Having impressed on loan at Stalybridge Celtic earlier this season, young goalkeeper Jack Walton has returned to Bower Fold for a second spell until the end of the campaign.
A recent turn in fortunes has seen Celtic’s relegation fears eased in the Evo-Stik Premier, with the return of Walton between the sticks proving to be the catalyst for a mid-season revival.
The 19-year-old has kept six clean sheets in 14 appearances for Steve Burr’s side this campaign - and three in his last six games. The fact that Celtic kept just one clean sheet in 15 outings without Walton speaks volumes of how integral the Barnsley loanee is to the team.
“I think, since I’ve gone back, I’ve picked up where I left off from my first loan back in September,” admitted Walton. "I think my performances have been good.
"I feel that, as a team, we haven’t been getting the breaks at the moment, but when you’re down at the the bottom you don’t get the luck with some of the decisions. But, overall, I think I’ve been doing well and hopefully the team can climb the table.
“I think, in the games, we’ve shown really good spells - they’re a cracking set of lads and we play good football. It’s just making sure that we’re ruthless in both boxes, we get the three points and we’re not just playing well and either drawing or losing the game.”
Celtic picked up their first away win of the season on Tuesday 13 February as they beat promotion chasing Warrington Town at Cantilever Park.
Walton saved an 85th minute penalty as Burr’s side held onto the three points following Tony McMillan’s own goal.
“I got another clean sheet and we won the game, which is the most important thing, against a Warrington side that was in great form,” continued Walton. "We hadn’t won away from home all season, so that was on our back.
"The lads were excellent - obviously I saved a penalty, but that’s my job. It was a great team performance and hopefully we can kick on because it’s two wins and two clean sheets. We need to win again on Saturday, win our home games and hopefully climb the table."
With the side frequently playing twice a week, there is little time for respite for Walton and his Celtic teammates.
The Bower Fold outfit have up to seven games in hand on the teams around them near the foot of the table, and the exposure to first team action can only be beneficial to Walton’s development.
"Momentum is a massive thing - especially when you’re playing twice a week, going from game to game, if you’ve got that momentum it gives you an advantage before you start the game,” said the young stopper.
“It’s good to get a run of games week in, week out. Games come thick and fast in that league - we play Saturday and Tuesday; this week we play Saturday and Monday - so it’s good to go from game to game and get men’s first team football.
“We’ve got quite a lot of games left because of games being postponed, but obviously that’s a positive for myself because I can get more games during my loan.”
Burr has clearly been impressed with what he has seen from Walton, and his faith in the young goalkeeper has been rewarded with an upturn of fine form.
Confidence is flowing for the 19-year-old, who is eager to continue his development and get regular action under his belt.
“I have a good relationship with Steve; we get on well and I know the role I need to do in the team really well, how we like to play and what he expects of me,” said Walton.
“They’ve said I’ve been doing really well. Since I’ve gone back we’ve had another good spell of form - I think we’ve lost one in seven. In the last two games I’ve kept two clean sheets which is, for me, going in the right direction.”