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Match Report -
Cruising Victory
By Debbie Taylor

This top versus bottom clash could have been a rout for Celtic.

However, Frickley have been steadily improving since their 12-0 drubbing by Worksop in September. And this showed. They were organised (their off-side trap is one of the best I've seen all season) and they were defensively minded. What they lacked was a killer punch - and that's something that Celtic have got.

Celtic started slowly by their standards this season, taking ten minutes before having a shot on target, and that was Bauress from 25 yards. The Frickley defensive partnership was paying dividends, stopping most of what attempted to break through, with committed tackles, or their ability to move as a unit to catch forwards offside.

Sullivan's pace undid them four times in the first half hour, the first time, he blazed over, and the second time he cut the ball back for McNeil, who rounded the keeper only to be brought to the ground by Wilkinson. The referee pointed to the penalty spot, and for the first time ever I saw Gary Bauress miss from the spot, his shot clearing the crossbar by a couple of inches.

However, Sullivan's pace is not feared in the Unibond without reason, and he broke the offside trap a third time, using good strength to hold off the attentions of Brendan West, before clinically slotting the ball past the flailing keeper. The fourth time, barely a minute after the goal, he attempted the same move again, but missed.

The remainder of the half saw countless chances come Celtic's way. Pickford's cut back was reached by a defender as McNeil was pulling the trigger, and Parr's header was stopped on the line by two defenders. Sullivan's cross/shot ended up on the roof of the net - much to the relief of Wilkinson, and McNeil was twice denied by some staunch defending.

Jones may not be quite as pacy as Sullivan, but when he gets a head of steam up, there's no catching him, as he proved for Celtic's second goal, where he mirrored Sully's move to slot under the arm of Wilkinson.

Frickley finally got on the shots-on-target sheet twice in the last minute of the half, forcing a double save from Ingham after a corner, the first header from Rob Hanby parried only as far as Ian Edge, who headed back towards the net only to have Ingham push it onto the crossbar, and for Crookes to clear.

The second half saw a ten man defence from Frickley, and there was nothing very Athletic about them. Martin Fox was substituted on, and his fresh legs allowed him to keep Sullivan more confined. But Celtic are a team, not a single player.

Pickford's was using his persistence to cause trouble on the left of the pitch, and a number of crosses had to be dealt with, including one that was almost certainly going to be a goal if a Frickley defender not got his head to it first.

But the player who came to the fore in the second half was Kevin Parr. With more attention on Sully, he was allowed to break constantly from midfield, and cause no end of trouble in and around the box. He bundled the ball the wrong side of the post after Sullivan crossed in, and had his volley saved magnificently after the keeper had already blocked a McNeil blaster. It was not going to be his day for getting onto the score sheet though, as Wilkinson was in inspired form, despite what the scoreline suggests, stopping two more Parr headers.

He also stopped Sullivan's attempt at a third goal, driving low and hard to the keeper's left. Wilkinson palmed it away, and was fortunate when the rough ground bobbled the ball away from McNeil allowing the defenders to clear it (though they stood around for a good couple of seconds, wondering how it stayed out of the net).

McNeil did reach the second rebound, after Jones volleyed Ward's cross, only to see another extraordinary save from Wilkinson. This time McNeil made sure and slotted the ball home through two defenders legs.

Ingham was a virtual spectator, apart from the occasional suicidal back-pass, but Wilkinson was earning his money. Ina frantic box after a corner, he stopped one, saw a defender stop another, before catching Pickford's precision shot into the bottom right corner.

The game ended on the same note as the start, with the shots clearing the cross bar - Sullivan went close with a header, and Evans managed to clear the trees at the back of the ground.

All in all, a competent performance from Celtic on a difficult pitch, against tricky opponents.

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