Match Report -
A strong Crewe side sucumb to a solitary Sykes strike
By Iain Benson
Celtic moved into the final of the Cheshire Senior Cup to face Witton Albion after a cracking performance against a strong Crewe side. Every player in a Celtic shirt had a good game, and needed to have against a blisteringly fast front line with the visitors supported by Steve Jones in the middle of the park who always seemed to have time and space.

Celtic raced out of the blocks and Prince was testing Tomlinson in the Alex nets almost from the off, latching onto an Ellington through ball and looping his shot towards the top corner, but it lacked the pace to beat Tomlinson. Both sides looked dangerous coming forward, and Prince came close with a powerful shot from the edge of the box that just sailed over.

Jones had an outstanding game, and worked a few chances in the first half; a foul on him by Barnard was delivered straight to Pettinger, he then turned Barnard in the box, but his shot was again straight at Pettinger. Moments later he won a corner out of Haran as the Celtic defender made a last ditch tackle. Foster got his head on the corner, but put it wide. Crewe then came within an inch of grabbing the opening goal as Lloyd's low cross found Suhaj who tried to volley it towards goal rattling the post instead. Jones was a one man team and seemed to be every where, but his shot from the edge of the box after a pull back from Lloyd found Celtic's equivalent, Sykes, there to deflect it away for a corner. The corner fell to Rodgers, but his attempt to bumble the ball off the line saw Pettinger take it off his feet.

Pettinger was on hand again during a period of Crewe dominance, as Jones twisted and turned to make some space past Haran, with his shot seeing a great stop from the Celtic number one, parrying the ball and Barnard cleared. Pettinger was being kept very busy and showed great reactions as Rodgers latched onto a ball over the top blasting low forcing Pettinger to tip around for a corner.

Celtic started the second half brightly having survived Crewe's pressure in the first half. Banim flicked on a Black cross right into the path of Sykes who lifted the ball before volleying towards goal, forcing a good save from Tomlinson. Banim was then clearly fouled by Sutton on the edge of the box, but no foul was forthcoming and as Celtic protested Alex broke quickly and Rodgers put a shot wide at the other end.

Banim got his revenge though. He took the ball with his back to goal with Roberts and Sutton on him. He twisted and turned, jinked and dodged and burst between them before floating a pin-point cross to the back post. Crewe were short at the back and Sykes ghosted in to loop a header over Tomlinson from a narrow angle and into the top corner of the net. Celtic tried to capitalise and Eastwood threaded a great ball through for Prince, he took one touch before striking the ball well, but it rose just over the bar. Banim then put Eastwood through, Eastwood forced an excellent save from Tomlinson the ball rebounding out to Prince who forced Bignot into conceding a corner. Eastwood got another chance moments later as Prince forced the half cleared corner back in, and his header at the back post went into the side netting.

Rodgers then forced a duo of quality saves from Pettinger outpacing the Celtic defence with sheer speed. Suhaj also came close as Celtic failed to pick him up at the edge of the box, but he shot wide. Haran was forced to concede a corner stopping Suhaj's shot, and from the corner, Foster's header beat Pettinger but found Prince at the back post who cleared off the line. Crewe had their gander up and were going hell for leather for an equaliser, forcing Celtic further and further back. A handball from Maxfield late saw Roberts get his head on the ball, but put it over the crossbar, and Maynard (on for the mercurial Jones) tried to plant a powerful header into the bottom corner, only for Pettinger to get his body behind it.

Celtic did make the occasional break against the tide, with Ellington racing down half the field only to see his shot have the sting taken out of it by Foster. Prince set Oates (on for Smith) up for a low blast only for Lloyd to block, the corner was put wide, but the keeper fluffed his kick out, it landing at the feet of Ellington who went one-on-one with him, Tomlinson made amends with a superb block in stoppage time.

The game was won by the solitary goal from Sykes, but it was enough, and next up is Witton in the final. The tie will be played at either Chester's Deva stadium or Altrincham's Moss Lane ground depending on availability at the time of the match ? though for both parties Altrincham would make more sense.

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