Both sides left with a point after a pulsating battle in Banbridge on Saturday in an excellent game in which both sides had chances to take all three points.
With new club arrival Colin Malone looking on from the sidelines it was a very different performance from Celtic who looked like the side at the top end of the table in the first half with some neat passing interplay and also looking sharp up front,
It was Banbridge who had the first effort which brought the first of many wonder saves from young Ciaran Toman in the Celtic goal who excelled in only his second start of the season. Then a trademark run from Caolan Campbell seen him beat three men but his final effort was easily saved. In the 13th minute Sam Marshall’s volley brought a good save from the home keeper. Captain Raymond Fitzpatrick was in inspired form and was leading the line superbly and in the 23rd minute his left foot drive was again saved. The pressure paid off in the 43rd minute when some fine build up play down the right resulted in Toland being through on goal and his composed finish gave Celtic a fully deserved lead.
Fitzpatrick then picked up the ball in the final minute of the half to go on a solo run and he easily glided past three tackles to curl a magnificent effort which fully deserved to extend the lead but his shot crashed off the bar. Even though The Hoops had dominated play the slender lead was going to be tough to maintain and their cause was not helped when in the 55th minute John Cochrane received his second yellow in a matter of minutes and reduce his side to 10 men.
In the reshuffle Fitzpatrick was moved to centre-half and he continued his fine display to marshall the young back line. Keeper Toman in the second half was in no mood to give up his clean sheet and shortly after the interval produced a brilliant save when he somehow stopped a header that seemed destined for the net.
Now down the ten Celtic knew it was going to be a tough ask but managed to battle bravely without conceding until the 81st minute when the home sides pressure told and they scored from close range to level the scores. Both sides looked tired at this juncture as they had both served up an enjoyable spectacle for a sizeable crowd but the best was yet to come when Banbridge forward Conor Downey produced a wonderful overhead kick that seemed destined for the top corner but that man Toman again refused to be beaten and he produced another spectacular save to deny the home side and earn Celtic a fully deserved point.
In a very close contest with Fitzpatrick having his best performance in a Celtic shirt this season and any other week would have taken the man of the match award he was denied by the inspired saves from keeper Ciaran Toman.