Rough justice for Celtic
Friday 17th January 2014 18:24 Sports Posted by Lisa B

Harrogate Town 2 Stalybridge Celtic 1

Skrill North

Celtic travelled to the CNG Stadium having lost four of their last five games, and the Bridge faithful heading over the Pennines could have been forgiven for fearing the worst.

But what they saw was a much improved and hugely spirited performance from Keith Briggs’ side.

In fact, was it not for two hugely controversial decisions by the match officials going against the Celts, they could well have come away from the game with all three points.

Celtic gave debuts to Danny East in goal, who became the seventh goalkeeper used by Celtic already this season, and defender Jordan Tunnicliffe, signed on loan from Championship side Barnsley.

Both players were charged with helping plug a defence that had conceded 56 goals in the league before kick-off.

The game was fairly uneventful for the first 30 minutes, with Celtic enjoying large spells of possession, but lacking the final ball to create many clear cut chances.

That changed on 27 minutes, when a ball across the box from the lively Ennis, found Sean McConville who dropped his shoulder beautifully to bamboozle the Harrogate defender, before slotting the ball into the bottom corner.

This was exactly the springboard Celtic were hoping for, but it didn’t last long and only 60 seconds later, Harrogate levelled when a ball swung in from the right by Mallory was headed home by ex-Celtic striker Chris Hall.

Then came the first controversial decision.

After Buckley’s shot from the edge of the box was parried by McGillivray, in ran Ennis to fire home only for the offside flag to be raised against Anoruo, who stood stationary in an offside position.

Celtic were furious, and player manager Keith Briggs was booked for his protests.

Anoruo, who was a real thorn in Harrogate’s defence was replaced at half-time due to injury, and with his withdrawal Celtic lost a lot of their potent threat in the second half.

But with the game still very evenly balanced, Harrogate scored what was ultimately the winner on 56 minutes.

A corner swung in from the left caused panic in Celtic’s defence, and Nowakowski was on hand to nod the home side in front.

Spells

Celtic persisted and enjoyed long spells of possession, but had few chances to call upon.

That was until the 81st minute, when the match officials were again at the centre of controversy.

A bustling run from Tom Buckley led him to burst into the Harrogate box and with the goal at his mercy he was hacked down from behind.

It was a clear penalty for all in attendance to see, except for the man that mattered.

The referee waved play on to Celtic’s disbelief.

They must have thought it wasn’t their day, and so it proved as Harrogate saw out the remaining minutes to claim the points.

Despite the loss, which leaves Celtic perilously close to the bottom three, they will take heart from the performance.

Manager Keith Briggs said after the game: “I was really pleased by the work rate and confidence shown by the team today and on another day we could have won the game easily.

“Consistency is a worry at the moment as we need to show the same commitment and bravery every match, but if we perform to that standard we will have a good second half of the season.”

Harrogate Town: Craig McGillivray, Dwayne Samuels, Dave Merris, Anton Brown (Matthew Bloomer 74), Matt Heath, Shane Killock, Steve Mallory, Adam Nowakowski, Chris Hall, Liam Hardy (Nathan Cartman 58), Craig Nelthorpe (Cleveland Taylor 66).

Unused subs: Ashley Worsfold, Jahmal Smith

Celtic: Danny East, Kelvin Bleau, Andy McWilliams (Adam Pepper 90), Jordan Tunnicliffe, Joel Bembo-Leta, Callum Warburton, Paul Ennis (Conal Platt 76), Keith Briggs, Obi Anoruo (Oscar Durnin 45), Sean McConville, Tom Buckley.

Unused subs: Louis Smith, Jack Cookson.

Attendance: 454 Referee: Iain Turner

by Shaun Bishop