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Match Preview :- Harrogate Town - Saturday January 12th, 2008 (15:00:00)
Saturday?s visitors to the Fold are Harrogate Town. Harrogate are currently third in the league, seven points and four places above Celtic on forty-six points. Harrogate have finished every Conference North season in either fifth or sixth, making them the league?s most consistent high performers.

Harrogate will be hoping to get their season back on track on Saturday, after having a disappointing festive period, which has seen them win just one of their last five matches. They started the season very promisingly, and went unbeaten for thirteen games, the league?s current longest unbeaten streak. With the fourth best defence in the league, they have conceded twenty-two goals this season, five of which came in the last two games. They have kept eight clean sheets, three away from home, and have had three clean sheets in their last six matches, with clean sheets away at Blyth and Southport. They have failed to score just three times all season, though with just thirty-five goals, have done so without any huge score-lines, having scored three times in just four matches. However, only Kettering in their last match have put three past them.

Harrogate do not have a ?vulnerable? period, conceding evenly throughout their matches, but with ten of their thirty-five goals scored around the hour mark, this is their most prolific period. Their top scorer is Danny Holland, who has contributed ten goals, seven of which came away from home. This puts him ninth in the goal-scorers chart. Harrogate?s other entry in the top twenty-one is Mark Hume, the ex-Celtic man who has six (four of which were at home). On average, Harrogate score 1.5 goals per game away (1.6 overall), and concede 1.3 goals per game away (one goal per game overall). The average time of their first goal is 27 minutes, whilst their average first concession is the 39 minute mark.

Harrogate?s last visit to the Fold last season was profitable for them, as they ran out 2-0 winners, after Celtic had previously held them to a goalless draw at Wetherby Road. The last time Celtic won, or for that matter, scored, against Harrogate was in October 2005 when we won 3-1. In the past twenty years, Celtic have won three games at Bower Fold against Harrogate, and Harrogate have won three times themselves. We?ve never drawn here. One of the victories over Harrogate put them out of the FA Trophy in 2004.

Despite our lack of goals over recent seasons, the Automated Prediction Algorithm has suggested a 2-1 win for Celtic in this upcoming match between the league?s fourth best attack and fourth best defence. A result like that would mean Celtic would have won seven consecutive league games, surpassing the record the Alfreton win matched set back in the 2002/03 season when we beat Droylsden in November, and won five more league matches, culminating in a 1-0 victory over Hyde on Boxing Day. But for a 2-2 draw against Bradford, we would have won eight on the trot, but for eight games on the trot we would have to go back to the Treble Winning Season, when we kicked off December with a 1-0 win away at Whitby, and won the next seven league games, again finishing with a win over Hyde in February. It wasn?t all wins, as Marine knocked us out of the Trophy in that period.

Harrogate do not have any suspensions coming into the match, and appear to be injury free. In their last match, the 3-1 defeat away at Kettering, Harrogate lined up as:
1. Jon McLaughlin
2. Jamie Price
3. Dave Merris
4. Denny Ingram
5. Mark Hume
6. Steve Burton
7. Roy Hunter
8. Darren Dunning
9. Tony Hackworth
10. Danny Holland
11. Chris Bettney

Celtic will definitely be without the services of Barrie Keeling, who broke his arm seconds before scoring Celtic?s third against Hyde. We will also be sweating on the fitness of Paddy Gamble, who succumbed to a virus ahead of the 4-3 win away at Alfreton. This could mean a home debut for Martin Pearson, who kept goal in that win at Alfreton. Also missing from the line up against Alfreton was Steve Payne, who was ill with the flu. Stepping into his place was Mark Haran who has returned from his lengthy lay off with a broken foot. Ashley Winn returned to action after serving a three match ban that started at the beginning of December! He came on as a substitute.
In that 4-3 win over Alfreton, Celtic lined up as:
1. Martin Pearson
2. Ashley Woolliscroft
3. Andy Smart
4. Mark Haran
5. Simon Garner.
6. Paul Sykes
7. Lee Ellington
8. Terry Barwick
9. Chris Hall
10. Matty Barlow
11. Alex Meechan

Harrogate are not in the best of form at the moment. The form table for the last six matches puts Celtic top with a 100% record, whilst Harrogate are tenth, with 44%, having only two wins in that period. Based on that, the bookies will have us as favourites, but Harrogate are a very good team that deserve their position in the play offs, and it will be no easy ride. With Hyde not playing though, there is a huge incentive for winning, as it would put us within two points, with a game in hand over them, and thus a play-off spot in sight.

Our rivals for that play-off spot are Nuneaton (whom are three points ahead of us, but we have two games in hand over them). They play at home to Worcester on Saturday. The automated prediction algorithm has that game as a 2-2 draw, but if Worcester can win, Celtic will be sixth.
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