Central defender Stephen Hutchinson grabbed a last gasp winner for Celtic as they clinched a vital three points on Saturday.
Hoops were forced into several changes due to unavailability of Daniel Ryan and Ryan Henderson out with flu. Also missing from the starting line up was Chris Lavery who had been ill during the week but he took a spot on the bench.
The Hoops in particular were not playing with their usual urgency and the students had the better of the opening exchanges without threatening Conor McCorry’s goal.
Midway through the first half the visitors nearly made a break but Stephen Hutchinson brought down the attacker and was booked for his indiscretion. Both midfields had a tight battle to gain the upper hand with Conor Hagan, Niall Lavery and Dale Malone putting in a lot of work to free up the Celtic attack but there was little to excite the spectators in the opening half and the sides went in at half time scoreless.
The second half began in the same vein but play started to open up as both sides tried to raise their game and Chris Lavery was introduced for Hagan in a bid to inject some pace into the Hoops attack and he immediately set about his task running at the Queens backline.
The students were still looking dangerous and in one attack John Cochrane did well to intercept a ball being played through and played his way out of danger and by this stage Declan McVeigh and Adam Rodgers had come to grips with any play down the flanks.
The deadlock was broken on the hour mark with a fine move down the Celtic involving Rodgers. Nial Lavery and Chris Lavery and when the ball was driven low into the box Raymond Fitzpatrick was on hand to send it into the net. This changed the whole atmosphere in the ground and everything seemed to liven up but stung by this reverse Queens went at the Hoops in a bid to rescue something from the game.
A good break saw Chris Lavery cynically taken down just as he was about to close in on goal with McDowell of Queens being shown a second yellow and dismissed.
A one goal lead is always dangerous and this proved to be the case as the game entered the last quarter. Queens were awarded a free kick just outside the penalty area and the well struck shot brought a tremendous save from McCorry and minutes later another free from around a the same spot was struck with real power and accuracy heading for the top right corner when the keeper soared upwards to turn the shot away for a corner to thunderous applause from both sets of spectators.
However from the corner the ball struck Fitzpatrick on the head and ended in the net to level the game.
Celtic replaced Aaron Haire and Niall Lavery with Jason Rogers and Colm Rooney and went all out for the points.
A minute from the end Fitzpatrick received the ball with his back to goal swivelled and shot narrowly wide with the crowd feeling their last chance had gone, the Hoops laid siege on the Queens goal.They were awarded another free and the ball was played into the heart of the defence and in a scramble Hutchinson struck to score and put the Hoops into the lead again in the 93rd minute. There was only time to centre the ball and the referee blew for time.
The McLeans Man of the Match was awarded to Celtic keeper Conor McCorry for those two magnificent saves that kept his side in the game
Next up after the midweek clash with Armagh City in the Mid Ulster Cup is an away clash in the Intermediate Cup against Immaculata in Belfast with an early kick-off at 1.30pm.
The Celtic Youth side maintained their grip on the Mid Ulster Juvenile League when with only 11 players they made the long trip to play Ballinamallard at Fivemiletown on Saturday and had a thumping 10-0 victory. Hitting the goals were Jonathan Douglas with four and Caolan Lavery scoring three.