Match Report -
Celtic put one foot into the play-offs
By Iain Benson
Celtic put one foot into the play off with a comprehensive victory over a now relegated Vauxhall Motors side. With a win over Telford next week, Celtic would be on 79 points, well beyond the reach of Telford, Southport, Barrow and Nuneaton. Indeed, only Harrogate would be able to take second spot, should Celtic lose at home to Redditch. With Celtic?s goal difference, four points from two games will ensure second spot.

The opening twenty minutes against Vauxhall dismantled the Motormen and sent them into the Unibond Premier. Hall and Dean combined up front and only two good stops from Rigby denied Celtic their opener inside five minutes. However, there was nothing Rigby could do when Meechan was set free to run at Rigby, took it past him with a deft touch, and checked his run enough to score from a very tight angle.

A mad scramble in the visiting box meant both Winn and Smart were denied by bodies on the line, with the resulting corner headed wide by Payne. Celtic kept coming and stretching play, with Dean unlucky with a shot across the face before Celtic won a corner that came to Torpey whose shot fair near took Rigby?s hand on as he palmed it over the bar for yet another Celtic corner. Payne got his head on the corner, but it was blocked out towards Sykes who made no mistake in bundling the ball across the line for his second of the season, and Celtic?s second of the match.

With so much of the action around the Vauxhall box, the Celtic defence can be forgiven for one sleepy slip up, ex-Celt Field was allowed to advance up the wing, cut inside and ushered towards the Celtic goal where he placed his shot past Gamble. It was a rare foray, and it galvanised the visitors enough to venture twice more towards Celtic box, Hannigan coming down the opposite wing and testing Gamble, but on both occasions finding him awake.

The two goal cushion was restored thanks to the through ball of the season from Winn, on a difficult pitch there was exactly the right amount of pace to put it behind the Motor?s defence and into Hall?s path, and he nonchalantly notched up his nineteenth goal of the campaign. It could have been more as Celtic continued to put the Vauxhall defence under pressure, Smart going close twice with thunderous efforts, and from a free kick testing Rigby with a wicked curling effort that the was up to.

Celtic started the second half in a much more relaxed style, even so, Hall forced Rigby into yet another fine save with a low drive from the edge of the box. With Celtic?s foot off the gas and cruise control engaged, more chances fell Vauxhall?s way, with Heler distance efforts easy fodder for the Celtic back line. A McMahon free kick required an instinctive save from Gamble. With Vauxhall threatening to get back into the game, Celtic got back into gear for the last twenty minutes, after the introduction of Barlow for Torpey. Barlow immediately went close, twisting inside the box and firing across the face, and Meechan came in from the other side to low across the face, only for Rigby to save.

From a free kick, Celtic increased their lead, the ball floated to the front post where Payne was on hand to turn the ball towards goal, with Rigby unable to reach it.

Rigby showed his true worth to Vauxhall as Celtic peppered his goal in the last ten minutes, with his best save of the match coming when both Meechan and Barlow breached the offside trap, leaving Rigby exposed; Barlow knocked the ball out to Meechan after drawing Rigby, but somehow the Motor?s keeper got across to make the block from Meechan?s shot, and then, with the ball rebounding out to Barlow, got back across to tip Barlow?s close range follow up over the bar.

The game had been over as a contest before the half time whistle, and Celtic played it sensibly in the second half, only upping the tempo when Vauxhall threatened. It leaves Celtic in an excellent position to await Telford next weekend, and put a second foot in the play offs.

1Rigby, Lloyd  
2Owens, Lee  
3Holmes, Jordan  
4McMahon, Joe  
5Griffiths, Alan  > 46
6Robinson, Craig  > 33
7Field, Tom  
8Williams, Ashley  
9Heler, Peter  
10Smith, Keith  
11Hannigan, Tom  
12Taylor, Paul  < 33
14Murphy, Andy  
15McAuley, Carl  
16Carroll, Tom  
17Dames, Lee  < 46
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