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Match Preview :- Southport - Sunday May 4th, 2008 (15:00:00)
It?s all to play for when Southport come to Bower Fold on Sunday for the second leg of the play-off semi-final (kick off 3pm), with Southport taking a 1-0 lead into the game knowing any kind of result will see them through. If Celtic finish after ninety minutes with only a goal advantage, extra time (and penalties if necessary) will ensue. There will be a match centre for this game.

Southport?s league visit earlier in the season saw a 2-2 draw, another result like would see Celtic out of the play-offs, and Southport through to the final in Burton. Southport will be feeling confident coming into the game, on the back of the first leg win, and a strong finish to the season that saw them win their last four. They are a good team away from home, also, winning five of their last six away games, losing only the once, 4-1 at Solihull Moors. In those six games, they conceded nine goals, kept one clean sheet and scored thirteen, with Tony Gray getting hat-tricks at Hinckley and Tamworth.

Tony Gray was their top scorer this season, taking the golden boot with eighteen goals. Ex-Celtic wingman Neil Prince was his closest rival with eight goals. On average this season, they scored 1.9 goals per game away (1.8 overall) and conceded 1.4 goals per game at home (1.2 overall). On average, they scored their first goal around the thirty-six minute mark and conceded in the fifty-third minute. The start of the second half has been their most dangerous, scoring twenty-one of their seventy-seven goals in the twenty minute spell after the restart. Their most vulnerable period has been the last twenty minutes, when they have conceded seventeen of their fifty goals this season.

Southport have taken six points off Alfreton, Gainsborough, Hinckley, Hucknall, Hyde, Leigh and Vauxhall, but Worcester and Kettering are the only teams that have taken six points off them. They have failed to beat Barrow, Harrogate, Kettering, Redditch, Worcester and, of course, us (in the league at least).

Previous meetings at Bower Fold have seen Celtic win five, draw five and lose three in the last thirteen visits of the Sandgrounders. The last of those losses against them was their visit on New Year?s Day 2005, when we lost 5-2 in the year that Southport were promoted. With the prediction algorithm pessimistically predicting a 3-1 win for Southport, we would need to reverse that score-line if we are to go through into the final.

Chris Holland and Neil Prince had to be subbed on Wednesday due to injury, both of which looked serious, and will be Southport?s major injury worries ahead of the return leg. Holland hurt his elbow tangling with Chris Hall and Neil Prince his knee in a clash with Ashley Woolliscroft. In the first leg, Southport lined up as:
1. Steve Drench
2. Chris Lever
3. Paul Barratt
4. Matt Hocking
5. Kevin Lee
6. Chris Holland
7. Mark Duffy
8. Liam Blakeman
9. Neil Robinson
10. Ollie James
11. Neil Prince

Celtic are nearly fully fit, with the only doubt being Barrie Keeling (cracked ribs). In the first leg, Celtic lined up as:
1. Paddy Gamble
2. Ashley Woolliscroft
3. Andy Smart
4. Steve Payne
5. Terry Barwick
6. Paul Sykes
7. Steve Torpey
8. Ashley Winn
9. Chris Hall
10. James Dean
11. Alex Meechan

Celtic may be once again seen as underdogs, despite being unbeaten to Southport in the league, the automated prediction algorithm certainly reflects that, but at home, in front of a partisan crowd, can Celtic overcome the goal deficit and reach the play-off final?
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