Coming into this game, some were calling it D-Day for the manager. Despite some great cup performances, this had not translated into the league, and Celtic were dropping further away from Conference North football. Performances recently had been excellent, and yet nothing had come from the games.
Celtic needed to perform, and more importantly, win.
Unfortunately, Celtic had to visit Frickley. A place they've never won at. A place that is literally the worst pitch in the league, muddy, rutted, uneven, and sloping.
Frickley, naturally, are used to this pitch, and were the quickest to stamp their authority on the game. It was impossible to play a passing game, as the ball tended to stick in the muddy areas. Frickley took advantage of the uneven bounce almost from the off, allowing Lindley to latch onto a Hatto through ball and blast it goal-ward. Dootson couldn't catch the slick ball cleanly and it scooted away from him. However, Keeling was on hand to hoof it clear.
Potts was his usual mercurial self, twisting defenders inside out around the box. When Eastwood put him clean through, one-on-one with Samways, it looked like a certain goal from Celtic's top scorer, however, a rush of blood to the feet saw him lift the all over the keeper, the bar and the slag heap behind the goal.
Eastwood went next, with a terrific shot from just outside the area that Samways blocked without knowledge, granting Celtic a corner. The corner was cleared to easily, but it wasn't long before Celtic build up play resulted in Wharton being fouled well inside Potts' range. Potts took the free kick and sent it slipping narrowly wide.
Morris got the closest of everybody when he used the erratic bouncing ball to bamboozle the defence and Dootson before trying an audacious lob with Dootson inches in front of him, and the goal not much further away. The ball landed on the roof of the net, but for an agonizing second it looked like it had gone in.
In the second half, Celtic started the quicker, with Mayers teeing up Clegg for a rocket of a shot that required a superb tip around the post from Samways to deny Eastwood his confidence booster. The corner couldn't be converted, and it looked costly when a ball into the Celtic box fell to Richardson, and then bounced away from him. It looked like it would go for an easy catch for Dootson, but the next bounce brought it within range of Richardson's head. With the defence static Richardson was allowed to nod the ball towards the top corner. Dootson's reactions are excellent though, and he clawed it clear, only for Morris to nip in and nod it into the unguarded net.
Celtic almost replied instantly, but Eastwood couldn't get onto a Potts cross, so Celtic built from the back again. Once more it was Eastwood who provided the cracking initial shot, and once again Samways couldn't hold it, spilling it, this time though, Potts was on hand to slam the ball into the back of the net from close range.
It looked as though a 1-1 draw would ensue as both sides battled with the conditions. The persistent rain continued to soak everything in sight. Celtic made a double substitution, putting Foster up front, and Smith into the middle of the park. It took them a moment to get their bearings, and Frickley took advantage with Hatto leading a charge. His cross into the box was punched by Dootson before Sheriff could pounce, however Sheriff continued his run, lowing a shoulder and crashing into Dootson, leaving the Celtic number one on the ground in agony for the second consecutive Saturday. After treatment he got up and continued, much to the relief of the drizzled on Celtic faithful.
Much to-ing and fro-ing took place around the middle of the park, with tempers on both benches getting frayed. However, it was Celtic who found the key to three points when Foster raced down the wing and lobbed a low cross into the box for Mayers to divert into the back of the net.
With only ten minutes remaining (including stoppages) Frickley tried to get up a gear, but the defence held firm, and there was no way through until Morris finally found a small chink in the armour with seconds left on the clock. From outside he box, a low drive was destined for the bottom corner, however Dootson got down well and diverted it around the post for a corner and all three points.
This was a must win game, and Celtic won it. It propelled them to within 2 points of the Conference North placings. With games against Burscough, Wakefield and Altrincham coming up, all of who are below Celtic, hopefully they can continue this run and start to climb into the right half of the table!