The worst possible start from Celtic was followed by the best possible finish.
Hednesford scored from their first attack, a long throw met by the head of Ben Bailey coming in unmarked at the near post. Simple, but effective and took just forty-two seconds.
Celtic needed a quick comeback, and almost got it, when Aidan Chippendale's wicked curling free kick was well caught. Celtic weren't going to be able to carve many chances against such a mean defence as Hednesford's, and Celtic were going to have to rely on set-pieces against a packed Hednesford box. Celtic couldn't convert those, with Matty Hughes heading a corner over, and Michael Potts lacking the power to beat Danny Crane in the Hednesford goal. Chris Simm really tested Crane with an outstanding effort that Crane superbly tipped away off the bar and out.
It wasn't all Celtic's way, Hednesford were a top side for a reason, and they looked dangerous on the attack, if a little wayward with their shooting. Nick Rushton twice got opportunities, but wasted them, whilst Celtic looked to be finishing the half the stronger, if lacking that final ball that would fall or sit up just right, and before half time, as shown when Matty Hughes's header from a corner smacked against the upright.
Hednesford started the second half the better, and Rushton got his effort on target but straight at Ross Etheridge. As the game went into the last half hour, it was again more and more about Celtic. Under pressure from Simm, Chris Westwood's last ditch leg stretch diverted the ball, only just, over the bar. Michael Powell headed the corner wide. Chippendale's free kick after Simm was bundled over outside the box, was magnificent and had Crane at full stretch to turn it away. Crane was there again when Jamie Allen cut through the box on the by-line and Crane's reactions again kept Hednesford's nose in front.
Ross Etheridge came to Celtic's rescue with ten minutes left on the clock with a cracking double save, as Richard Batchelor broke through and his shot was too hot to hold for Etheridge. The loose ball falling to Steve Diggin, but Etheridge got across and blocked the second effort too.
Celtic finally got the goal their play deserved when Allen again cut through and tried his luck, the legs of a defender spinning the ball out as far as Aidan Chippendale who smashed the half volley straight back into the top corner with a wondrous strike.
There were still six minutes left and Celtic went looking for a winner. Crane kept his side in it denying Matty Hughes's header from a corner with a miraculous reaction save, keeping the pressure on the home side with another corner. The corner was only half cleared, Peter Wylie brought it down outside the box, and was fouled by Chris Westwood. Already two minutes into the added three, Peter Wylie took the free kick, and Chris Simm bent round his marker to diver the ball past Crane and put Celtic into a one goal lead, and the travelling faithful wild.
That win means Leamington join Hyde in being relegated, and Colwyn Bay look likely to join them, being two points behind Braackley and ourselves, with only one game to go. Celtic can make themselves mathematically safe with two points, from two games.
|2||Todd, Andy||> 74|
|14||Diggin, Steve||< 74|