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Match Report -
Out of the relegation zone!
By Debbie Taylor

Celtic have climbed out of the relegation zone for the first time since September. The turn around has been amazing with an unbeaten run stretching back to January, with a modest 1-0 win over Bradford. Since then Celtic have clawed their way up the table and now sit in 18th, one point above Moor Green and Bradford, with a game in hand on them both. Celtic also have a game in hand on Vauxhall who are level on points, but have a superior goal difference by three.

The game itself was a tense, nervy affair, as was typified by the pass back to the new Runcorn keeper Thompson. Parton ran at him, and in panic the kick got about five yards, with the keeper well out of position, but the spinning ball wouldn't come under control for Parton, and Runcorn escaped.

Runcorn tested the Celtic defence all game, with a series of free kicks and corners around the box, and this started not long into the game, with Haskins blocking Parle's cross, and the corner was put out for a second corner by Keeling, and Bonsall scrambled that one clear. Celtic rode their luck a little bit when Taylor latched onto a long throw. He beat Keeling with a good touch and fired a low drive across the face of goal, it looked to be going wide but smacked into the foot of the post and came out to Moore who put his shot wide (with an open net) and had been offside anyway.

Haskins was making himself very useful on his home debut. A superb cross-field ball was chested down well by Steve Smith into the path of Bonsall. Bonsall struck it first time from twenty-five yards, and it wasn't far wide. Parton outpaced Spearritt and put a good cross in. Haskins was racing in, but the young keeper nervously snatched the cross out of the air. Thompson looked a lot less nervous moments later as Steve Smith spread the ball to Shepherd who teed the ball up for himself before volleying towards goal. It was a good height for Thompson but the save was well made anyway. Celtic could only convert the corner into a second corner with Spearritt putting the ball out. Sykes got a good contact on the second corner, but put the ball over the bar. Parle, just inside the Runcorn half, shoved Caldecott and Shepherd's ball in was only flapped at by Thompson, but as Parton stuck out a leg, Robertson cleared. Celtic kept the pressure on with Parton winning a corner out of Spearritt. Bonsall flicked the near post corner on, but at the back post there was only Lock who cleared out of his own keeper's hands.

Black seemingly disposed Lock with a well-executed sliding tackle, but a foul was the result, twenty-five yards out. The free kick too the back post was met by Jones, but Dootson didn't look troubled as the header went harmlessly wide. Two harsh decisions saw Shepherd penalised for tangling with Parle just inside the Celtic half, and Smith on Lock thirty yards out. The first was easily cleared, but the second was driven through the wall and Dootson had to be alert to get down and catch well.

With the time in the first half running out, Parton was handed a glorious chance. Wilford's cutting low cross through the six-yard box isolated the whole defence and gave Parton a simple side foot finish, but as he swung his legs, the ball went between them. Moments later Steve Smith struck an angled drive from the edge of the box that beat Thompson and came back off the post. Parton running in was levered away from the ball by Robertson, no penalty given. The harsh decisions didn't just go Runcorn's way, as Parle supposedly fouled Shepherd in the centre circle. The free kick was flicked on by Keeling into the path of Wilford, but Thompson reacted well plucking the ball off Wilford's feet. A superb switch of play from Steve Smith found Haskins in acres of space. An intelligent ball into the path of Parton allowed Parton to drive an angled cross through the six-yard box, Wilford through his leg at it, but couldn't quite reach, and the ball trundled narrowly wide of the far post.

Taylor found himself in a lot of space and seemed unsure about what to do next, though he had time and space he took an early shot, and put the ball wide of the target.

Runcorn would rue that missed chance as Haskins put Steve Smith through. Smith pulled the ball back to Wilford for a superb strike that Thompson did really well to parry away, but he parried into the path of Parton. Third time lucky for Parton as he lifted it over the prostrate keeper and into the back of the net. Haskins almost doubled that within seconds making himself a bit of space, but he put the ball over the bar.

Celtic could have started the second half with a goal. Haskins' went on a surging run, and fed Wilford, who put a looping cross into the box. Perhaps a stooping header was on the cards for Bonsall, but he tried the trickier volley and put the ball over the bar.

The world's most stupid refereeing decision was made moments later. Parton, running into the box was off balance, a slight touch from Moore saw him stumble and immediately get back to his feet to chase the ball. At no point did Parton look for a penalty, but the referee booked Parton for diving. In addition to this, the referee had completely missed the fact that both Haskins and Jones were injured (in separate incidents), Jones severely so, requiring a stretcher.

Wilford's cross in after the restart was clearly, and plainly handled by Moore inside the box to take the ball away from Bonsall, but there was no penalty, just a throw to Runcorn, despite Moore kicking it out. Celtic kept coming though. Parton put the ball into the path of Smith; he tried the instant shot from outside the box, just wide. Bonsall was then scythed through by substitute Young, who was lucky to stay on the pitch with only a yellow card.

Celtic again had to ride their luck a little bit, as Denny took an initial shot that was only parried by Dootson. It was put back in and there was plenty of shooting and blocking going on inside the box as Runcorn desperately attacked, and Celtic desperately defended, eventually Sykes hoofing over his own bar for a corner. Robertson got a free header and a superb stop from Dootson denied him a goal, with Keeling scrambling the loose ball out for a second corner, which Bonsall headed clear.

Robertson clumsily tackled Parton half way into the Runcorn half. Sykes put his head on the ball, but Moore got enough on it to take the sting out and allow Thompson an easy catch. Parle charged into Shepherd, but it was Parle who went down in a heap and won a free kick. The free kick was only half cleared as far as Jack who had a speculative effort from forty yard, and it wasn't that far wide.

Taylor was also lucky to escape with just a yellow card as Sykes headed a looping ball away, only for Taylor to come across Sykes' neck with his forearm. From the free kick, Haskins made enough space to find Wilford. Wilford turned and shot, and produced a good save from Thompson. Wilford then held off two defenders in order to make his shot, but it was straight at Thompson.

Caldecott was then forced to lift a lobbed ball into the box over his own bar as the rest of the defence was stranded and Lock was coming in. Wilford cleared, but Haskins was forced to concede the second corner, which Celtic scrambled clear. Caldecott clumsily took the ball off Taylor in the centre circle and conceded the free kick. Sykes headed it out for a corner, and then repeats the trick off the corner. Celtic cleared, but Shepherd made the slightest touch on substitute Willis to keep the pressure on Celtic. Keeling put the free kick out for a corner. Haskins brought it clear, and Robertson slid straight through him with no attempt to play the ball and earned a yellow card as the last act of the game.

This makes Celtic's fourth straight 1-0 win. Whilst excellent, I don't think my nerves can take much more. We had a few chances to kill Runcorn off, but left ourselves with some desperate defending. However, that desperate defending has worked four times now and we are out of the relegation zone, leaving the game's visitors in it in our place.

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