Celtic sitting pretty in three way tie at top

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LURGAN Celtic made their second long trip of the season to Ballymoney within four weeks, this time to play fourth placed Glebe Rangers, and returned with the points after a fine display yielded a 4-0 win which sees the Hoops sitting third on goal difference just behind Knockbreda and Armagh City in a three way tie for top place in Championship 2.

With Brendan Mackin playing GAA, Michael Toland moved to midfield and new signing Paul Donegan slotted into centre half alongside Shannon Drainey with the rest of the side same as last week. Conor McAnallen, back from injury, took a seat on the bench with brother Paul and they were joined by Stefan Campbell giving the manager a strong back up if required.

The home side went all out to impose themselves on the Hoops concentrating on the Celtic left side but they were unable to get past a stout defence who stayed composed. In one break Daniel Ryan flicked on a clearance by McVeigh to Raymond Fitzpatrick who was judged marginally offside. Glebe responded and gained a corner but Fox in the Celtic goal took a clean catch and moments later from another free he rose above everyone to gather confidently to send the Hoops on an attack and Ryan fed Fitzpatrick who shot narrowly wide.

The Hoops stunned the home side on 10 minutes when they took the lead after Niall Lavery made a block and raced forward to feed Ryan who had a shot turned round the post for a corner which was well delivered to see Fitzpatrick rise above the home defence and firmly plant the ball into the net. Back came the home side but Celtic broke up an attack and Fitzpatrick stung the keeper’s fingers with a tremendous shot from 35 yards. By this stage the visitors were causing panic in the ranks every time they moved upfield. Aaron Haire then put Ryan through but the ball was cleared upfield and Glebe tried to attack down the Celtic right but the attack was easily dealt with.

The Hoops extended the lead in the 32nd minute with a candidate for goal of the season both in build up and execution. Glebe tried a break down the left but Lavery made a tackle and although he fell as he collided with an opponent he was able to get back up and proceeded to get away from two players and play a sublime 40 yard pass across the pitch to Fitzpatrick and the striker turned and swivelled before striking a shot from 30 yards into the right hand corner of the net. Glebe then made a break of their own but as the striker burst through Fox came out and took the ball cleanly at his feet to keep his goal intact. The rampant Hoops were awarded a free kick 25 yards out which Ryan hit narrowly past with the keeper static and well beaten. Shortly after this Haire gained possession on the left of the penalty box and seeing the keeper slightly off his line sent a delicate chip over his head with the ball hitting the inside of the post and on the line before the Glebe custodian pulled the ball back at the second attempt. Both the referee and linesman failed to see the ball had gone over the line and the goal wasn’t given.

By now Celtic were causing panic every time they attacked and were unfortunate when Ryan burst past on the right and drew two players before releasing the ball to Lavery but as he was about to shoot he slipped and the home side cleared the danger. The Hoops were not to be denied and Fitzpatrick completed his hat-trick on 41 minutes after Ryan had a good effort well saved but Lavery put in a great corner and after two attempts were repelled Fitzpatrick slammed home from six yards.

The second half saw the home side try to salvage something from the game but by now the Hoops had a grip on the game and were in no mood to yield anything to the home side. The Hoops kept up the pressure and Fitzpatrick was put through and as he bore down on goal with a defender pulling him back the referee played an advantage but as he was about to shoot he was taken down and the official instead of awarding a penalty gave a free kick for the original transgression. Toland then made way to give Conor McAnallen some match time and he slotted into midfield for his first action since late August.

Glebe had an effort saved by Fox and the Hoops went on the offensive again with Fitzpatrick putting Ryan through and he was taken down by the keeper who was sent off and a penalty awarded but Celtic, for the second game in a row, contrived to miss it. Lavery then made way after having a fine game in midfield to let Campbell into the action and he was involved in the build up to the fourth goal which was smashed home by Ryan when the ball came out to him on the left of the penalty area to finish the scoring at 4-0. The only downside on the day was an injury to Drainey who had treatment to his nose after a collision in the first half but finished the 90 minutes .