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Match Report -
Sending off ignites Celtic Passion
By Debbie Taylor

Celtic played an hour of this game with the same lackadaisical attitude that had been predominant at Ashton two days earlier. It wasn't until Potts lost his rag with the referee that Celtic moved into top gear and sliced and diced the Bay defence.

From the off, Celtic were content to pass it around the midfield, without creating anything of importance, but it ended with Eastwood holding the ball up at the edge of the box, waiting to be fouled - which he duly was. From the free kick, Eastwood's shot was blocked by Limbert's leg, rebounding out to Hallows, but his shot was blocked by Moody's leg, leaving the keeper untroubled. When it came back to Parr, his lob into the box was flapped at by the keeper. Fortunately for Bay, there was no blue shirt available to punish the Seagulls for this error.

Mayers, still up front from the free kick, casually gave the ball away to Williams, allowing him to storm off up the pitch. Timons slid in, dispossessing Williams of the ball, but taking a significant chunk of the player's legs as well. When Williams trailing foot caught Timons' head, it saved the Celtic defender from a red card, instead earning him a yellow card after he had been successfully treated. The free kick, when it came some five minutes later, was very poor and Dootson scooped up the slowly travelling ball unimpeded.

Eastwood was again fouled 35 yards out, and this time the free kick was headed back into the danger area by Parr. Limbert put the ball out for a corner as Hallows and Mayers steamed in at the back post. The corner was blocked back out to Potts, who put it in again quickly for Parr, but his header was right at Smith in the Bay nets.

Parr was the next guilty player, when he left a foot behind after a good tackle, upending Williams, 35 yards out. Lacking any imagination from set pieces wasted the free kick. However, they made amends when Stannard fed a great ball out to Furlong who breezed through the Celtic back pairing to go one-on-one with Dootson. Having had many competitive practices of this particular scenario, Dootson was off his line in a flash, and closed Furlong down, forcing his shot to go into the side netting.

Dootson was again called into a near miss moments later when Bay made the most of Celtic's passionless ball passing, when Williams latched onto a terrific cross field ball, half volleying goal bound, it sailed narrowly wide with Dootson flying through the air and definitely worried.

For the umpteenth time this season, Eastwood was knocked over at the edge of the box, and Celtic tried the direct approach, with Parkinson trying to blast through the wall. The ricochet off Moody landed at the feet of Parr, who quickly lobbed it in for Hallows, but the striker nodded it wide of the mark.

Colwyn were not allowing Celtic to lazily pass it around, and on every loosely passed ball, they raced up the field to punish Celtic in a way that Celtic did not do. They won first a corner and then free kick near the corner, but put both unimaginatively into the near post where they were cleared easily enough by the first Celtic defender.

After clearing the free kick, Parr got into a wide position near the Bay penalty area and swept in a great cross for Eastwood. The striker had stolen a match on his marker, and Smith had to tip it onto the bar. It rebounded out to Hallows, getting stuck between his feet. His shot after extricating it, didn't trouble the Bay Number 1.

Potts then went close with a curling free kick earned after Rigby fouled Eastwood just outside the box for the umpteenth time, and then moved his tricky feet to work his way through several defenders to get to the by line, however, his fast paced cross was too close to Smith and it was smothered.

Another lax ball, and another Colwyn break. Evans was allowed to race onto a Stannard through ball, which he duly dispatched. Dootson made a fine save clawing it out of the air, and Timons reacted quickly, putting it out for a corner. The corner zipped into the box, and was only half cleared, falling to Jones outside the box. He volleyed it first time into the top corner, giving Colwyn Bay the half time lead, though, Fitzgerald almost headed in at the death when German's fine ball cleared all the defenders, but the other wing back headed wide.

Two second half substitutions could be considered brave. Parr, who had been playing very well, and Parkinson, who had been having a solid game were both taken off and replaced with Wharton and Bowman.

Bowman's initial impact was to make enough space on the wing to get a cross into the waiting Potts in the corner of the box, but the tricky winger's volley was well wide. Hallows emulated Bowman with his own excellent cross, but it went just beyond Eastwood's foot, though the striker could have made it had he thrown himself at the ball. Moments later Hallows saw the keeper off his line, and blasted a quick shot off from distance, but it sailed over the bar.

Ridings then won a corner off Evans which McIlvogue volleyed (just) over his own bar, despite there being no pressure from a Celtic shirt. From the corner, Hallows saved McIlvogue from having to do it again, by putting his shot over the bar.

As Eastwood couldn't get onto a decent cross, Jeffries mirrored the act at the other end, completely failing to get on to Williams's excellent ball in.

Despite playing at a canter, Celtic were creating openings in the Bay defence, and Eastwood held the ball up at the edge of the box. He wasn't fouled this time, and put the ball into the path of Riding's but the midfielder's shot was snapped over the bar.

Ridings, still managing to get forward (along with Mayers, German and Fitzgerald) then fell over Moody trying to reach Potts's ball, and was substituted for the crowd pleaser Denham.

Denham proceeded to cause misery among the Bay defenders, but nothing was coming off, and a long punt down field caused a clash between German and McIlvogue left the Bay man prostrate on the floor as Celtic swept up field again. After being halted by the ref during a promising move, Potts stormed over to him and gave the ref a piece of his mind. Both Potts and the ref saw red as the card was brandished. Some may claim that the anger shown by Potts was justified, as there had been two other dropped balls in this game for precisely the same thing, leading the Celtic faithful to believe that Bay were playing a ploy.

As there had not actually been a foul, after the restart the ball was dropped half way into the Colwyn Bay half. Hallows fed Fitzgerald who raced up field, catching the Bay defenders flat footed. A low cross was volleyed into the back of the net by Eastwood leveling the scores.

Suddenly Celtic looked like the team we know they can be.

Every time they got the ball, they looked threatening and deadly. They were incisive, and sliced through the Colwyn Defence as though it was they who were a man up.

And Denham was at the heart of everything, chasing down loose balls, running at defenders, trading quick passes with his team-mates. This was shown most when he chased down a lose ball into the corner and flicked it back to Eastwood, who held it up well, he gave it back to Denham, who threaded it between two Bay players, into the path of Hallows running boxward. Hallows danced through three defenders, and slid the ball under the keeper. Celtic were alive and kicking.

Panicked by the sudden surge of Celtic power, Bay made three subs at once, swapping a player in every part of the field, but they could not contain the erupted genie.

Denham latched onto a Fitzgerald pass, turning around a Bay defender and stepping past two more, before sliding a great low cross into the box for Kenny Mayers of all people to side foot home. Such was Celtic's performance that a central defender in a team a man down was waiting in the box for the final ball of a movement he had started in his own half.

Colwyn almost got one back off the restart when Evans crossed in for Jeffries but the Bay striker headed wide without really troubling Dootson. Then it was Denham again, making space for a pass into the feet of Wharton, who hit it first time, getting the side netting, rather than the back of the net, and then Denham wanted a goal for himself top round the night off. He waltzed with the Bay players, suckering and dummying them before sending the keeper the wrong way. Unfortunately for the outstanding Denham, Smith saved with his feet.

The last throw of the dice came deep into stoppage time, when Celtic looked to be resting on their laurels, reverting back into the lazy passes, lack of off the ball movement and general untidiness that had typified the start of the game.

McIlvogue crossed in for a horde of Colwyn players to latch onto, but it was goal bound, rather than head bound, Dootson had to palm over the bar. The corner was again nearpost, and Celtic cleared, to the cheers greeting the full time whistle.

Celtic's first victory of the campaign, and though 3-1 would have been many pundit's pre-match prediction, the manner of the victory was bitter. If Celtic could play continuously like they did for that 20 minute second half spell after the sending off, they would literally be unstoppable. It was a joy to watch them dissect the opposition, exposing the weaknesses by cunning and inventive play. Unfortunately, there has been too much 'we're better than this' attitude shown.

Perhaps at Runcorn they will show their positive side...

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