborough box. However, Celtic just could not put a decent free kick in. The introduction of new signing Carlos Roca saw a moments flash as he burst past several players into the home box, but he was simply outnumbered. And when Celtic did get past all the obstacles, Reid was on hand. First when Roca switched the play with a fifty yard pass top Barlow, it was a full stretch save from Reid, and Sykes got his head on one of Celtic?s numerous free kicks only to have Reid save it point blank.
Trinity hit Celtic on the break a couple of times, but apart from Mallon heading a free kick wide and a couple of cross through the six yard box that neither of the front pairing could reach, they didn?t trouble Gamble, content to hold onto the one goal lead.
Right at the death, a free kick to the back post saw an almighty scramble with Celtic trying to force it over the line. Bearing in mind that the referee allowed such a scramble at the other end at the end of the first half, it seemed a tad inconsistent to blow for a foul on the keeper this time. However, it was not to be.
A free kick specialist could have had a double hattrick for Celtic, but somehow Celtic squandered them all. If Winn had scored his sitter, or Celtic?s second goal had been allowed, the game would have been different, but that?s not the way it panned out, and Celtic must now face Barrow and Leigh RMI next Saturday and Monday respectively.