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Match Report -
Ridiculous to the sublime, and back
By Debbie Taylor

Celtic started against the league champions elect at full volume, and had it not been for just two defensive lapses, all three points would have been theirs.

Celtic swept the ball out to Potts from the kick-off and charged down the field, with Potts feeding Hallows to sweep a ball in from the right. It was destined for the head of Eastwood, but the Motormen keeper, Holmes, was on hand to pluck it from the ex-Southport man's head.

Vauxhall, who are the bookies tip for the title, responded well, and Hadrell used the space he had on Celtic's left to charge past Fitzgerald, and whip in a cross-cum-shot from the edge of the box, but it sailed harmlessly over the bar. Hadrell would continually pull Fitzgerald left and right as the two tussled throughout the match.

This was the opening game of the season for Celtic, and they didn't want to disappoint their fans. Several waves of attack eventually resulted in Eastwood being tripped as he took on one too many defenders, Robinson bringing him crashing down just outside the box. Despite an obvious injury sustained in a pre-season friendly, Potts took the free kick, zipping it in to Hallows. The front man's powerful drive was hacked clear by Thompson, but only as far as Wharton at the edge of the area. There were a lot of bodies between Wharton and the goal, but that didn't stop him striking a first time half volley, which unfortunately bounced past the wrong side of the upright.

A moment of confusion between ex-Celt Derek Ward, and his keeper, let Fitzgerald nip in and he lifted the ball over the rushing keeper. For the second time, the Celtic faithful watched the ball miss the target, this time going over the crossbar.

With the offside trap of Celtic's working well, Cuminskey, easily Vauxhall's lead man, produced the Motor's first real effort after 10 minutes, shooting from thirty yards. Dootson had plenty of time to position himself, and he collected the shot easily.

Eastwood and Hallows showed what a partnership they were forming, when it was Eastwood's turn to become provider. He made space for himself despite the attention of several yellow shirts, lobbing a ball to Hallows. There was a little too much pace on the ball, and Holmes raced forward to collect it off Hallows' feet.

Eastwood tried himself a few moments later, but his power drive was blocked by Brazier, battling hard in front of a stalwart defence. The ball fell kindly to Wharton, and again he hit a first time effort, this time on target. Ward was there to save his keeper's blushes, putting a leg out to skirt the ball around the post for a corner. Vauxhall were not going to be beaten from set pieces on this baking afternoon, and they defended the corner well.

A few minutes later, Hadrell fed Cuminskey with a well weighted ball that left Fitzgerald well out of position and at the wrong end of the field. He chased Cuminskey all the way into Celtic's box, as other defenders came to his aid. Cuminskey didn't wait for the inevitable tackle and his low drive into the bottom left corner was palmed onto the post by Dootson. Fitzgerald, continuing his run, reached the loose ball first, and tried to hack it clear. Though he'd had the time to make a measured clearance, he sliced the ball, and it bounced off Fearns' shin into the net. The goal was not exactly against the run of play, but Celtic had been making inroads into the Vauxhall defence, and it took the wind out of the sails a little bit.

This was showed when Potts' lofted ball into the path of Hallows left the striker with enough time to take a touch, but instead he snatched at the shot. Even so, it was on target but down the keeper's throat, so he saved comfortably, despite having the wind knocked out of him.

Parr was a powerhouse in midfield, making vital tackles, and it was him who sent Hallows chasing what many would have believed a no-hope ball. He made it though, and whipped a cross in for the advancing Eastwood. Ward stuck out a leg, deflecting it to the keeper instead. Celtic looked down on their luck. As the half finished, they had failed to seriously test a rather sloppy keeper.

Two substitutions changed Celtic's fortunes. Before half time, Potts limped off to be replaced by Bowman, and after half time, Parkinson replaced Wharton. This freed up Fitzgerald and German, as Celtic went into 3-5-2 mode.

Vauxhall kicked off, with an intent. Cuminskey received the ball from the spot, and had a first time shot hoping to catch Dootson off-guard. Dootson, ever alert collected the ball as though it was a pass.

After that, it was Celtic one way traffic for 15 minutes.

Ridings, fed Bowman. With his first touch, Bowman almost equalised, but Holmes somehow scraped it around the post for a corner, which again, Vauxhall defended well, Thompson flicking the cross too high for Parr and Hallows. It fell to Ridings on the far side, but his cross back in was too close to Holmes.

Moments later, Eastwood found the key to unlock the stubborn defence. He sent in a great cross, a zipping ball between defence and keeper. Hallows stretched up a leg, and steered it just inside the upright. The striker was mobbed, but that didn't stop the super-striker.

Minutes later he was at it again. This time, Parr won the ball in a crunch tackle, and quickly sent in a cross that was too high for the keeper. but not for Hallows, who headed it back over the keeper, and looped it into the net.

Within five minutes, Eastwood nearly killed the game off, when he wriggled between two defenders, stepped past a third, turned a fourth, but his final shot was far too weak, and the keeper saved, though not comfortably, spilling the effort. With nobody following in, Holmes had time to gather.

Showing why they are the bookies favourites , Vauxhall came back strongly, after a couple of substitutions which changed the result of the game.

Laughton (on for the ineffectual McDermot) crossed for his fellow substitute Welton (on for Hadrell), but Welton headed wide. Fitzgerald, it has to be said, was no where near Laughton when the cross was made!

Welton got what he was looking for when he beat the offside trap, and raced clear down a third of the field. Dootson came out and went down bravely at the striker's feet, but Welton had anticipated, skipping around the keeper and trundling the ball into the net. Mayers, who had run back from the half way line could only follow the ball into the net.

Moments later, Welton was allowed to do it again. This time though, Dootson made no mistake, and produced a stunning block outside his own area, rebounding it off the striker for a goal kick.

Denham was brought on for the tiring Eastwood, and his impact almost secured three points, when his first touch was to latch onto a Fitzgerald through ball, but Holmes gave as good as he got with a great block of his own, and Ward cleared.

Parr then sent Fitzgerald on another run. This time, he crossed it to Eastwood. The referee spotted something amiss, and though Eastwood's ball was inch perfect to Denham's hair-trigger feet, play was stopped.

Vauxhall grabbed a couple of lifelines, the first after German fouled Cuminskey. Dootson came through a crowd of players to palm the ball clear and send Celtic away. After some patient buildup, Denham raced clear up a third of the pitch, skipping past a couple of challenges, before squaring to Hallows as one too many defenders blocked his path. Hallows wasted no time and produced another stunning save from Holmes. Hallows then missed the target completely, when Fitzgerald's cross in from a Denham won free kick, scraped the outside of the post. Vauxhall's final lifeline was the last throw of the dice. They won a corner of German, but Parr headed clear, being fouled in the process. With the ball in the air from Dootson's kick, the referee blew the final whistle on an entertaining, clean and football filled opener.

Vauxhall are a competent side, but Celtic matched them. With a tighter defence, and the scoring ability of this team, Celtic are going to be a force to be reckoned with!

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