But at first it looked like Leigh had not read the script of a bottom of the table team. They came out and used the conditions well, with Settle and Walker both forcing Gamble into saves made difficult only by the unpredictable wind. Smart showed a taste of what was to come with a thirty yard drive that had Dittmar scrambling, but it was Leigh who took the lead.
A Payne clearance caught in the wind and fell nicely to Gibson, to compound it, Payne slipped on the slick surface giving Gibson an unhindered view of goal, and he fired off a volley that curved and dipped and swirled in the wind over the top of Gamble and just sneaked in at the top corner. The goal wasn't against the run of play, Leigh were putting together some good moves.
The difference was that Leigh couldn't keep it up and some started to unravel as Celtic pushed forward. An excellent save from Barwick's edge of the box shot marked the start of Dittmar's role in the match as he followed it up with a sensational reaction block from Dean and another soon after from Barlow. From a free kick, Hall then tested Dittmar, and found him impenetrable. Hall and Barlow both went narrowly wide with Smart unleashing another pile driver, top corner this time, but again Dittmar was in sparkling form to keep his side ahead at the break.
Smart continued the second half with a shot that almost carried Dittmar back into his net, instead tipping it around for a corner, which came to Barwick who shot through the crowd and watched agonizingly as it zipped wide of the far post. Dean marauded down the wing putting Heald under increasing pressure, but his shot flew narrowly over and it looked like Leigh might be able to ride their luck.
Not so. After all of the superb shots, Celtic equalised with a scramble at the far post, Leigh not clearing the ball and Hall stabbing the ball over the line under close scrutiny from several Leigh defenders. Leigh were looking increasingly desperate, and Smart again forced Dittmar into an excellent save, before only narrowly missing the target, as did Dean. Both teams made substitutions, Celtic giving a debut to loan signing Ben Fairclough, and giving Ellington some much needed match time.
Leigh shot themselves in the foot via ex-Celtic fullback Heald, who threw a punch after losing out in a tackle to Barwick, and was promptly shown the red card. With even less cover at the back, Celtic made full use of the advantage. Smart's pile driver thumped against the crossbar after a fantastic save from Dittmar, and Fairclough stabbed a shot wide in a goal mouth scramble, before Barlow had the presence of mind to spot Garner at the edge of the box and pull the ball back to him. Garner's shot flew into the top corner with nothing Dittmar could do.
Leigh speeded up a little after this, and it almost paid dividends when substitute Chetcutie saw his shot thump against the post and go out for a goal kick. It was a rare foray for the home side though, and the game was put beyond any doubt by another wonder strike from Smart, thirty five-yard, bottom corner no back lift and nothing Dittmar could do but wave as it bulged his net.
Celtic kept possession and frustrated the home side for the remaining minutes of stoppage time and Leigh's heads dropped, and they looked certain relegation fodder.
|5||Maddox, Mark||> 63|
|9||Walker, Dean||> 50|
|12||Oates, Michael||< 50|
|14||Chetcutie, Richard||< 63|