After a heartwarming performance, Celtic were cruelly brought down to Earth as Worcester were awarded, and scored a last minute penalty to win the game 2-1.
With new signing Lee Connor available to make his league debut, but the unfortunate Scott Bonsall sidelined through a domestic accident, Peter Wragg opted to go 3-5-2 for the game at Worcester. Connor joined Keeling and Bowker in front of Priestley with German and Whealing patrolling the flanks. Bowman was pushed forward into midfield with Parr and Wharton and Sykes teamed up with Hayward to spearhead the formation.
Celtic settled into the game quickly and no doubt surprised the home following with the confident flowing football that saw them, for the most part, take control of the game.
Celtic took the lead with a well crafted goal. An astute run by Nathan Wharton was complimented by a fine through ball from Darren Bowman. Nathan strode forward into the right side of the penalty area, and looking up, spotted Andy Hayward steaming in. He then played the perfect pass across the area for Andy to fire past the stationary keeper.
Celtic continued to look the better side which rendered the Worcester fans to virtual silence. Nathan Wharton was causing havoc in the Worcester defence with dangerous runs from all area's to join Sykes and Hayward, and was well supported by the rest of the midfield. Sadly, Celtic lost concentration for a moment, losing a 'runner into the box' at a Worcester corner and the ball was forced home for the equaliser.
Back came the 'Celts' and opening up the Worcester defence again, Paul Sykes had the ball at his feet in the penalty area but with his back to goal. A neat back-heel through his own legs and through the two defenders flanking him, left them bamboozled and as he turned to follow the ball, he was brought down. A 'cast iron' penalty. Amazingly, and knowing how events turned later, crucially, the referee waved play on. Sykes wasn't booked ?
The teams went in all square at half time, and it was certainly Celtic who would have been the more satisfied after a fine half of football.
The second half continued in same vein as the first, with Celtic looking the better side and even more dominant. Celtic were closing their opponents down quickly all over the park, denying them space to create anything. At the same time Hayward and Sykes had intelligently swapped markers, Paul now winning his share against the taller centre back and Andy running the other half of the pairing ragged.
It has to be said that this is when Celtic should have wrapped up the game and the points. Numerous half chances and good positions couldn't find the end result and Andy Hayward, who was having a fine match, missed two glorious chances. He really should have scored and screamed out his own frustration.
'Wraggy' substituted Bowman with Caldicott with just over quarter of an hour left, and Darren looked a little disappointed having had a solid game. It may have been no coincidence that following this Worcester had their best spell of the match, and managed for the first time in the game to exert some extended pressure on the Celtic rearguard.
The crowd finally came to life, but the fact the silence had been deafening for seventy five minutes proved what a good Celtic performance we'd seen. With the clock ticking down Wraggy made a second substitution, Ben Smith replacing the excellent Wharton.
As the game drifted to added time, Leon Kelly broke past Dave German and raced into the Celtic penalty area from the left. Terry Bowker chasing hard finally made a lunge for the ball and Kelly went down, and unlike Celtics first half appeal, the referee had no hesitation in pointing immediately to the spot. I've no doubt Kelly was looking for this situation, but in all honesty, it did look as if Terry brought him down. The penalty was dispatched with aplomb by the Worcester player and Celtic were behind.
'Wraggy' tried one last substitution, bringing on Steve Smith for Dave German to try and chase the game, but Worcester had scored so late in the game that it left little or no time for the 'Celts' to find a reply.
The Celtic players, like the fans, must have been gutted at the end of a game they had dominated with a fine performance, and many left the field with heads down. I hope after a few drinks tonight they will get those heads up high, because they did Celtic proud. If they can maintain that level of performance for the rest of the season, no matter the final outcome, most fans will be standing shoulder to shoulder with them at the finish.
I couldn't begin to pick a man of the match as every player did what was asked of him and it was a true TEAM performance. Just to pick a few highlights for me, Lee Connors strength and debut performance, Darren Bowman looking the player he was two seasons ago, Nathan's intelligent runs, Paul Sykes with some new found confidence in his ability, oh I could go on and on but lastly, a word for Andy Hayward. He was tremendous and didn't deserve to suffer the pain of the two missed chances. Next time they will go in......
You could be proud to be a Celtic fan today