Celtic lose ground in key league clash

LURGAN Celtic lost vital ground to league leaders Knockbreda after crashing 3-0 in their first home defeat of the season in front of a good sized crowd.

The Hoops started brightest in the opening minutes but Knockbreda in their first attack were foiled when home keeper Ciaran Fox made a fine save from a well struck free and shortly afterwards went down bravely at the feet of a forward taking a knock for his trouble, but he resumed after lengthy treatment.

Celtic then threatened after Fitzpatrick went down the left but his pass was inches too short for Niall Lavery and the danger was cleared. Raymond Fitzpatrick then was taken down but the free kick did not trouble the visiting keeper. A good move saw McVeigh played a high ball for Campbell to take cleanly with his chest and after a run set up Daniel Ryan who shot but the keeper made a good save. The keeper then sent a long ball downfield which was carried by the stiff breeze, the ball bounced over McVeigh’s head and Young who was lurking close by to slot home from 6 yards giving Knockbreda the lead against the run of play with the softest of goals.

The Hoops then came back at the visitors with Campbell, Aaron Haire and Fitzpatrick threatening but the game took a dramatic turn near the half hour mark when Campbell was taken down in the box and the referee appeared to point to the spot. However he then proceeded to award a goal kick and with some Celtic players still arguing about the decision the goal kick was taken and as the ball went past a number of players Toland in the act of clearing the ball slipped on the greasy surface and Corry accepted the unexpected gift to plant the ball past the helpless Fox leaving the Hoops with a mountain to climb.

The rest of the half was played out evenly but the wind had been taken out of the Hoops’ sails and as they left the field at the break some angry Celtic players were remonstrating with the referee about the earlier incident.

After the break Knockbreda went out to finish the tie and on 55 minutes scored a third goal to do just that when Wright netted after a high ball again caught the home defence out. Celtic then came back into the game to at least try and get something but were unlucky with efforts from Ryan and Lavery were cleared from goal. After a yellow card decision Fitzpatrick was withdrawn with McKavanagh replacing him. Shortly after this Conway came on for Boyd with the Hoops going three at the back but the damage had been done and Knockbreda were content to soak up anything the Hoops had to offer and although they put together some promising moves Celtic were deflated and the body blow of conceding the first half goals had knocked them out of their stride with the league leaders running out comfortable winners.

This win puts Knockbreda six points ahead of the Hoops with a game in hand and a huge goal difference of 22, in fact the third goal in this game was their 50th in 13 games - an astonishing average of nearly four goals a game. As for Celtic this defeat was a bitter pill to swallow and the penalty incident played a key role as it could have been 1-1 at the time instead of 0-2, but they have to learn from this setback and grow stronger from the experience.

The Club made contact with Annagh United on Saturday evening and agreed to bring forward the game scheduled for December 29 to this Saturday with a 2.00pm kick off at Knockramer and this sporting gesture by Annagh means that Aaron Haire will miss the game, but be available for the Radcliffe cup final on Boxing Day morning which he was going to miss due to a one game suspension. Shannon Drainey will also be available after suspension.