Match Report -
New Keeper Syndrome
By Debbie Taylor

Celtic suffered from their fourth bout of New Keeper Syndrome. With Ralph recalled by Northwich Victoria with only a couple of days before the non-league transfer deadline, the Celtic management had to move fast, and drafted in the rated Worksop keeper Dave McCarthy. Unfortunately, this was McCarthy's first game back for six weeks, and it showed.

Celtic first attack came courtesy of Potts. Neither Eastwood not Hayward could get onto the end of his cross, and Riordan cleared as far as Wharton, who was clattered not far outside the box by ex-Celt Turley. Potts swept in the free kick, and Bowker met it with a stunning volley that impressed even the Celtic defender! He was not impressed by the fact that his and Keeling's names had been mixed up on the Harrogate team sheet, crediting the goal to his defensive partner.

If anybody thought that a goal in the opening exchange from Celtic meant that they would go onto repeat last Saturday's Frickley thrashing, they were mistaken. Harrogate's first attack was as equally as effective. McCarthy came for Hunter's cross, couldn't reach it, and Smith was allowed the time to thump a headed equaliser.

Bowker illegally halted the progress of Atkins, pausing Harrogate's second attack. The free kick was given to Turley who blasted a thirty-yard shot into the top corner, past a stationary McCarthy.

German was then given a yellow card for up-ending Hunter. The free kick was floated from the halfway line to the six-yard box. Bowker tried to head away from Whellans, and succeeded in heading past McCarthy as well to double the home-team's advantage. To make matters worse, Bowker and Keeling had now swapped shirts to ease the pain of the announcer, and thus was credited with the own-goal!

McCarthy finally got his gloves on, to deny Hunter a near post goal, tipping it around the post for a corner. Keeling got the ball clear easily enough. McCarthy then foiled Turley, after Bonsall fouled Hunter on the halfway line, and Hunter floated the free kick to the diminutive ex-Celt at the back post. Turley managed to outpace Caldecott, no easy task, and whip in a cross for Atkins, but the Harrogate midfielder put his header over the bar.

Potts was bundled clumsily over by Atkins on the halfway line. Caldecott floated the ball into the box; Eastwood trapped it on his chest, turned and volleyed, wide. Potts won a corner off Barnard as the rain belted down turning the pitch into a quagmire. The corner was too easily cleared. Hayward then won a corner off Riordan, but Bowker was unable to get credited with a goal, when he thumped his header wide. Potts tried his luck from thirty yards, but his low shot was straight at the keeper. As the half began to run down, Celtic were clearly getting on top, despite the score line. German put in a good cross, but it was just behind Hayward, so he put his header over the bar.

Harrogate were almost gifted another goal right at the start of the second half. McCarthy came for a back pass, but sliced his clearance. It fell to Hunter, and McCarthy went down to try and smother at Hunter's feet. The ball span away, but Hunter got his shot off; fortunately, Keeling was on hand to tidy up.

After that, it was virtually one-way traffic from Celtic as they tried to get back into the game. Potts won a corner off Sturdy. The corner bounced off Hayward and into Connor's hands. The first time Connor had made a save in anger. Moments later, Potts again won a corner off Sturdy, as it became apparent that Sturdy had been given instruction to block Potts' crosses. The corner was wasted. Hayward and Eastwood interchanged, before the latter blasted a shot towards goal. Sturdy didn't know much about his goal line block.

Hayward twisted away from Dunning at the edge of the box, and laid off Wharton. Dunning crashed into the back of Hayward, just outside the box, and got a needless yellow card. Potts didn't get a good contact on the free kick and sent it well over the bar. Celtic won a couple more free kicks as Harrogate struggled to get the ball out of their own half, but they couldn't penetrate the stubborn back line.

That was, until Whellans slid through the back of Caldecott on the halfway line. Caldecott put the free kick into the box. Eastwood took it out of the air superbly, and laid off Hayward, Hayward swivelled on the spot, and slid the ball under an advancing Connor.

Celtic's pressure had paid off, but they weren't stopping there, and continued to dominate the proceedings. Wharton and Bonsall traded passes, before Wharton put in a low skimming shot that was awkward for Connor, but he coped well. Hunter fouled Potts thirty yards from goal. Potts put the free kick right through the six-yard box, but Hayward, Bowker and Eastwood all failed to connect as it sped out.

Potts wasn't to be deterred and soon tricked his way past Barnard and Sturdy before putting a super cross to the back post. Aspin, Hayward and Eastwood arrived at the same time, but it was Hayward whose head connected with the ball to put Celtic within sight of a remarkable comeback.

Having made two goals, Potts had the chance of becoming the hero with minutes left. Heald's cross was missed by Sturdy, and fell at just the wrong height for Potts, coming in at just below knee level, he tried to bring it under control to take the shot, but was immediately hammered by Connor, Sturdy and Barnard.

With seconds left on the clock, Celtic won three corners on the trot. The second of which fell onto Hayward's shins. Before he could react, desperate defenders swamped him, conceding the third corner. The third corner was cleared as far as German, his shot was a couple of feet over the bar and the ref called full time.

Celtic completely dominated the second half, with McCarthy not troubled for the vast majority of it. Given his disastrous start in a Celtic shirt, that was probably for the best. If Harrogate could have been held at bay for just five minutes of the first half, the story would have been different.

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