Celtic BC and Gourock met in the final of the Gilbert Baird Cup and as the sun belted down the lads kicked off an absolute classic. Right from kick off both sides looked threatening, Regan Talbot burst forward on the left from Celtic and his off the ball movement almost allowed him an easy cross from the byline.
This was a sign of things to come in the game, but Gourock had set up to frustrate the creative Bhoys, allowing them no space on the ball at all and playing to hit on the counter.
Jack Purdue and Lee Bartlett provided amazing attacking chemistry they moved the ball with pace on every attack and were 100% committed to every scrap that came forward. Bartlett was rewarded for his tenacity in the first half after a long cross in from sweeper Aidan McKay’s free kick bounced at the back post between Celtic stopper Sean Baxter and the Gourock striker. Bartlett took it well, despite the awkward bounce but a terrific reflex save tipped it over the bar when it looked destined for the net.
Celtic took renewed enthusiasm from the close call, and Talbot’s ability to leave his marker in the dust with a quick touch allowed chance after chance for the Bhoys. Corner after corner was won by Talbot and despite the massive height difference for Celtic; Lewis Cameron was unable to beat Kieran Devlin’s gloves or the bar.
Talbot continued his star performance by beating 2 Celtic midfielders and slipping a lovely reverse pass through the back for the run by Cameron only to be denied again by Dylan Norman who seemed to be the only one capable of dealing with Talbot’s creativity and dribbling.
Gourock kept playing their counter however, forcing two more saves from Baxter who was impressing with some brilliant stops and safe hands. This time it was Andrew Ellis who broke away from deep, only to be denied by a great dive to the bottom corner.
When the first goal came it was the Green and White fans left grinning, Shaun McCourt broke down the left and played it back, but the deflection took it onto the foot of Anthony Coutts whose curved effort hits the inside of one post before crawling across and over the line to make it 1-0.
The first half continued its frantic pace but Gourock seemed to be getting the better of Celtic with great play through the middle loosing Purdue and Bartlett who seemed to be loving the quality of Ellis’ passing.
Celtic looked to double their lead on the eve of half time but some goalkeeping heroics denied that chance. A 25 yard free kick by Jamie Mulligan looked destined for the top right corner and every photographer’s highlight reel only for Kieran Devlin to push it over the bar with a phenomenal mid air save – he almost seemed to float in the air to get to it.
Half time came around, bringing the close to a terrific half where Celtic lead 1-0 nothing. The first half was the definition of end to end football and Gourock had 2 or 3 chances. Behind only by a fantastically worked goal the Goruock fans and players would feel a bit hard done by.
However the first half was really The Talbot show for Celtic; he absolutely dominated the opening 40 minutes. In the red camp however it was difficult to choose a standout performer as the way they set up needed a huge amount of teamwork and communication, Dylan Norman was the star of the back with some great tackles and blocks denying Talbot more joy than he had.
In the midfield Ellis was able to play through his strikers time and again whilst Purdue and Bartlett were unlucky not to have scored a few.
Not forgetting both goalkeepers who had kept this game from being 6-5 in that first half, both Baxter and Devlin were showing how important a keeper is at the end of a tournament when you’re going up against teams who can and will score from almost nothing.