Celtic looked likely to brush aside their goal-hoodoo as they created chances in the first half. Winn saw an edge of the box shot zip over the bar and Meechan curled a shot narrowly wide before a crunching tackle on Garner from Sheridan earned the Lamb a yellow card. Tamworth were giving as good as they got, but both sides were finding chances a premium with Nurse and Wright both shooting wide either side of a dipping volley from Barwick forced Cisak into his first real save of the match.
In a purple patch, Celtic hammered their hosts, with a goal line block from McAughtrie denying Hall?s low drive, the ball coming to Dean who saw Lyttle on the line denying him at the expense of a corner with Cisak still scrambling. Smart tried a cheeky corner, curling it for the top corner, but Cisak tipped the ball over the bar, and even more cheekily, Smart tried the same move again, only for Cisak to catch. Smart had a better chance driving in from the wing with a powerful strike with his right foot that only narrowly went wide, before Torpey twisted into the box to get onto Dean?s pull back, but he put it inches wide of the post.
A Nurse distance effort had Gamble at full stretch with Tamworth?s best effort of the half before the moment of controversy. A through ball from Winn put Hall one-on-one with Cisak. As he tried to pull the trigger Lyttle slid in and took Hall?s legs away in what would have been a cast-iron penalty, had the referee not decided that Hall?s tumble was a little too theatrical, and waved away the protests to the mystification of Tamworth and Celtic players, fans and benches alike. Tamworth could have added insult to injury at the other end with Celtic still fuming, but Nurse planted both knees and hands on Garner?s back in order to reach a looping cross from Smith, and though the ball went over Gamble and into the net, the referee had already blown for the blatant foul.
Celtic started the second half brightly, with Dean forcing Cisak into a good stop, and Torpey?s shot striking a defender on route to goal. Tamworth broke from their own area quickly, and Celtic made a series of mistakes as Sheridan was not picked up and allowed to pick a pass to the centre of the box, where Wright got around Garner to tap the ball past Gamble in a smoothly taken goal. Tamworth went on a bit of a rampage of their own, with Wright and Smith both forcing Gamble into full stretch saves, before Celtic got their act back together, and a power drive from Winn and a curling effort from Torpey tested but did not breach Cisak.
Tamworth put the game beyond doubt when Sheldon picked up a position twenty-five yards from goal and lashed in a superb shot that two keepers wouldn?t have got to, doubling Tamwoth?s lead. Barlow and Keeling were brought on as Celtic looked to get something from the game, but there was no breaching Tamworth?s solid back line, with too many high balls into the final third that were easily mopped up by McAughtrie, the best effort coming from Barlow who blasted in an edge of the box shot towards the end of the game that Cisak was well position to pluck out of the air. Winn too went close, his shot zipping over the bar, but it was not going to be Celtic?s day.
Celtic failed to take advantage of Telford?s slip to go second, so the top three remain the same, though Harrogate?s win puts them within three points of Celtic with a game in hand (though Celtic?s goal difference is vastly superior). Celtic cannot afford any more slip ups as we enter a crucial stage of the season. Second is still within our own destiny, with Telford yet to visit, but we will need more guile than we showed against them earlier in the season if we are to break them down.
Peter Ray Report
It was almost as if a spell had been woven upon Celtic?s Easter Monday afternoon at Kettlebrook. Tamworth were livelier and more direct, possessed a goalkeeper who handled the majority of his work competently, were well served by a skipper, Foster, who was at the heart of most of the Lambs? attacking movements and in Wright and Sheridan, there two players with enough trickery to concern and rattle the Celtic defence. In contrast, for Celtic, Gamble, in goals, had apparently been unwell, the midfielders were careless, irritable and undisciplined, the defence was harried and the two forwards, despite their size and Hall?s experience, rarely caused Briscoe or McAughtrie, the Tamworth centre-backs any exhaustive problems.
Oddly, though, Celtic?s early movement was confident, despite lacking any kind of end product. Meechan was used regularly enough on the right but Torpey, who endured a really ineffective and wasteful chunk of the match, rarely pushed wide to the left, leaving Celtic?s offensive play lop-sided and too obvious- almost always on the right flank, or sometimes utilising the long foray down the centre towards the height of the two strikers. Barwick and Winn were irrepressible but the former?s self-control was frayed and the latter was unable to hit the target with one or two decent opportunities. Smith, for Tamworth, simply plugged the gaps in midfield, allowing Nurse and skipper Foster to make their forward runs and with the willing Wright prepared to run any channels, Sheridan?s ability on the ball causing Garner no end of difficulties and the more rotund Sheldon as the penalty-box target, Tamworth took their chances and their overall play probably deserved the victory, although Celtic will bleat about a penalty incident during a hard to watch opening period.
Gamble easily picked up a weak Smith drive in the early exchanges but Sheridan?s very late challenge on Garner was rewarded by the production of a yellow card, although there were mumblings that a red card might have been more appropriate. Dean set up Winn for a shot which rose too high, before Gamble?s indecision left Smart struggling with Smith?s long ball but the eager Wright volleyed into the side-netting anyway. Foster was finding time and space to play his passes, as the Celtic midfield resembled a crowd at a jumble sale but Winn did manage to provide an opportunity for Barwick, who fired lamely to ?keeper Cisak. Nurse, who was poorly marked throughout the game at set-pieces, was only just too high with a header from Wright?s right-wing centre but following neat work on the right by Meechan, Torpey finally produced some action, after Dean?s ugly slice, Cisak collecting his left-side delivery as Hall jumped.
Sheldon curled an effort past the off-colour Gamble?s left post but Sheridan had reached the left bye-line far too easily for Steve Burr?s comfort. Nurse was next to pull back a low ball from almost the same spot, Gamble pushed it against the unsuspecting Wright but Sykes was on hand to blast his clearance to safety. Celtic managed to stretch Tamworth at last when Briscoe headed Hall?s right-wing cross out from his goal-line, McAughtrie defended a couple of corners well then Smart had one in-swinging flag-kick tipped over the crossbar by Cisak and the next punched by the goalie. Despite the height in their ranks, Celtic were failing to dominate McaAughtrie and Briscoe in the Lambs? defence. Smart?s excellent 25 yard right-footer only just cleared the crossbar, before Torpey fired horribly wide. Nurse won another offensive header, which Gamble collected but when Dean headed on, Hall turned in the penalty-area, tumbled under Lyttle?s challenge and claimed a penalty. Referee Dexter was unimpressed, maybe pointing to Hall?s rather over-elaborate fall. Lyttle?s attacking prowess then led to a good cross from the right but although Nurse?s towering header found a corner of the Celtic net, the ?goal? was disallowed for pushing. A strong finish to the half by Tamworth, saw Wright beat two Celtic players far too easily on the right but Sheldon scuffed the resulting low centre and the visitors survived. In the dying moments of the half, Celtic?s corner routine was totally messed up by the increasingly exasperated Barwick. Wright dispossessed him and raced away over the half-way line, only for the Celtic midielder to haul him down. A yellow card was issued because another defender was covering but the incident just about summed up Celtic?s half of under-achievement on a difficult surface.
The opening moments of the second-half determined the outcome of the game, as Celtic missed an opportunity but Tamworth didn?t. Dean, a disappointment throughout, chased Winn?s long pass to the right and managed, unusually, to out-muscle the enormous, if ungraceful McAughtrie and fire low against Cisak?s legs. Torpey wasted the rebound, which was blocked and on the 50th minute mark it was the Lambs who went ahead. Celtic should have cleared the ball but sloppy defending by both Garner and surprisingly, the normally reliable Payne, who had been so dominant, previously, allowed Sheridan to harass them, win possession and feed Sheldon. The striker drove the ball hard across goal towards the right and the alert Wright reached it before Smart to convert from close range.
Celtic were out of sorts and clearly rocked by the concession, yet if Wright had seen Sheldon, alone on the penalty-spot, moments later, maybe he would not have planted his right-wing cross into Gamble?s grateful arms. Torpey talked himself into a yellow card after Gamble had done well to get down to his right to save from Sheridan but at the other end, Torpey headed Meechan?s decent centre tamely into Cisak?s arms. Celtic worked hard to get back into the game but when Hall found Winn, Cisak was down quickly to his right to make a good save and hold on to the ball. On 63 minutes, more careless defending by the visitors led to a second goal for the ecstatic Lambs.
Wright?s centre from the right flank evaded two defenders and fell perfectly for Sheldon to control and place a smart, curling ten-yard shot, beyond the diving Gamble?s left hand. At 2-0 behind, Celtic utilised a back-three but it made no difference. Foster was cautioned, Nurse fired a long-range effort too high then, following Smart?s bye-line centre, Hall?s near post attempt was deflected over the crossbar by Briscoe. Tamworth broke dangerously and Gamble parried Sheridan?s shot away, substitute Keeling blocking Nurse?s rebound. Replacement Barlow was largely ineffective, bar one effort, which Cisak held, after the forward had previously centred for Dean to knock down but Winn had driven the loose ball too high. Cisak fumbled a low shot by Hall, Tamworth made replacements but despite four minutes of injury-time, Celtic failed to test Cisak and it was Sheridan and Nurse who fired late, long-range drives for the Lambs, although both were well off target.
Tamworth capitalised on the weaknesses at full-back for Celtic; both Wright and Sheridan exploited the defensive frailties of Garner and Smart, on the day. Payne and Sykes were too pressured, therefore and a lack of confidence appeared to affect the remainder of the team. The game was screaming for a player to stamp authority in midfield, someone like Payne, perhaps but the poor form of Torpey, the lack of influence exerted by Meechan and the abject lack of aggression, power and credence displayed by Hall and Dean, beggared belief at times.
At least AFC Telford were beaten too?
|9||Sheldon, Gaz||> 81|
|10||Wright, Nick||> 87|
|12||Marrison, Colin||< 81|
|14||Richter, Jon||< 87|