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Match Report -
Cracking performance
By Iain Benson
Celtic played an astounding first half that left the full time Blackburn reserves all at sea. At times Rovers were played off the park.

Rovers? new keeper, Gunner Neilson, was dropped straight into the action. Terry Barwick (who had an excellent game in the centre of the park in the first half), pushed the ball through to Chris Hall who took the ball in his stride and smacked a shot goal-ward that Neilson did well to block, but with the ball loose in the box, there was Matty Barlow to poke the ball under the hapless keeper. A poor header out by Kevin Pezzoni came to Ashley Winn, but his spiralling shot back in was straight at Neilson. Winn followed this with a shot from twenty five yards after Hall had pushed the ball out to him, but Neilson was well positioned to take comfortably. Lee Ellington won a corner just before the half hour mark, and Ashley Burbeary did a short corner routine that Andy Smart whipped in; Barlow got a foot on it, and the keeper made a decent save, the ball flicked across the box, Ellington tried the overhead kick, but Charlie Barnett on the line made the block, the ball rebounding out to Hall who smacked it between the keeper and two defenders to double Celtic's lead.

Paul Sykes came up for another corner, this one won by Hall, and got his head on Burbeary's ball in, but put it too close to Neilson who kept hold under pressure from Barlow. A smart free kick from Burbeary was almost met by Sykes running in, but Barnett got a head on it, diverting it narrowly past his own post for a corner. Andy Taylor's header lifted the corner out of the box only as far as Winn, who lofted it to the back post, and this time Sykes's header was straight into the top corner with Neilson left with no chance.

Blackburn's only shot on target in the first half came just before the interval when some neat footwork from Jamie Clarke gave him the space for a shot ? Paddy Gamble got down well and palmed the ball away.

The second half started with six Celtic substitutions, and at first it looked like business as usual when Barlow rode the challenges to get some space for a curling shot which Neilson athletically saved. However, with Barwick moved to right-back (a position he was obviously not comfortable with), the midfield lacked his creativity and it allowed Blackburn back into the game. Alan Judge took advantage of a poor piece of defending from Barwick to whip in a shot for Andy Howarth running in, but his volley was narrowly wide. Howarth then left Gary Furnival on the floor and provided Raffaele De Vita with a peach of a cross that he smashed past Martin Pearson. Pearson made amends when Furnival was again left for dead by Jamie Clarke who took the shot on himself, with a good save from Pearson to deny him. De Vita turned Barwick and crossed for Howarth who forced Pearson into another good save with quarter of an hour to go.

Celtic regained the initiative in the closing stages, and a Michael Stringfellow free kick eventually came to Sykes with his back to goal. Sykes tried a cheeky back heel, but Neilson got down to block well, the ball coming to Lee Ellington who doesn't miss from inside the six yard box, and restored Celtic's three goal cushion.

Hopefully, this final positive work out for Celtic will stand them in good stead for a very difficult start to the season on Saturday.

Celtic: Paddy Gamble; Steve Payne; Andrew Smart; Paul Sykes; Terry Barwick; James Dudgeon; Ashley Burbeary; Ashley Winn; Chris Hall; Matty Barlow; Lee Ellington.
Subs:Michael Stringfellow; Barrie Keeling; Gary Furnival; Kevin Parr; Martin Pearson; Adam Oakes.

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