The opening half an hour was even, with both defences playing well. Torpey had a chance off a corner, shooting from distance, but it needed a touch it didn?t get to be at Sandercombe. At the other end, Jimmy Phillips shot straight at Paul Phillips, and whilst it was a reaction save from Phillips that denied Wilson. A good through ball from Platt was latched onto by Barlow, but his shot lacked the power to trouble Sandercombe, but Sharpe troubled him from a Celtic corner, the Stafford keeper doing really well to deny the shot and as bodies piled forward, got across the face of goal to deny Torpey from inches out.
From a free kick, Barwick played the ball into the danger area, Barlow reacted quickest and only a great save from the Stafford keeper denied Barlow, the ball falling to Sharpe who stabbed the ball towards goal. The Stafford keeper leapt on the ball, but to his dismay, the ball had crossed the line and the linesman had seen it.
Stafford should really have equalised within minutes, when McNiven raced into space behind the Celtic defence and took the ball around Phillips who dived at McNiven?s feet but missed. The angle was tight, but the Stafford attacker had more time than he realised and tried the quick shot, towards Sharpe on the line, who hacked the ball clear.
A half chance for Platt was well saved, but moments before the interval, Cullingworth gave away a needless corner, and Celtic capitalised, Briggs powering through the defence and smashing his header into the back of the net.
The second half saw a change of tactics for Stafford, as they adopted a shoot on sight policy. Moult got into the game more, in and around the Celtic box, though his efforts were well wide of the mark. Phillips had to be on his toes when Palmer smashed in a shot, with Phillips?s parry falling to his namesake, Jimmy Phillips, who tried to stab home, but Phillips knocked the ball out for a goal kick off Phillips?s legs. A McNiven effort on the hour required another excellent save from the Celtic keeper, tipping the distance, dipping shot over his crossbar for a corner.
Stafford continued to press, and new signing for Stafford, Grocott, got forward more, looking for a debut goal. He had a couple of wicked efforts stopped by more flying saves from Phillips, and a double save from Phillips as Grocott followed up from an initial save off Palmer. The Celtic keeper oozed confidence, and pulled off another save from Wilson that was destined for the top corner, and another from Wilson.
The traffic was not completely one way, and Celtic did break out numerous times, but the only shot was a Barwick special from the edge of the box after some good build up play from Keeling and Torpey. As the minutes ticked away, Stafford got more and more desperate, with McNiven shooting wildly, and Loukes clearing the stand as well as the goal with his effort off a corner.
Celtic held out and record a good victory against a solid team who have already proven that they are difficult to beat away from home, and Paul Phillips had an inspired second half stopping everything that Stafford could throw at him.
|7||Palmer, Carl||> 76|
|10||Ingram, Tom||> 60|
|12||McMahon, Paul||< 60|
|15||MacPherson, David||< 76|