Match Report -
Pick me - Nigel!
By Debbie Taylor

This Hucknall side is probably the tallest side in the league. This coupled with a wind of Biblical proportions made high balls difficult for Celtic all night.

Hucknall stated their intentions from the kick off. With the wind at their backs, they made two passes to get the ball to Gary Ricketts, who blasted the ball goalwards, hoping to catch Ingham off-guard. The Celtic number one stood his ground, making the catch look simple.

After this, Celtic pressed the Hucknall defence, gaining ground and plenty of throw-ins level with the penalty area that Locke threw in with his usual length. However, the Hucknall Town has one of the best defensive records in the league this season, mainly due to the height of the back four. Arial threats were cleared, if not with ease, then at least cleared.

Celtic were going to have to play through the opposition.

Some nice interchange resulted in Sullivan knocking back a low cross for Jones, who half volleyed it just the wrong side of the post, with McCarthy in the Town goal well beaten by the pace of the shot. Again trying the 'play through the middle' approach saw Ward battle his way past three defenders and slide a neat ball into Sullivan, who's turning shot was deflected wide for a corner. A corner to this defence (and the basketball-player-like front pair) was as good as a clearance.

Sullivan again cued Jones up, racing down the left for a change, and cutting inside, before putting the ball into the path of the racing Jones, who put it the wrong side of the other post.

With the Hucknall defence holding firm, it was only a matter of time before they managed another shot on the Celtic goal. This time Morris got on the end of a lobbed cross and found himself unmarked, but his tame header was easy pickings for Ingham.

From Ingham's long clearance, Sullivan latched onto it, broke the offside trap and raced at McCarthy. The Town keeper advanced well and stayed upright for as long as possible. Sullivan tried to slide it to his left, but McCarthy got down well to save, though the power of the shot nearly carried him back into his own net!

From a nothing foul, Barrow took it quickly, with Wright finding Taylor at the edge of the box without a blue shirt in sight. His hurried shot sailed well wide.

Sullivan was causing problems down both wings for the Town defence, having the measure of both fullbacks. Just before half time, he found Parr with a measured cross, but the midfielder's head scooted across the face of the goal, and Hucknall scrambled it clear.

After the restart, Sullivan's pace resulted him in being dragged down several times, but he was only rewarded for the first, when Mark Place brought him down on the edge of the box. Bauress's lofted ball pinged around the penalty area before Pickford's half volley went well wide.

The weather started to deteriorate, with an icy rain that made the surface slick underfoot resulting in players from both sides losing their feet at vital moments.

It was beginning to look as though the Hucknall defence would not be breached. However, they were easily panicked, at one point, Mark Place just managed to clear his own bar after a zipped in cross failed to come anywhere near a Celtic shirt.

With Ingham a spectator in the second half, Celtic were queuing up to take shots at McCarthy's net. Jones and Ward both went close from distance, but the elusive finish was not forthcoming.

In an effort to bolster the midfield who were being carved up by messieurs Pickford and Parr, Hucknall took off the flagging Place and put Russell Cooke on. This had the opposite effect to the one intended, with Celtic having even more time to compose their shots.

Jones made some space for himself and let loose a mighty shot that McCarthy proved equal to, tipping it over the bar.

With the clock ticking down towards the final ten minutes, Evans was brought on to replace Scott. This was to be the turning point of the match. With his very first touch, Evans carried it past the last defender, and raced towards the net, much as Sullivan had done in the first half. Again McCarthy stayed on his feet until the last minute. Learning from Sully's mistakes, Evans slipped the ball to McCarthy's right. The keeper who had acquitted himself well couldn't get down quickly enough. Evans was smothered by exuberant players.

With the deadlock broken, it was up to McCarthy to keep the game tight.

First Jones put it wide, then his through ball to Evans resulted in a good save. Then a Bauress free kick was headed into the top corner by Parr. Somehow McCarthy got to it, to tip it over. Sullivan again broke free, and saw his shot brilliantly saved. Even Ward got in on the action, with his grass-cutting shot saved well.

From somewhere, the referee found six minutes stoppages, and Hucknall used them to press Celtic's backs to their goal. Whilst Hucknall have the third best defence, Celtic have the best, and they held out.

The only down side to the night was Sullivan and Evans getting yellow cards; Sully for dissent after a blatant foul was ignored, and Evans for playfully sticking the ball in the net after being wrongly adjudged offside.