Kilmarnock

Kilmarnock slideshow

Le sucedió al portero del Kilmarnock de Escocia
Un golazo... ¡Con toda la cara!
Le sucedió al portero del Kilmarnock de Escocia
Kilmarnock goalkeeper Leo Fasan suffered some debut embarrassment scoring an unfortunate own goal against Hamilton.
Fasan's Kilmarnock debut own goal nightmare
Kilmarnock goalkeeper Leo Fasan suffered some debut embarrassment scoring an unfortunate own goal against Hamilton.
Kilmarnock goalkeeper Leo Fasan suffered some debut embarrassment scoring an unfortunate own goal against Hamilton.
Fasan's Kilmarnock debut own goal nightmare
Kilmarnock goalkeeper Leo Fasan suffered some debut embarrassment scoring an unfortunate own goal against Hamilton.
Kilmarnock goalkeeper Leo Fasan suffered some debut embarrassment scoring an unfortunate own goal against Hamilton.
Fasan's Kilmarnock debut own goal nightmare
Kilmarnock goalkeeper Leo Fasan suffered some debut embarrassment scoring an unfortunate own goal against Hamilton.
Ally McCoist believes that Graeme Murty’s future at Ibrox should not hinge upon the outcome of Sunday’s Old Firm derby in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-finals, despite a strong hint from the Rangers chairman that such is the case - or even that the interim manager’s destiny has been decided already. Celtic are one victory away from securing a seventh successive Scottish title and a win on Sunday would bring the feat of consecutive clean sweeps of the domestic honours within their immediate grasp. Murty, who has never been in charge of a winning Rangers side against their arch-foes, has at least supervised two goalless league draws at Parkhead, although last month’s match at Ibrox ended in the disappointment of defeat by a 10-man Celtic team. This week, Dave King, the Rangers chairman, declared in a message to season ticket holders that a new manager would be expected to deliver instant reward. “Whoever is appointed must be able to meet the unique challenges of managing Rangers and ensuring immediate success,” King said. “It is a priority that we commence next season with the best appointment we can make and that we move forward rapidly.” The timing of King’s comment raises questions. The Ibrox board is known to be identifying targets for the manager’s job, but there is a significant element of risk in saying so just before Murty’s last chance to prevent Celtic acquiring a second successive Scottish treble. “The feeling seems to be that it’s a defining game, and that’s not necessarily correct in my opinion,” McCoist said. “Celtic are the best team in the country at present. Rangers chairman, Dave King, has hinted that Murty's future at Ibrox hinges on victory in the Old Firm Scottish Cup semi-final Credit: Steve Welsh/Getty Images “A lot of people expect them to win the game regardless. It’s probably true that if Graeme manages to win he stands a better chance of getting the job, but it would be wrong, in my opinion, to judge the man over one game. “Any fair-minded person would look at his overall performance which I think has been good. His signings have been good and there has certainly been an improvement in terms of performances although, at Rangers, you are only ever one game away from a crisis. “Losing to Celtic, losing to Kilmarnock was not ideal, but it shouldn’t be as simple as to say that because of that he doesn’t get the job. It would be extremely difficult to keep it quiet if a decision had been made. “Dave King will let everyone know when the time is right what the plans to move forward will be. The timing was perhaps a little bit strange but he hasn’t said that Graeme isn’t getting the job. Ally McCoist says whether the next Rangers manager is successful or not depends on his ability to spend Credit: Danny Lawson/PA Wire “People are jumping to conclusions. It’s difficult for me to say whether he’s done enough because I don’t know what the options are. What I would say is that I don’t think Graeme has done his chances any harm at all. “I’ve heard the rumours about Frank de Boer and Derek McInnes has been mentioned again as has Alan Pardew. There is value in continuity as long as things are progressing in the right manner and you have to say Rangers are doing that. “The question for the board is, ‘Are they doing it quickly enough?' And if not, do they believe someone else could come in and do it faster? “On another day, Rangers could have won the last two Old Firm games. Morelos missed a great chance at Celtic Park and I felt in the last game Celtic only really took control when they went down to 10 men. “Rangers had a chance at 2-2 and they should certainly have made it 3-3. “The gap has undoubtedly closed, whether it’s closed enough for Dave King and the board only time will tell. “It depends also what you mean by instant success - winning a trophy or does it mean winning the league? “For me, the next step would be winning a trophy. If that’s to happen then the manager - whoever that may be - must be able to invest in his squad.” Ally McCoist was speaking at a William Hill media event. William Hill is the proud sponsor of the Scottish Cup
Graeme Murty's future at Rangers should not hang on Old Firm semi-final, says Ally McCoist
Ally McCoist believes that Graeme Murty’s future at Ibrox should not hinge upon the outcome of Sunday’s Old Firm derby in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-finals, despite a strong hint from the Rangers chairman that such is the case - or even that the interim manager’s destiny has been decided already. Celtic are one victory away from securing a seventh successive Scottish title and a win on Sunday would bring the feat of consecutive clean sweeps of the domestic honours within their immediate grasp. Murty, who has never been in charge of a winning Rangers side against their arch-foes, has at least supervised two goalless league draws at Parkhead, although last month’s match at Ibrox ended in the disappointment of defeat by a 10-man Celtic team. This week, Dave King, the Rangers chairman, declared in a message to season ticket holders that a new manager would be expected to deliver instant reward. “Whoever is appointed must be able to meet the unique challenges of managing Rangers and ensuring immediate success,” King said. “It is a priority that we commence next season with the best appointment we can make and that we move forward rapidly.” The timing of King’s comment raises questions. The Ibrox board is known to be identifying targets for the manager’s job, but there is a significant element of risk in saying so just before Murty’s last chance to prevent Celtic acquiring a second successive Scottish treble. “The feeling seems to be that it’s a defining game, and that’s not necessarily correct in my opinion,” McCoist said. “Celtic are the best team in the country at present. Rangers chairman, Dave King, has hinted that Murty's future at Ibrox hinges on victory in the Old Firm Scottish Cup semi-final Credit: Steve Welsh/Getty Images “A lot of people expect them to win the game regardless. It’s probably true that if Graeme manages to win he stands a better chance of getting the job, but it would be wrong, in my opinion, to judge the man over one game. “Any fair-minded person would look at his overall performance which I think has been good. His signings have been good and there has certainly been an improvement in terms of performances although, at Rangers, you are only ever one game away from a crisis. “Losing to Celtic, losing to Kilmarnock was not ideal, but it shouldn’t be as simple as to say that because of that he doesn’t get the job. It would be extremely difficult to keep it quiet if a decision had been made. “Dave King will let everyone know when the time is right what the plans to move forward will be. The timing was perhaps a little bit strange but he hasn’t said that Graeme isn’t getting the job. Ally McCoist says whether the next Rangers manager is successful or not depends on his ability to spend Credit: Danny Lawson/PA Wire “People are jumping to conclusions. It’s difficult for me to say whether he’s done enough because I don’t know what the options are. What I would say is that I don’t think Graeme has done his chances any harm at all. “I’ve heard the rumours about Frank de Boer and Derek McInnes has been mentioned again as has Alan Pardew. There is value in continuity as long as things are progressing in the right manner and you have to say Rangers are doing that. “The question for the board is, ‘Are they doing it quickly enough?' And if not, do they believe someone else could come in and do it faster? “On another day, Rangers could have won the last two Old Firm games. Morelos missed a great chance at Celtic Park and I felt in the last game Celtic only really took control when they went down to 10 men. “Rangers had a chance at 2-2 and they should certainly have made it 3-3. “The gap has undoubtedly closed, whether it’s closed enough for Dave King and the board only time will tell. “It depends also what you mean by instant success - winning a trophy or does it mean winning the league? “For me, the next step would be winning a trophy. If that’s to happen then the manager - whoever that may be - must be able to invest in his squad.” Ally McCoist was speaking at a William Hill media event. William Hill is the proud sponsor of the Scottish Cup
Ally McCoist believes that Graeme Murty’s future at Ibrox should not hinge upon the outcome of Sunday’s Old Firm derby in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-finals, despite a strong hint from the Rangers chairman that such is the case - or even that the interim manager’s destiny has been decided already. Celtic are one victory away from securing a seventh successive Scottish title and a win on Sunday would bring the feat of consecutive clean sweeps of the domestic honours within their immediate grasp. Murty, who has never been in charge of a winning Rangers side against their arch-foes, has at least supervised two goalless league draws at Parkhead, although last month’s match at Ibrox ended in the disappointment of defeat by a 10-man Celtic team. This week, Dave King, the Rangers chairman, declared in a message to season ticket holders that a new manager would be expected to deliver instant reward. “Whoever is appointed must be able to meet the unique challenges of managing Rangers and ensuring immediate success,” King said. “It is a priority that we commence next season with the best appointment we can make and that we move forward rapidly.” The timing of King’s comment raises questions. The Ibrox board is known to be identifying targets for the manager’s job, but there is a significant element of risk in saying so just before Murty’s last chance to prevent Celtic acquiring a second successive Scottish treble. “The feeling seems to be that it’s a defining game, and that’s not necessarily correct in my opinion,” McCoist said. “Celtic are the best team in the country at present. Rangers chairman, Dave King, has hinted that Murty's future at Ibrox hinges on victory in the Old Firm Scottish Cup semi-final Credit: Steve Welsh/Getty Images “A lot of people expect them to win the game regardless. It’s probably true that if Graeme manages to win he stands a better chance of getting the job, but it would be wrong, in my opinion, to judge the man over one game. “Any fair-minded person would look at his overall performance which I think has been good. His signings have been good and there has certainly been an improvement in terms of performances although, at Rangers, you are only ever one game away from a crisis. “Losing to Celtic, losing to Kilmarnock was not ideal, but it shouldn’t be as simple as to say that because of that he doesn’t get the job. It would be extremely difficult to keep it quiet if a decision had been made. “Dave King will let everyone know when the time is right what the plans to move forward will be. The timing was perhaps a little bit strange but he hasn’t said that Graeme isn’t getting the job. Ally McCoist says whether the next Rangers manager is successful or not depends on his ability to spend Credit: Danny Lawson/PA Wire “People are jumping to conclusions. It’s difficult for me to say whether he’s done enough because I don’t know what the options are. What I would say is that I don’t think Graeme has done his chances any harm at all. “I’ve heard the rumours about Frank de Boer and Derek McInnes has been mentioned again as has Alan Pardew. There is value in continuity as long as things are progressing in the right manner and you have to say Rangers are doing that. “The question for the board is, ‘Are they doing it quickly enough?' And if not, do they believe someone else could come in and do it faster? “On another day, Rangers could have won the last two Old Firm games. Morelos missed a great chance at Celtic Park and I felt in the last game Celtic only really took control when they went down to 10 men. “Rangers had a chance at 2-2 and they should certainly have made it 3-3. “The gap has undoubtedly closed, whether it’s closed enough for Dave King and the board only time will tell. “It depends also what you mean by instant success - winning a trophy or does it mean winning the league? “For me, the next step would be winning a trophy. If that’s to happen then the manager - whoever that may be - must be able to invest in his squad.” Ally McCoist was speaking at a William Hill media event. William Hill is the proud sponsor of the Scottish Cup
Graeme Murty's future at Rangers should not hang on Old Firm semi-final, says Ally McCoist
Ally McCoist believes that Graeme Murty’s future at Ibrox should not hinge upon the outcome of Sunday’s Old Firm derby in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-finals, despite a strong hint from the Rangers chairman that such is the case - or even that the interim manager’s destiny has been decided already. Celtic are one victory away from securing a seventh successive Scottish title and a win on Sunday would bring the feat of consecutive clean sweeps of the domestic honours within their immediate grasp. Murty, who has never been in charge of a winning Rangers side against their arch-foes, has at least supervised two goalless league draws at Parkhead, although last month’s match at Ibrox ended in the disappointment of defeat by a 10-man Celtic team. This week, Dave King, the Rangers chairman, declared in a message to season ticket holders that a new manager would be expected to deliver instant reward. “Whoever is appointed must be able to meet the unique challenges of managing Rangers and ensuring immediate success,” King said. “It is a priority that we commence next season with the best appointment we can make and that we move forward rapidly.” The timing of King’s comment raises questions. The Ibrox board is known to be identifying targets for the manager’s job, but there is a significant element of risk in saying so just before Murty’s last chance to prevent Celtic acquiring a second successive Scottish treble. “The feeling seems to be that it’s a defining game, and that’s not necessarily correct in my opinion,” McCoist said. “Celtic are the best team in the country at present. Rangers chairman, Dave King, has hinted that Murty's future at Ibrox hinges on victory in the Old Firm Scottish Cup semi-final Credit: Steve Welsh/Getty Images “A lot of people expect them to win the game regardless. It’s probably true that if Graeme manages to win he stands a better chance of getting the job, but it would be wrong, in my opinion, to judge the man over one game. “Any fair-minded person would look at his overall performance which I think has been good. His signings have been good and there has certainly been an improvement in terms of performances although, at Rangers, you are only ever one game away from a crisis. “Losing to Celtic, losing to Kilmarnock was not ideal, but it shouldn’t be as simple as to say that because of that he doesn’t get the job. It would be extremely difficult to keep it quiet if a decision had been made. “Dave King will let everyone know when the time is right what the plans to move forward will be. The timing was perhaps a little bit strange but he hasn’t said that Graeme isn’t getting the job. Ally McCoist says whether the next Rangers manager is successful or not depends on his ability to spend Credit: Danny Lawson/PA Wire “People are jumping to conclusions. It’s difficult for me to say whether he’s done enough because I don’t know what the options are. What I would say is that I don’t think Graeme has done his chances any harm at all. “I’ve heard the rumours about Frank de Boer and Derek McInnes has been mentioned again as has Alan Pardew. There is value in continuity as long as things are progressing in the right manner and you have to say Rangers are doing that. “The question for the board is, ‘Are they doing it quickly enough?' And if not, do they believe someone else could come in and do it faster? “On another day, Rangers could have won the last two Old Firm games. Morelos missed a great chance at Celtic Park and I felt in the last game Celtic only really took control when they went down to 10 men. “Rangers had a chance at 2-2 and they should certainly have made it 3-3. “The gap has undoubtedly closed, whether it’s closed enough for Dave King and the board only time will tell. “It depends also what you mean by instant success - winning a trophy or does it mean winning the league? “For me, the next step would be winning a trophy. If that’s to happen then the manager - whoever that may be - must be able to invest in his squad.” Ally McCoist was speaking at a William Hill media event. William Hill is the proud sponsor of the Scottish Cup
Ally McCoist believes that Graeme Murty’s future at Ibrox should not hinge upon the outcome of Sunday’s Old Firm derby in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-finals, despite a strong hint from the Rangers chairman that such is the case - or even that the interim manager’s destiny has been decided already. Celtic are one victory away from securing a seventh successive Scottish title and a win on Sunday would bring the feat of consecutive clean sweeps of the domestic honours within their immediate grasp. Murty, who has never been in charge of a winning Rangers side against their arch-foes, has at least supervised two goalless league draws at Parkhead, although last month’s match at Ibrox ended in the disappointment of defeat by a 10-man Celtic team. This week, Dave King, the Rangers chairman, declared in a message to season ticket holders that a new manager would be expected to deliver instant reward. “Whoever is appointed must be able to meet the unique challenges of managing Rangers and ensuring immediate success,” King said. “It is a priority that we commence next season with the best appointment we can make and that we move forward rapidly.” The timing of King’s comment raises questions. The Ibrox board is known to be identifying targets for the manager’s job, but there is a significant element of risk in saying so just before Murty’s last chance to prevent Celtic acquiring a second successive Scottish treble. “The feeling seems to be that it’s a defining game, and that’s not necessarily correct in my opinion,” McCoist said. “Celtic are the best team in the country at present. Rangers chairman, Dave King, has hinted that Murty's future at Ibrox hinges on victory in the Old Firm Scottish Cup semi-final Credit: Steve Welsh/Getty Images “A lot of people expect them to win the game regardless. It’s probably true that if Graeme manages to win he stands a better chance of getting the job, but it would be wrong, in my opinion, to judge the man over one game. “Any fair-minded person would look at his overall performance which I think has been good. His signings have been good and there has certainly been an improvement in terms of performances although, at Rangers, you are only ever one game away from a crisis. “Losing to Celtic, losing to Kilmarnock was not ideal, but it shouldn’t be as simple as to say that because of that he doesn’t get the job. It would be extremely difficult to keep it quiet if a decision had been made. “Dave King will let everyone know when the time is right what the plans to move forward will be. The timing was perhaps a little bit strange but he hasn’t said that Graeme isn’t getting the job. Ally McCoist says whether the next Rangers manager is successful or not depends on his ability to spend Credit: Danny Lawson/PA Wire “People are jumping to conclusions. It’s difficult for me to say whether he’s done enough because I don’t know what the options are. What I would say is that I don’t think Graeme has done his chances any harm at all. “I’ve heard the rumours about Frank de Boer and Derek McInnes has been mentioned again as has Alan Pardew. There is value in continuity as long as things are progressing in the right manner and you have to say Rangers are doing that. “The question for the board is, ‘Are they doing it quickly enough?' And if not, do they believe someone else could come in and do it faster? “On another day, Rangers could have won the last two Old Firm games. Morelos missed a great chance at Celtic Park and I felt in the last game Celtic only really took control when they went down to 10 men. “Rangers had a chance at 2-2 and they should certainly have made it 3-3. “The gap has undoubtedly closed, whether it’s closed enough for Dave King and the board only time will tell. “It depends also what you mean by instant success - winning a trophy or does it mean winning the league? “For me, the next step would be winning a trophy. If that’s to happen then the manager - whoever that may be - must be able to invest in his squad.” Ally McCoist was speaking at a William Hill media event. William Hill is the proud sponsor of the Scottish Cup
Graeme Murty's future at Rangers should not hang on Old Firm semi-final, says Ally McCoist
Ally McCoist believes that Graeme Murty’s future at Ibrox should not hinge upon the outcome of Sunday’s Old Firm derby in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-finals, despite a strong hint from the Rangers chairman that such is the case - or even that the interim manager’s destiny has been decided already. Celtic are one victory away from securing a seventh successive Scottish title and a win on Sunday would bring the feat of consecutive clean sweeps of the domestic honours within their immediate grasp. Murty, who has never been in charge of a winning Rangers side against their arch-foes, has at least supervised two goalless league draws at Parkhead, although last month’s match at Ibrox ended in the disappointment of defeat by a 10-man Celtic team. This week, Dave King, the Rangers chairman, declared in a message to season ticket holders that a new manager would be expected to deliver instant reward. “Whoever is appointed must be able to meet the unique challenges of managing Rangers and ensuring immediate success,” King said. “It is a priority that we commence next season with the best appointment we can make and that we move forward rapidly.” The timing of King’s comment raises questions. The Ibrox board is known to be identifying targets for the manager’s job, but there is a significant element of risk in saying so just before Murty’s last chance to prevent Celtic acquiring a second successive Scottish treble. “The feeling seems to be that it’s a defining game, and that’s not necessarily correct in my opinion,” McCoist said. “Celtic are the best team in the country at present. Rangers chairman, Dave King, has hinted that Murty's future at Ibrox hinges on victory in the Old Firm Scottish Cup semi-final Credit: Steve Welsh/Getty Images “A lot of people expect them to win the game regardless. It’s probably true that if Graeme manages to win he stands a better chance of getting the job, but it would be wrong, in my opinion, to judge the man over one game. “Any fair-minded person would look at his overall performance which I think has been good. His signings have been good and there has certainly been an improvement in terms of performances although, at Rangers, you are only ever one game away from a crisis. “Losing to Celtic, losing to Kilmarnock was not ideal, but it shouldn’t be as simple as to say that because of that he doesn’t get the job. It would be extremely difficult to keep it quiet if a decision had been made. “Dave King will let everyone know when the time is right what the plans to move forward will be. The timing was perhaps a little bit strange but he hasn’t said that Graeme isn’t getting the job. Ally McCoist says whether the next Rangers manager is successful or not depends on his ability to spend Credit: Danny Lawson/PA Wire “People are jumping to conclusions. It’s difficult for me to say whether he’s done enough because I don’t know what the options are. What I would say is that I don’t think Graeme has done his chances any harm at all. “I’ve heard the rumours about Frank de Boer and Derek McInnes has been mentioned again as has Alan Pardew. There is value in continuity as long as things are progressing in the right manner and you have to say Rangers are doing that. “The question for the board is, ‘Are they doing it quickly enough?' And if not, do they believe someone else could come in and do it faster? “On another day, Rangers could have won the last two Old Firm games. Morelos missed a great chance at Celtic Park and I felt in the last game Celtic only really took control when they went down to 10 men. “Rangers had a chance at 2-2 and they should certainly have made it 3-3. “The gap has undoubtedly closed, whether it’s closed enough for Dave King and the board only time will tell. “It depends also what you mean by instant success - winning a trophy or does it mean winning the league? “For me, the next step would be winning a trophy. If that’s to happen then the manager - whoever that may be - must be able to invest in his squad.” Ally McCoist was speaking at a William Hill media event. William Hill is the proud sponsor of the Scottish Cup
Far from being troubled if he sees some of his players close to meltdown before next week’s Old Firm collision at Hampden Park, Graeme Murty will be relieved that Rangers’ build-up is going to plan. The William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final will be the Ibrox club’s last chance to prevent Celtic closing in on the unprecedented achievement of consecutive domestic trebles. For Murty, the looming showdown has evoked recollections of the mind games he employed as a footballer, ahead of such occasions. “As a player, I knew how to get myself to that state - I performed best about three or four percent short of panic,” he disclosed. “Anything more than that and I was too hyper and expended my energy straight away, which can happen in big games. Anything less than that and I felt really lethargic. You need to get yourself right into that zone to give yourself the best chance of performing, regardless of all the stuff around it. “You have to be walk on to that football pitch ready, prepped and at the right state of arousal to go and hit max and it’s our job to make sure that the players do that. I’ll be trying to get myself to that state on the side line.” Murty has a mixed record in charge of Rangers against the Hoops. In his first spell as interim manager, between the tenures of Mark Warburton and Pedro Caixinha he left Parkhead with an unexpected share of the points after a 1-1 draw and he repeated the feat in a goalless encounter in December. Murty wants his Rangers players to get into battle mode for the Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic Credit: PA A run of good form going into the most recent derby extended as far as Rangers going 1-0 up at Ibrox last month, an occurrence which almost overwhelmed Murty. “I must say that I’ve never experienced anything like the noise that hit me when we scored the goal after three or four minutes,” he said. “Being that bit removed at Hampden, where you’re further away from the crowd, I believe will allow me a bit more clarity in my thoughts to concentrate on remaining calm and giving the guys what they need if that’s what I need to do. Other than that, it will be a new experience for me. I’ll be like a sponge, I’ll soak everything up and hopefully the output will match the needs of the tie.” Asked if he felt that Rangers had been overconfident ahead of the game on March 11, Murty said: “I’m not sure our approach was any different. People came into the ground who had seen us in good form. They’d seen us score lots of goals and we were quite open. “We went toe to toe with Celtic in a football match to try to get one over on them. I thought that we represented most of our values quite well, although we didn’t come up with a positive result. “We have to make sure our level of performance matches the game plan. We have to be better at matching their threats because they have quality players all over the pitch. We have to understand that and adjust our game accordingly. “A clean sheet would be fantastic. So same again, because I’ve got no doubt that we possess the ability to go and hurt them, but they have such good players and I’m not sure how many others in the league could go and score a goal like Rogic scored. Rangers swept Dundee aside at Ibrox Credit: PA “We have to be tighter. We have to be more compact without the ball, while still posing them the threat that we did with the ball. But for the width of a goalpost, everything could be very, very different right now.” Rangers got their first league win since before the March derby when they rolled over Dundee at Ibrox. The Dens Park side travelled to Glasgow for the second time in three days, buoyed by their goalless draw against Celtic on Wednesday, but fell behind to a Kenny Miller goal before the break and were buried afterwards by strikes from Alfredo Morelos, Jamie Murphy and Daniel Candeias. The win put Rangers back in second place in the table, ahead of Aberdeen on goal difference after the Dons lost to Hearts at Tynecastle, where Steven Naismith and David Milinkovic were the scorers. Elsewhere, Partick Thistle are a point adrift of Ross County at the bottom. The Jags lost 1-0 at home to Stuart Findlay’s goal for Kilmarnock, while Billy McKay put County ahead against Hibs in Dingwall, before Oli Shaw’s late equaliser. The only goalless game of the day in the Scottish Premiership was between St Johnstone and Motherwell in Perth. Celtic can go 13 points clear with five games left if they beat Accies in Sunday's lunchtime kick-off at Hamilton.
Graeme Murty turns attention to Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic after Rangers sweep Dundee aside
Far from being troubled if he sees some of his players close to meltdown before next week’s Old Firm collision at Hampden Park, Graeme Murty will be relieved that Rangers’ build-up is going to plan. The William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final will be the Ibrox club’s last chance to prevent Celtic closing in on the unprecedented achievement of consecutive domestic trebles. For Murty, the looming showdown has evoked recollections of the mind games he employed as a footballer, ahead of such occasions. “As a player, I knew how to get myself to that state - I performed best about three or four percent short of panic,” he disclosed. “Anything more than that and I was too hyper and expended my energy straight away, which can happen in big games. Anything less than that and I felt really lethargic. You need to get yourself right into that zone to give yourself the best chance of performing, regardless of all the stuff around it. “You have to be walk on to that football pitch ready, prepped and at the right state of arousal to go and hit max and it’s our job to make sure that the players do that. I’ll be trying to get myself to that state on the side line.” Murty has a mixed record in charge of Rangers against the Hoops. In his first spell as interim manager, between the tenures of Mark Warburton and Pedro Caixinha he left Parkhead with an unexpected share of the points after a 1-1 draw and he repeated the feat in a goalless encounter in December. Murty wants his Rangers players to get into battle mode for the Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic Credit: PA A run of good form going into the most recent derby extended as far as Rangers going 1-0 up at Ibrox last month, an occurrence which almost overwhelmed Murty. “I must say that I’ve never experienced anything like the noise that hit me when we scored the goal after three or four minutes,” he said. “Being that bit removed at Hampden, where you’re further away from the crowd, I believe will allow me a bit more clarity in my thoughts to concentrate on remaining calm and giving the guys what they need if that’s what I need to do. Other than that, it will be a new experience for me. I’ll be like a sponge, I’ll soak everything up and hopefully the output will match the needs of the tie.” Asked if he felt that Rangers had been overconfident ahead of the game on March 11, Murty said: “I’m not sure our approach was any different. People came into the ground who had seen us in good form. They’d seen us score lots of goals and we were quite open. “We went toe to toe with Celtic in a football match to try to get one over on them. I thought that we represented most of our values quite well, although we didn’t come up with a positive result. “We have to make sure our level of performance matches the game plan. We have to be better at matching their threats because they have quality players all over the pitch. We have to understand that and adjust our game accordingly. “A clean sheet would be fantastic. So same again, because I’ve got no doubt that we possess the ability to go and hurt them, but they have such good players and I’m not sure how many others in the league could go and score a goal like Rogic scored. Rangers swept Dundee aside at Ibrox Credit: PA “We have to be tighter. We have to be more compact without the ball, while still posing them the threat that we did with the ball. But for the width of a goalpost, everything could be very, very different right now.” Rangers got their first league win since before the March derby when they rolled over Dundee at Ibrox. The Dens Park side travelled to Glasgow for the second time in three days, buoyed by their goalless draw against Celtic on Wednesday, but fell behind to a Kenny Miller goal before the break and were buried afterwards by strikes from Alfredo Morelos, Jamie Murphy and Daniel Candeias. The win put Rangers back in second place in the table, ahead of Aberdeen on goal difference after the Dons lost to Hearts at Tynecastle, where Steven Naismith and David Milinkovic were the scorers. Elsewhere, Partick Thistle are a point adrift of Ross County at the bottom. The Jags lost 1-0 at home to Stuart Findlay’s goal for Kilmarnock, while Billy McKay put County ahead against Hibs in Dingwall, before Oli Shaw’s late equaliser. The only goalless game of the day in the Scottish Premiership was between St Johnstone and Motherwell in Perth. Celtic can go 13 points clear with five games left if they beat Accies in Sunday's lunchtime kick-off at Hamilton.
Far from being troubled if he sees some of his players close to meltdown before next week’s Old Firm collision at Hampden Park, Graeme Murty will be relieved that Rangers’ build-up is going to plan. The William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final will be the Ibrox club’s last chance to prevent Celtic closing in on the unprecedented achievement of consecutive domestic trebles. For Murty, the looming showdown has evoked recollections of the mind games he employed as a footballer, ahead of such occasions. “As a player, I knew how to get myself to that state - I performed best about three or four percent short of panic,” he disclosed. “Anything more than that and I was too hyper and expended my energy straight away, which can happen in big games. Anything less than that and I felt really lethargic. You need to get yourself right into that zone to give yourself the best chance of performing, regardless of all the stuff around it. “You have to be walk on to that football pitch ready, prepped and at the right state of arousal to go and hit max and it’s our job to make sure that the players do that. I’ll be trying to get myself to that state on the side line.” Murty has a mixed record in charge of Rangers against the Hoops. In his first spell as interim manager, between the tenures of Mark Warburton and Pedro Caixinha he left Parkhead with an unexpected share of the points after a 1-1 draw and he repeated the feat in a goalless encounter in December. Murty wants his Rangers players to get into battle mode for the Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic Credit: PA A run of good form going into the most recent derby extended as far as Rangers going 1-0 up at Ibrox last month, an occurrence which almost overwhelmed Murty. “I must say that I’ve never experienced anything like the noise that hit me when we scored the goal after three or four minutes,” he said. “Being that bit removed at Hampden, where you’re further away from the crowd, I believe will allow me a bit more clarity in my thoughts to concentrate on remaining calm and giving the guys what they need if that’s what I need to do. Other than that, it will be a new experience for me. I’ll be like a sponge, I’ll soak everything up and hopefully the output will match the needs of the tie.” Asked if he felt that Rangers had been overconfident ahead of the game on March 11, Murty said: “I’m not sure our approach was any different. People came into the ground who had seen us in good form. They’d seen us score lots of goals and we were quite open. “We went toe to toe with Celtic in a football match to try to get one over on them. I thought that we represented most of our values quite well, although we didn’t come up with a positive result. “We have to make sure our level of performance matches the game plan. We have to be better at matching their threats because they have quality players all over the pitch. We have to understand that and adjust our game accordingly. “A clean sheet would be fantastic. So same again, because I’ve got no doubt that we possess the ability to go and hurt them, but they have such good players and I’m not sure how many others in the league could go and score a goal like Rogic scored. Rangers swept Dundee aside at Ibrox Credit: PA “We have to be tighter. We have to be more compact without the ball, while still posing them the threat that we did with the ball. But for the width of a goalpost, everything could be very, very different right now.” Rangers got their first league win since before the March derby when they rolled over Dundee at Ibrox. The Dens Park side travelled to Glasgow for the second time in three days, buoyed by their goalless draw against Celtic on Wednesday, but fell behind to a Kenny Miller goal before the break and were buried afterwards by strikes from Alfredo Morelos, Jamie Murphy and Daniel Candeias. The win put Rangers back in second place in the table, ahead of Aberdeen on goal difference after the Dons lost to Hearts at Tynecastle, where Steven Naismith and David Milinkovic were the scorers. Elsewhere, Partick Thistle are a point adrift of Ross County at the bottom. The Jags lost 1-0 at home to Stuart Findlay’s goal for Kilmarnock, while Billy McKay put County ahead against Hibs in Dingwall, before Oli Shaw’s late equaliser. The only goalless game of the day in the Scottish Premiership was between St Johnstone and Motherwell in Perth. Celtic can go 13 points clear with five games left if they beat Accies in Sunday's lunchtime kick-off at Hamilton.
Graeme Murty turns attention to Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic after Rangers sweep Dundee aside
Far from being troubled if he sees some of his players close to meltdown before next week’s Old Firm collision at Hampden Park, Graeme Murty will be relieved that Rangers’ build-up is going to plan. The William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final will be the Ibrox club’s last chance to prevent Celtic closing in on the unprecedented achievement of consecutive domestic trebles. For Murty, the looming showdown has evoked recollections of the mind games he employed as a footballer, ahead of such occasions. “As a player, I knew how to get myself to that state - I performed best about three or four percent short of panic,” he disclosed. “Anything more than that and I was too hyper and expended my energy straight away, which can happen in big games. Anything less than that and I felt really lethargic. You need to get yourself right into that zone to give yourself the best chance of performing, regardless of all the stuff around it. “You have to be walk on to that football pitch ready, prepped and at the right state of arousal to go and hit max and it’s our job to make sure that the players do that. I’ll be trying to get myself to that state on the side line.” Murty has a mixed record in charge of Rangers against the Hoops. In his first spell as interim manager, between the tenures of Mark Warburton and Pedro Caixinha he left Parkhead with an unexpected share of the points after a 1-1 draw and he repeated the feat in a goalless encounter in December. Murty wants his Rangers players to get into battle mode for the Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic Credit: PA A run of good form going into the most recent derby extended as far as Rangers going 1-0 up at Ibrox last month, an occurrence which almost overwhelmed Murty. “I must say that I’ve never experienced anything like the noise that hit me when we scored the goal after three or four minutes,” he said. “Being that bit removed at Hampden, where you’re further away from the crowd, I believe will allow me a bit more clarity in my thoughts to concentrate on remaining calm and giving the guys what they need if that’s what I need to do. Other than that, it will be a new experience for me. I’ll be like a sponge, I’ll soak everything up and hopefully the output will match the needs of the tie.” Asked if he felt that Rangers had been overconfident ahead of the game on March 11, Murty said: “I’m not sure our approach was any different. People came into the ground who had seen us in good form. They’d seen us score lots of goals and we were quite open. “We went toe to toe with Celtic in a football match to try to get one over on them. I thought that we represented most of our values quite well, although we didn’t come up with a positive result. “We have to make sure our level of performance matches the game plan. We have to be better at matching their threats because they have quality players all over the pitch. We have to understand that and adjust our game accordingly. “A clean sheet would be fantastic. So same again, because I’ve got no doubt that we possess the ability to go and hurt them, but they have such good players and I’m not sure how many others in the league could go and score a goal like Rogic scored. Rangers swept Dundee aside at Ibrox Credit: PA “We have to be tighter. We have to be more compact without the ball, while still posing them the threat that we did with the ball. But for the width of a goalpost, everything could be very, very different right now.” Rangers got their first league win since before the March derby when they rolled over Dundee at Ibrox. The Dens Park side travelled to Glasgow for the second time in three days, buoyed by their goalless draw against Celtic on Wednesday, but fell behind to a Kenny Miller goal before the break and were buried afterwards by strikes from Alfredo Morelos, Jamie Murphy and Daniel Candeias. The win put Rangers back in second place in the table, ahead of Aberdeen on goal difference after the Dons lost to Hearts at Tynecastle, where Steven Naismith and David Milinkovic were the scorers. Elsewhere, Partick Thistle are a point adrift of Ross County at the bottom. The Jags lost 1-0 at home to Stuart Findlay’s goal for Kilmarnock, while Billy McKay put County ahead against Hibs in Dingwall, before Oli Shaw’s late equaliser. The only goalless game of the day in the Scottish Premiership was between St Johnstone and Motherwell in Perth. Celtic can go 13 points clear with five games left if they beat Accies in Sunday's lunchtime kick-off at Hamilton.
Far from being troubled if he sees some of his players close to meltdown before next week’s Old Firm collision at Hampden Park, Graeme Murty will be relieved that Rangers’ build-up is going to plan. The William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final will be the Ibrox club’s last chance to prevent Celtic closing in on the unprecedented achievement of consecutive domestic trebles. For Murty, the looming showdown has evoked recollections of the mind games he employed as a footballer, ahead of such occasions. “As a player, I knew how to get myself to that state - I performed best about three or four percent short of panic,” he disclosed. “Anything more than that and I was too hyper and expended my energy straight away, which can happen in big games. Anything less than that and I felt really lethargic. You need to get yourself right into that zone to give yourself the best chance of performing, regardless of all the stuff around it. “You have to be walk on to that football pitch ready, prepped and at the right state of arousal to go and hit max and it’s our job to make sure that the players do that. I’ll be trying to get myself to that state on the side line.” Murty has a mixed record in charge of Rangers against the Hoops. In his first spell as interim manager, between the tenures of Mark Warburton and Pedro Caixinha he left Parkhead with an unexpected share of the points after a 1-1 draw and he repeated the feat in a goalless encounter in December. Murty wants his Rangers players to get into battle mode for the Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic Credit: PA A run of good form going into the most recent derby extended as far as Rangers going 1-0 up at Ibrox last month, an occurrence which almost overwhelmed Murty. “I must say that I’ve never experienced anything like the noise that hit me when we scored the goal after three or four minutes,” he said. “Being that bit removed at Hampden, where you’re further away from the crowd, I believe will allow me a bit more clarity in my thoughts to concentrate on remaining calm and giving the guys what they need if that’s what I need to do. Other than that, it will be a new experience for me. I’ll be like a sponge, I’ll soak everything up and hopefully the output will match the needs of the tie.” Asked if he felt that Rangers had been overconfident ahead of the game on March 11, Murty said: “I’m not sure our approach was any different. People came into the ground who had seen us in good form. They’d seen us score lots of goals and we were quite open. “We went toe to toe with Celtic in a football match to try to get one over on them. I thought that we represented most of our values quite well, although we didn’t come up with a positive result. “We have to make sure our level of performance matches the game plan. We have to be better at matching their threats because they have quality players all over the pitch. We have to understand that and adjust our game accordingly. “A clean sheet would be fantastic. So same again, because I’ve got no doubt that we possess the ability to go and hurt them, but they have such good players and I’m not sure how many others in the league could go and score a goal like Rogic scored. Rangers swept Dundee aside at Ibrox Credit: PA “We have to be tighter. We have to be more compact without the ball, while still posing them the threat that we did with the ball. But for the width of a goalpost, everything could be very, very different right now.” Rangers got their first league win since before the March derby when they rolled over Dundee at Ibrox. The Dens Park side travelled to Glasgow for the second time in three days, buoyed by their goalless draw against Celtic on Wednesday, but fell behind to a Kenny Miller goal before the break and were buried afterwards by strikes from Alfredo Morelos, Jamie Murphy and Daniel Candeias. The win put Rangers back in second place in the table, ahead of Aberdeen on goal difference after the Dons lost to Hearts at Tynecastle, where Steven Naismith and David Milinkovic were the scorers. Elsewhere, Partick Thistle are a point adrift of Ross County at the bottom. The Jags lost 1-0 at home to Stuart Findlay’s goal for Kilmarnock, while Billy McKay put County ahead against Hibs in Dingwall, before Oli Shaw’s late equaliser. The only goalless game of the day in the Scottish Premiership was between St Johnstone and Motherwell in Perth. Celtic can go 13 points clear with five games left if they beat Accies in Sunday's lunchtime kick-off at Hamilton.
Graeme Murty turns attention to Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic after Rangers sweep Dundee aside
Far from being troubled if he sees some of his players close to meltdown before next week’s Old Firm collision at Hampden Park, Graeme Murty will be relieved that Rangers’ build-up is going to plan. The William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final will be the Ibrox club’s last chance to prevent Celtic closing in on the unprecedented achievement of consecutive domestic trebles. For Murty, the looming showdown has evoked recollections of the mind games he employed as a footballer, ahead of such occasions. “As a player, I knew how to get myself to that state - I performed best about three or four percent short of panic,” he disclosed. “Anything more than that and I was too hyper and expended my energy straight away, which can happen in big games. Anything less than that and I felt really lethargic. You need to get yourself right into that zone to give yourself the best chance of performing, regardless of all the stuff around it. “You have to be walk on to that football pitch ready, prepped and at the right state of arousal to go and hit max and it’s our job to make sure that the players do that. I’ll be trying to get myself to that state on the side line.” Murty has a mixed record in charge of Rangers against the Hoops. In his first spell as interim manager, between the tenures of Mark Warburton and Pedro Caixinha he left Parkhead with an unexpected share of the points after a 1-1 draw and he repeated the feat in a goalless encounter in December. Murty wants his Rangers players to get into battle mode for the Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic Credit: PA A run of good form going into the most recent derby extended as far as Rangers going 1-0 up at Ibrox last month, an occurrence which almost overwhelmed Murty. “I must say that I’ve never experienced anything like the noise that hit me when we scored the goal after three or four minutes,” he said. “Being that bit removed at Hampden, where you’re further away from the crowd, I believe will allow me a bit more clarity in my thoughts to concentrate on remaining calm and giving the guys what they need if that’s what I need to do. Other than that, it will be a new experience for me. I’ll be like a sponge, I’ll soak everything up and hopefully the output will match the needs of the tie.” Asked if he felt that Rangers had been overconfident ahead of the game on March 11, Murty said: “I’m not sure our approach was any different. People came into the ground who had seen us in good form. They’d seen us score lots of goals and we were quite open. “We went toe to toe with Celtic in a football match to try to get one over on them. I thought that we represented most of our values quite well, although we didn’t come up with a positive result. “We have to make sure our level of performance matches the game plan. We have to be better at matching their threats because they have quality players all over the pitch. We have to understand that and adjust our game accordingly. “A clean sheet would be fantastic. So same again, because I’ve got no doubt that we possess the ability to go and hurt them, but they have such good players and I’m not sure how many others in the league could go and score a goal like Rogic scored. Rangers swept Dundee aside at Ibrox Credit: PA “We have to be tighter. We have to be more compact without the ball, while still posing them the threat that we did with the ball. But for the width of a goalpost, everything could be very, very different right now.” Rangers got their first league win since before the March derby when they rolled over Dundee at Ibrox. The Dens Park side travelled to Glasgow for the second time in three days, buoyed by their goalless draw against Celtic on Wednesday, but fell behind to a Kenny Miller goal before the break and were buried afterwards by strikes from Alfredo Morelos, Jamie Murphy and Daniel Candeias. The win put Rangers back in second place in the table, ahead of Aberdeen on goal difference after the Dons lost to Hearts at Tynecastle, where Steven Naismith and David Milinkovic were the scorers. Elsewhere, Partick Thistle are a point adrift of Ross County at the bottom. The Jags lost 1-0 at home to Stuart Findlay’s goal for Kilmarnock, while Billy McKay put County ahead against Hibs in Dingwall, before Oli Shaw’s late equaliser. The only goalless game of the day in the Scottish Premiership was between St Johnstone and Motherwell in Perth. Celtic can go 13 points clear with five games left if they beat Accies in Sunday's lunchtime kick-off at Hamilton.
Neil McCann has never earned a living in the freight transfer business, but he has the character for it, to judge by the ease with which the Dundee manager dispatched a sizeable chunk of baggage to his opposite number at Ibrox. Dundee have taken two points from a possible nine in their three most recent outings and would be in immediate peril of dropping into the Scottish Premiership play-off place had it not been for Partick Thistle’s midweek defeat at Ross County, which has opened a four-point gap between the two bottom clubs and the Dens Park side. Rangers, meanwhile, have shed eight points in three games against Celtic, Kilmarnock and Motherwell and have slipped back to third in the table, a circumstance which McCann interpreted in terms of the stress borne by Graeme Murty, who is in charge at Ibrox on an interim basis. “I’d imagine Graeme would be under an enormous amount of pressure because it’s a short-term appointment,” McCann said. “The expectation levels at Rangers are enormous anyway so he probably has to get results quicker. McCann was encouraged by Dundee's display at Celtic Park Credit: PA “I certainly think he has grown into that job since the last time he was here and we beat them (in November). He probably looks a little more comfortable in his own skin as being Rangers manager. To be a manager of an Old Firm team, I can only imagine it must be an incredible thing to deal with.” Ahead of Dundee’s visit to Ibrox on Saturday, McCann has been buoyed by his players’ sound showing in Wednesday’s goalless draw at Celtic Park, where Murty was impressed by their display. “Dundee were excellent at Celtic Park in midweek,” said the Rangers manager. “Their organisation, structure, intensity and work rate for one another was great and they caused Celtic a threat at times so we have to be aware of what they’re going to do, but we have to go and push the issue and press the game and make sure we play the right intensity and tempo to put them on the back foot and make them as uncomfortable as possible.” Aberdeen leapfrogged Rangers into second place in midweek and, given that the aim specified by the Ibrox chairman, Dave King, was to finish midway between the Dons and Celtic, Murty has a daunting task to achieve that target, especially after having had to berate his players at half-time at Motherwell last week, before they recovered to earn a 2-2 draw. “I think it will go down to the wire,” he said. “Everyone is playing well and everyone is capable of beating one another. It’s good for the league, it’s really good for the neutral. Murty's Rangers side have slipped back to the third in the Scottish Premiership Credit: PA “I don’t think it’s necessarily good for the managers in terms of stress levels, but it’s the most competitive it’s been in a while. Sometimes you are scratching your head as to why it doesn’t translate into a good performance.” In Rangers’ case, one obvious factor was defeat by the odd goal in five to a Celtic side reduced to 10 men in the Old Firm derby last month. “Given the expectancy in the air going into the game - from the players, from the fans, from Ibrox - going up twice and coming away with a negative in that game has possibly had more of an impact that we had foreseen,” Murty said. “But we have to reinforce the players’ belief in one another in themselves and what we’re doing to continue our journey on an upward path.” Since he was asked to take charge of the team until the end of the season, after the hapless Pedro Caixinha was sacked in October, Murty has presented a courteous and level-headed demeanour, both to the public and his players. The notion that he is perennially mild-mannered, though, evaporated during his interval rant at Fir Park, following an embarrassing display of ineptitude which Motherwell exploited to take a 2-0 lead. “That’s a side they wouldn’t have seen of me,” he said. “We’re all capable of being many different people. You have to be able to utilise the right tool for the right situation and the time was right I felt to be a wee bit angry. “It hasn’t been necessary before. When I’ve had to change things before it’s been more tactical or personnel based. “I just felt we didn’t stand up to the challenge in the first half and I said to the players they had to step up because I couldn’t do it for them. You can cajole and change shape structurally but once they cross the white line the players have to step up and do it because I can’t pass the ball and put it in the net for them.”
Dundee manager Neil McCann happy to let Rangers' Graeme Murty take the pressure ahead of Ibrox game
Neil McCann has never earned a living in the freight transfer business, but he has the character for it, to judge by the ease with which the Dundee manager dispatched a sizeable chunk of baggage to his opposite number at Ibrox. Dundee have taken two points from a possible nine in their three most recent outings and would be in immediate peril of dropping into the Scottish Premiership play-off place had it not been for Partick Thistle’s midweek defeat at Ross County, which has opened a four-point gap between the two bottom clubs and the Dens Park side. Rangers, meanwhile, have shed eight points in three games against Celtic, Kilmarnock and Motherwell and have slipped back to third in the table, a circumstance which McCann interpreted in terms of the stress borne by Graeme Murty, who is in charge at Ibrox on an interim basis. “I’d imagine Graeme would be under an enormous amount of pressure because it’s a short-term appointment,” McCann said. “The expectation levels at Rangers are enormous anyway so he probably has to get results quicker. McCann was encouraged by Dundee's display at Celtic Park Credit: PA “I certainly think he has grown into that job since the last time he was here and we beat them (in November). He probably looks a little more comfortable in his own skin as being Rangers manager. To be a manager of an Old Firm team, I can only imagine it must be an incredible thing to deal with.” Ahead of Dundee’s visit to Ibrox on Saturday, McCann has been buoyed by his players’ sound showing in Wednesday’s goalless draw at Celtic Park, where Murty was impressed by their display. “Dundee were excellent at Celtic Park in midweek,” said the Rangers manager. “Their organisation, structure, intensity and work rate for one another was great and they caused Celtic a threat at times so we have to be aware of what they’re going to do, but we have to go and push the issue and press the game and make sure we play the right intensity and tempo to put them on the back foot and make them as uncomfortable as possible.” Aberdeen leapfrogged Rangers into second place in midweek and, given that the aim specified by the Ibrox chairman, Dave King, was to finish midway between the Dons and Celtic, Murty has a daunting task to achieve that target, especially after having had to berate his players at half-time at Motherwell last week, before they recovered to earn a 2-2 draw. “I think it will go down to the wire,” he said. “Everyone is playing well and everyone is capable of beating one another. It’s good for the league, it’s really good for the neutral. Murty's Rangers side have slipped back to the third in the Scottish Premiership Credit: PA “I don’t think it’s necessarily good for the managers in terms of stress levels, but it’s the most competitive it’s been in a while. Sometimes you are scratching your head as to why it doesn’t translate into a good performance.” In Rangers’ case, one obvious factor was defeat by the odd goal in five to a Celtic side reduced to 10 men in the Old Firm derby last month. “Given the expectancy in the air going into the game - from the players, from the fans, from Ibrox - going up twice and coming away with a negative in that game has possibly had more of an impact that we had foreseen,” Murty said. “But we have to reinforce the players’ belief in one another in themselves and what we’re doing to continue our journey on an upward path.” Since he was asked to take charge of the team until the end of the season, after the hapless Pedro Caixinha was sacked in October, Murty has presented a courteous and level-headed demeanour, both to the public and his players. The notion that he is perennially mild-mannered, though, evaporated during his interval rant at Fir Park, following an embarrassing display of ineptitude which Motherwell exploited to take a 2-0 lead. “That’s a side they wouldn’t have seen of me,” he said. “We’re all capable of being many different people. You have to be able to utilise the right tool for the right situation and the time was right I felt to be a wee bit angry. “It hasn’t been necessary before. When I’ve had to change things before it’s been more tactical or personnel based. “I just felt we didn’t stand up to the challenge in the first half and I said to the players they had to step up because I couldn’t do it for them. You can cajole and change shape structurally but once they cross the white line the players have to step up and do it because I can’t pass the ball and put it in the net for them.”
Neil McCann has never earned a living in the freight transfer business, but he has the character for it, to judge by the ease with which the Dundee manager dispatched a sizeable chunk of baggage to his opposite number at Ibrox. Dundee have taken two points from a possible nine in their three most recent outings and would be in immediate peril of dropping into the Scottish Premiership play-off place had it not been for Partick Thistle’s midweek defeat at Ross County, which has opened a four-point gap between the two bottom clubs and the Dens Park side. Rangers, meanwhile, have shed eight points in three games against Celtic, Kilmarnock and Motherwell and have slipped back to third in the table, a circumstance which McCann interpreted in terms of the stress borne by Graeme Murty, who is in charge at Ibrox on an interim basis. “I’d imagine Graeme would be under an enormous amount of pressure because it’s a short-term appointment,” McCann said. “The expectation levels at Rangers are enormous anyway so he probably has to get results quicker. McCann was encouraged by Dundee's display at Celtic Park Credit: PA “I certainly think he has grown into that job since the last time he was here and we beat them (in November). He probably looks a little more comfortable in his own skin as being Rangers manager. To be a manager of an Old Firm team, I can only imagine it must be an incredible thing to deal with.” Ahead of Dundee’s visit to Ibrox on Saturday, McCann has been buoyed by his players’ sound showing in Wednesday’s goalless draw at Celtic Park, where Murty was impressed by their display. “Dundee were excellent at Celtic Park in midweek,” said the Rangers manager. “Their organisation, structure, intensity and work rate for one another was great and they caused Celtic a threat at times so we have to be aware of what they’re going to do, but we have to go and push the issue and press the game and make sure we play the right intensity and tempo to put them on the back foot and make them as uncomfortable as possible.” Aberdeen leapfrogged Rangers into second place in midweek and, given that the aim specified by the Ibrox chairman, Dave King, was to finish midway between the Dons and Celtic, Murty has a daunting task to achieve that target, especially after having had to berate his players at half-time at Motherwell last week, before they recovered to earn a 2-2 draw. “I think it will go down to the wire,” he said. “Everyone is playing well and everyone is capable of beating one another. It’s good for the league, it’s really good for the neutral. Murty's Rangers side have slipped back to the third in the Scottish Premiership Credit: PA “I don’t think it’s necessarily good for the managers in terms of stress levels, but it’s the most competitive it’s been in a while. Sometimes you are scratching your head as to why it doesn’t translate into a good performance.” In Rangers’ case, one obvious factor was defeat by the odd goal in five to a Celtic side reduced to 10 men in the Old Firm derby last month. “Given the expectancy in the air going into the game - from the players, from the fans, from Ibrox - going up twice and coming away with a negative in that game has possibly had more of an impact that we had foreseen,” Murty said. “But we have to reinforce the players’ belief in one another in themselves and what we’re doing to continue our journey on an upward path.” Since he was asked to take charge of the team until the end of the season, after the hapless Pedro Caixinha was sacked in October, Murty has presented a courteous and level-headed demeanour, both to the public and his players. The notion that he is perennially mild-mannered, though, evaporated during his interval rant at Fir Park, following an embarrassing display of ineptitude which Motherwell exploited to take a 2-0 lead. “That’s a side they wouldn’t have seen of me,” he said. “We’re all capable of being many different people. You have to be able to utilise the right tool for the right situation and the time was right I felt to be a wee bit angry. “It hasn’t been necessary before. When I’ve had to change things before it’s been more tactical or personnel based. “I just felt we didn’t stand up to the challenge in the first half and I said to the players they had to step up because I couldn’t do it for them. You can cajole and change shape structurally but once they cross the white line the players have to step up and do it because I can’t pass the ball and put it in the net for them.”
Dundee manager Neil McCann happy to let Rangers' Graeme Murty take the pressure ahead of Ibrox game
Neil McCann has never earned a living in the freight transfer business, but he has the character for it, to judge by the ease with which the Dundee manager dispatched a sizeable chunk of baggage to his opposite number at Ibrox. Dundee have taken two points from a possible nine in their three most recent outings and would be in immediate peril of dropping into the Scottish Premiership play-off place had it not been for Partick Thistle’s midweek defeat at Ross County, which has opened a four-point gap between the two bottom clubs and the Dens Park side. Rangers, meanwhile, have shed eight points in three games against Celtic, Kilmarnock and Motherwell and have slipped back to third in the table, a circumstance which McCann interpreted in terms of the stress borne by Graeme Murty, who is in charge at Ibrox on an interim basis. “I’d imagine Graeme would be under an enormous amount of pressure because it’s a short-term appointment,” McCann said. “The expectation levels at Rangers are enormous anyway so he probably has to get results quicker. McCann was encouraged by Dundee's display at Celtic Park Credit: PA “I certainly think he has grown into that job since the last time he was here and we beat them (in November). He probably looks a little more comfortable in his own skin as being Rangers manager. To be a manager of an Old Firm team, I can only imagine it must be an incredible thing to deal with.” Ahead of Dundee’s visit to Ibrox on Saturday, McCann has been buoyed by his players’ sound showing in Wednesday’s goalless draw at Celtic Park, where Murty was impressed by their display. “Dundee were excellent at Celtic Park in midweek,” said the Rangers manager. “Their organisation, structure, intensity and work rate for one another was great and they caused Celtic a threat at times so we have to be aware of what they’re going to do, but we have to go and push the issue and press the game and make sure we play the right intensity and tempo to put them on the back foot and make them as uncomfortable as possible.” Aberdeen leapfrogged Rangers into second place in midweek and, given that the aim specified by the Ibrox chairman, Dave King, was to finish midway between the Dons and Celtic, Murty has a daunting task to achieve that target, especially after having had to berate his players at half-time at Motherwell last week, before they recovered to earn a 2-2 draw. “I think it will go down to the wire,” he said. “Everyone is playing well and everyone is capable of beating one another. It’s good for the league, it’s really good for the neutral. Murty's Rangers side have slipped back to the third in the Scottish Premiership Credit: PA “I don’t think it’s necessarily good for the managers in terms of stress levels, but it’s the most competitive it’s been in a while. Sometimes you are scratching your head as to why it doesn’t translate into a good performance.” In Rangers’ case, one obvious factor was defeat by the odd goal in five to a Celtic side reduced to 10 men in the Old Firm derby last month. “Given the expectancy in the air going into the game - from the players, from the fans, from Ibrox - going up twice and coming away with a negative in that game has possibly had more of an impact that we had foreseen,” Murty said. “But we have to reinforce the players’ belief in one another in themselves and what we’re doing to continue our journey on an upward path.” Since he was asked to take charge of the team until the end of the season, after the hapless Pedro Caixinha was sacked in October, Murty has presented a courteous and level-headed demeanour, both to the public and his players. The notion that he is perennially mild-mannered, though, evaporated during his interval rant at Fir Park, following an embarrassing display of ineptitude which Motherwell exploited to take a 2-0 lead. “That’s a side they wouldn’t have seen of me,” he said. “We’re all capable of being many different people. You have to be able to utilise the right tool for the right situation and the time was right I felt to be a wee bit angry. “It hasn’t been necessary before. When I’ve had to change things before it’s been more tactical or personnel based. “I just felt we didn’t stand up to the challenge in the first half and I said to the players they had to step up because I couldn’t do it for them. You can cajole and change shape structurally but once they cross the white line the players have to step up and do it because I can’t pass the ball and put it in the net for them.”
Neil McCann has never earned a living in the freight transfer business, but he has the character for it, to judge by the ease with which the Dundee manager dispatched a sizeable chunk of baggage to his opposite number at Ibrox. Dundee have taken two points from a possible nine in their three most recent outings and would be in immediate peril of dropping into the Scottish Premiership play-off place had it not been for Partick Thistle’s midweek defeat at Ross County, which has opened a four-point gap between the two bottom clubs and the Dens Park side. Rangers, meanwhile, have shed eight points in three games against Celtic, Kilmarnock and Motherwell and have slipped back to third in the table, a circumstance which McCann interpreted in terms of the stress borne by Graeme Murty, who is in charge at Ibrox on an interim basis. “I’d imagine Graeme would be under an enormous amount of pressure because it’s a short-term appointment,” McCann said. “The expectation levels at Rangers are enormous anyway so he probably has to get results quicker. McCann was encouraged by Dundee's display at Celtic Park Credit: PA “I certainly think he has grown into that job since the last time he was here and we beat them (in November). He probably looks a little more comfortable in his own skin as being Rangers manager. To be a manager of an Old Firm team, I can only imagine it must be an incredible thing to deal with.” Ahead of Dundee’s visit to Ibrox on Saturday, McCann has been buoyed by his players’ sound showing in Wednesday’s goalless draw at Celtic Park, where Murty was impressed by their display. “Dundee were excellent at Celtic Park in midweek,” said the Rangers manager. “Their organisation, structure, intensity and work rate for one another was great and they caused Celtic a threat at times so we have to be aware of what they’re going to do, but we have to go and push the issue and press the game and make sure we play the right intensity and tempo to put them on the back foot and make them as uncomfortable as possible.” Aberdeen leapfrogged Rangers into second place in midweek and, given that the aim specified by the Ibrox chairman, Dave King, was to finish midway between the Dons and Celtic, Murty has a daunting task to achieve that target, especially after having had to berate his players at half-time at Motherwell last week, before they recovered to earn a 2-2 draw. “I think it will go down to the wire,” he said. “Everyone is playing well and everyone is capable of beating one another. It’s good for the league, it’s really good for the neutral. Murty's Rangers side have slipped back to the third in the Scottish Premiership Credit: PA “I don’t think it’s necessarily good for the managers in terms of stress levels, but it’s the most competitive it’s been in a while. Sometimes you are scratching your head as to why it doesn’t translate into a good performance.” In Rangers’ case, one obvious factor was defeat by the odd goal in five to a Celtic side reduced to 10 men in the Old Firm derby last month. “Given the expectancy in the air going into the game - from the players, from the fans, from Ibrox - going up twice and coming away with a negative in that game has possibly had more of an impact that we had foreseen,” Murty said. “But we have to reinforce the players’ belief in one another in themselves and what we’re doing to continue our journey on an upward path.” Since he was asked to take charge of the team until the end of the season, after the hapless Pedro Caixinha was sacked in October, Murty has presented a courteous and level-headed demeanour, both to the public and his players. The notion that he is perennially mild-mannered, though, evaporated during his interval rant at Fir Park, following an embarrassing display of ineptitude which Motherwell exploited to take a 2-0 lead. “That’s a side they wouldn’t have seen of me,” he said. “We’re all capable of being many different people. You have to be able to utilise the right tool for the right situation and the time was right I felt to be a wee bit angry. “It hasn’t been necessary before. When I’ve had to change things before it’s been more tactical or personnel based. “I just felt we didn’t stand up to the challenge in the first half and I said to the players they had to step up because I couldn’t do it for them. You can cajole and change shape structurally but once they cross the white line the players have to step up and do it because I can’t pass the ball and put it in the net for them.”
Dundee manager Neil McCann happy to let Rangers' Graeme Murty take the pressure ahead of Ibrox game
Neil McCann has never earned a living in the freight transfer business, but he has the character for it, to judge by the ease with which the Dundee manager dispatched a sizeable chunk of baggage to his opposite number at Ibrox. Dundee have taken two points from a possible nine in their three most recent outings and would be in immediate peril of dropping into the Scottish Premiership play-off place had it not been for Partick Thistle’s midweek defeat at Ross County, which has opened a four-point gap between the two bottom clubs and the Dens Park side. Rangers, meanwhile, have shed eight points in three games against Celtic, Kilmarnock and Motherwell and have slipped back to third in the table, a circumstance which McCann interpreted in terms of the stress borne by Graeme Murty, who is in charge at Ibrox on an interim basis. “I’d imagine Graeme would be under an enormous amount of pressure because it’s a short-term appointment,” McCann said. “The expectation levels at Rangers are enormous anyway so he probably has to get results quicker. McCann was encouraged by Dundee's display at Celtic Park Credit: PA “I certainly think he has grown into that job since the last time he was here and we beat them (in November). He probably looks a little more comfortable in his own skin as being Rangers manager. To be a manager of an Old Firm team, I can only imagine it must be an incredible thing to deal with.” Ahead of Dundee’s visit to Ibrox on Saturday, McCann has been buoyed by his players’ sound showing in Wednesday’s goalless draw at Celtic Park, where Murty was impressed by their display. “Dundee were excellent at Celtic Park in midweek,” said the Rangers manager. “Their organisation, structure, intensity and work rate for one another was great and they caused Celtic a threat at times so we have to be aware of what they’re going to do, but we have to go and push the issue and press the game and make sure we play the right intensity and tempo to put them on the back foot and make them as uncomfortable as possible.” Aberdeen leapfrogged Rangers into second place in midweek and, given that the aim specified by the Ibrox chairman, Dave King, was to finish midway between the Dons and Celtic, Murty has a daunting task to achieve that target, especially after having had to berate his players at half-time at Motherwell last week, before they recovered to earn a 2-2 draw. “I think it will go down to the wire,” he said. “Everyone is playing well and everyone is capable of beating one another. It’s good for the league, it’s really good for the neutral. Murty's Rangers side have slipped back to the third in the Scottish Premiership Credit: PA “I don’t think it’s necessarily good for the managers in terms of stress levels, but it’s the most competitive it’s been in a while. Sometimes you are scratching your head as to why it doesn’t translate into a good performance.” In Rangers’ case, one obvious factor was defeat by the odd goal in five to a Celtic side reduced to 10 men in the Old Firm derby last month. “Given the expectancy in the air going into the game - from the players, from the fans, from Ibrox - going up twice and coming away with a negative in that game has possibly had more of an impact that we had foreseen,” Murty said. “But we have to reinforce the players’ belief in one another in themselves and what we’re doing to continue our journey on an upward path.” Since he was asked to take charge of the team until the end of the season, after the hapless Pedro Caixinha was sacked in October, Murty has presented a courteous and level-headed demeanour, both to the public and his players. The notion that he is perennially mild-mannered, though, evaporated during his interval rant at Fir Park, following an embarrassing display of ineptitude which Motherwell exploited to take a 2-0 lead. “That’s a side they wouldn’t have seen of me,” he said. “We’re all capable of being many different people. You have to be able to utilise the right tool for the right situation and the time was right I felt to be a wee bit angry. “It hasn’t been necessary before. When I’ve had to change things before it’s been more tactical or personnel based. “I just felt we didn’t stand up to the challenge in the first half and I said to the players they had to step up because I couldn’t do it for them. You can cajole and change shape structurally but once they cross the white line the players have to step up and do it because I can’t pass the ball and put it in the net for them.”
Callum McGregor’s breakthrough as a first-choice Scotland player has boosted his morale and made him a better player, according to Brendan Rodgers, his manager at Celtic. McGregor could not get game time under former national coach Gordon Strachan but Alex McLeish signalled that the 24-year-old will be part of his plans by using him as a substitute in the friendly against Costa Rica and then giving him a start in the 1-0 victory over Hungary in Budapest on Tuesday. “The difference in him is that he has a confidence now,” said Rodgers. “He has obviously got the trust from us all here at Celtic that he is a player and performances have warranted that. “He really is a special talent because he is flexible where he can play and I think Alex will have seen that during the week. He is just consistent, seven or eight out of 10 every week for me, in terms of how he plays. “He has this incredible knack of keeping the ball. At international level that is a must. If you see some of the passes he played in the week, on a difficult pitch too, he just takes the team forward. He plays the game so simply he makes it look easy, yet there are so many players who can’t do what he does. “He has got the perfect temperament. He has never missed a day’s training since I have been here. He comes in the team, he plays in big games, he plays at left-back, he plays wide on the right, he is just the same.” Moussa Dembele celebrates after scoring from the penalty spot to put Celtic ahead against Ross County Credit: PA McGregor played in Celtic’s 3-0 home victory over Ross County on Saturday. A Moussa Dembele penalty had the Hoops ahead by the interval, by which stage County had lost their captain, Andrew Davies, to a straight red card for a lunge at Scott Brown. The visitors also had to replace Aaron McCarey with Scott Fox in goal because of injury shortly before the break and fell further behind to strikes by Stuart Armstrong and Tom Rogic, both of whom were set up by winger James Forrest. At Fir Park, it needed a wholesale transformation of Rangers’ attitude after the break to rescue a point after falling 2-0 behind to Motherwell, who took the lead with a Curtis Main penalty and doubled their advantage through Allan Campbell. After being berated by Graeme Murty at the interval, Rangers gave themselves some hope when James Tavernier was judged to have been fouled inside the box and converted the ensuing spot-kick. Five minutes later, Jamie Murphy – a former Motherwell favourite – restored parity with a solo run and shot beyond Trevor Carson. Murphy’s contribution prevented Rangers losing three consecutive matches. “It’s a point we scraped after a start where we got caught,” said manager Murty. “We got done physically at the start and we didn’t cope with balls into our area well enough. I didn’t change anything tactically at half-time. “I told them to step up, take ownership, and they did. They needed to be better and stand up to the physical challenge. We did that in the second half and got the reward, but we can’t afford to give teams a two-goal head start. It shouldn’t take, at this level, the half-time break to get a reaction. “They know they were below the standards they require of themselves. “We’re not happy with the point. Anyone who works for this fantastic club is honoured, but today is not about my status. It’s our task collectively to do more than we did today.” Aberdeen posted an emphatic 4-1 victory over St Johnstone on the much-criticised Pittodrie pitch. The opening 35 minutes were dire but Ryan Christie displayed composure to round Alan Mannus to find the net after being put free by Gary Mackay-Steven. Christie then turned provider by prompting Stevie May for the striker’s fifth goal of the season. The outcome was assured a few minutes after the break when Greg Stewart netted a double, although Matty Willock got a consolation for the Perth side. At Rugby Park, Kilmarnock – already guaranteed a top-six finish – extended their impressive form under Steve Clarke by beating Hamilton Academical with first-half goals from Lee Erwin and Stephen O’Donnell. Elsewhere, Partick Thistle’s poor run continued with a 2-0 defeat by Hibs at Easter Road, where Jamie Maclaren and Paul Hanlon were the scorers and the Jags’ Danny Devine was sent off. Off the field, the Scottish Football Association are understood to have secured an agreement in principle to purchase Hampden Park from Queen’s Park. The SFA’s contract to lease the stadium for international matches expires in 2020, but the new deal will ensure the installation of safe standing areas and extend Hampden’s status as home to the Scotland team.
Callum McGregor getting lift from Scotland call-ups, claims Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers
Callum McGregor’s breakthrough as a first-choice Scotland player has boosted his morale and made him a better player, according to Brendan Rodgers, his manager at Celtic. McGregor could not get game time under former national coach Gordon Strachan but Alex McLeish signalled that the 24-year-old will be part of his plans by using him as a substitute in the friendly against Costa Rica and then giving him a start in the 1-0 victory over Hungary in Budapest on Tuesday. “The difference in him is that he has a confidence now,” said Rodgers. “He has obviously got the trust from us all here at Celtic that he is a player and performances have warranted that. “He really is a special talent because he is flexible where he can play and I think Alex will have seen that during the week. He is just consistent, seven or eight out of 10 every week for me, in terms of how he plays. “He has this incredible knack of keeping the ball. At international level that is a must. If you see some of the passes he played in the week, on a difficult pitch too, he just takes the team forward. He plays the game so simply he makes it look easy, yet there are so many players who can’t do what he does. “He has got the perfect temperament. He has never missed a day’s training since I have been here. He comes in the team, he plays in big games, he plays at left-back, he plays wide on the right, he is just the same.” Moussa Dembele celebrates after scoring from the penalty spot to put Celtic ahead against Ross County Credit: PA McGregor played in Celtic’s 3-0 home victory over Ross County on Saturday. A Moussa Dembele penalty had the Hoops ahead by the interval, by which stage County had lost their captain, Andrew Davies, to a straight red card for a lunge at Scott Brown. The visitors also had to replace Aaron McCarey with Scott Fox in goal because of injury shortly before the break and fell further behind to strikes by Stuart Armstrong and Tom Rogic, both of whom were set up by winger James Forrest. At Fir Park, it needed a wholesale transformation of Rangers’ attitude after the break to rescue a point after falling 2-0 behind to Motherwell, who took the lead with a Curtis Main penalty and doubled their advantage through Allan Campbell. After being berated by Graeme Murty at the interval, Rangers gave themselves some hope when James Tavernier was judged to have been fouled inside the box and converted the ensuing spot-kick. Five minutes later, Jamie Murphy – a former Motherwell favourite – restored parity with a solo run and shot beyond Trevor Carson. Murphy’s contribution prevented Rangers losing three consecutive matches. “It’s a point we scraped after a start where we got caught,” said manager Murty. “We got done physically at the start and we didn’t cope with balls into our area well enough. I didn’t change anything tactically at half-time. “I told them to step up, take ownership, and they did. They needed to be better and stand up to the physical challenge. We did that in the second half and got the reward, but we can’t afford to give teams a two-goal head start. It shouldn’t take, at this level, the half-time break to get a reaction. “They know they were below the standards they require of themselves. “We’re not happy with the point. Anyone who works for this fantastic club is honoured, but today is not about my status. It’s our task collectively to do more than we did today.” Aberdeen posted an emphatic 4-1 victory over St Johnstone on the much-criticised Pittodrie pitch. The opening 35 minutes were dire but Ryan Christie displayed composure to round Alan Mannus to find the net after being put free by Gary Mackay-Steven. Christie then turned provider by prompting Stevie May for the striker’s fifth goal of the season. The outcome was assured a few minutes after the break when Greg Stewart netted a double, although Matty Willock got a consolation for the Perth side. At Rugby Park, Kilmarnock – already guaranteed a top-six finish – extended their impressive form under Steve Clarke by beating Hamilton Academical with first-half goals from Lee Erwin and Stephen O’Donnell. Elsewhere, Partick Thistle’s poor run continued with a 2-0 defeat by Hibs at Easter Road, where Jamie Maclaren and Paul Hanlon were the scorers and the Jags’ Danny Devine was sent off. Off the field, the Scottish Football Association are understood to have secured an agreement in principle to purchase Hampden Park from Queen’s Park. The SFA’s contract to lease the stadium for international matches expires in 2020, but the new deal will ensure the installation of safe standing areas and extend Hampden’s status as home to the Scotland team.
Callum McGregor’s breakthrough as a first-choice Scotland player has boosted his morale and made him a better player, according to Brendan Rodgers, his manager at Celtic. McGregor could not get game time under former national coach Gordon Strachan but Alex McLeish signalled that the 24-year-old will be part of his plans by using him as a substitute in the friendly against Costa Rica and then giving him a start in the 1-0 victory over Hungary in Budapest on Tuesday. “The difference in him is that he has a confidence now,” said Rodgers. “He has obviously got the trust from us all here at Celtic that he is a player and performances have warranted that. “He really is a special talent because he is flexible where he can play and I think Alex will have seen that during the week. He is just consistent, seven or eight out of 10 every week for me, in terms of how he plays. “He has this incredible knack of keeping the ball. At international level that is a must. If you see some of the passes he played in the week, on a difficult pitch too, he just takes the team forward. He plays the game so simply he makes it look easy, yet there are so many players who can’t do what he does. “He has got the perfect temperament. He has never missed a day’s training since I have been here. He comes in the team, he plays in big games, he plays at left-back, he plays wide on the right, he is just the same.” Moussa Dembele celebrates after scoring from the penalty spot to put Celtic ahead against Ross County Credit: PA McGregor played in Celtic’s 3-0 home victory over Ross County on Saturday. A Moussa Dembele penalty had the Hoops ahead by the interval, by which stage County had lost their captain, Andrew Davies, to a straight red card for a lunge at Scott Brown. The visitors also had to replace Aaron McCarey with Scott Fox in goal because of injury shortly before the break and fell further behind to strikes by Stuart Armstrong and Tom Rogic, both of whom were set up by winger James Forrest. At Fir Park, it needed a wholesale transformation of Rangers’ attitude after the break to rescue a point after falling 2-0 behind to Motherwell, who took the lead with a Curtis Main penalty and doubled their advantage through Allan Campbell. After being berated by Graeme Murty at the interval, Rangers gave themselves some hope when James Tavernier was judged to have been fouled inside the box and converted the ensuing spot-kick. Five minutes later, Jamie Murphy – a former Motherwell favourite – restored parity with a solo run and shot beyond Trevor Carson. Murphy’s contribution prevented Rangers losing three consecutive matches. “It’s a point we scraped after a start where we got caught,” said manager Murty. “We got done physically at the start and we didn’t cope with balls into our area well enough. I didn’t change anything tactically at half-time. “I told them to step up, take ownership, and they did. They needed to be better and stand up to the physical challenge. We did that in the second half and got the reward, but we can’t afford to give teams a two-goal head start. It shouldn’t take, at this level, the half-time break to get a reaction. “They know they were below the standards they require of themselves. “We’re not happy with the point. Anyone who works for this fantastic club is honoured, but today is not about my status. It’s our task collectively to do more than we did today.” Aberdeen posted an emphatic 4-1 victory over St Johnstone on the much-criticised Pittodrie pitch. The opening 35 minutes were dire but Ryan Christie displayed composure to round Alan Mannus to find the net after being put free by Gary Mackay-Steven. Christie then turned provider by prompting Stevie May for the striker’s fifth goal of the season. The outcome was assured a few minutes after the break when Greg Stewart netted a double, although Matty Willock got a consolation for the Perth side. At Rugby Park, Kilmarnock – already guaranteed a top-six finish – extended their impressive form under Steve Clarke by beating Hamilton Academical with first-half goals from Lee Erwin and Stephen O’Donnell. Elsewhere, Partick Thistle’s poor run continued with a 2-0 defeat by Hibs at Easter Road, where Jamie Maclaren and Paul Hanlon were the scorers and the Jags’ Danny Devine was sent off. Off the field, the Scottish Football Association are understood to have secured an agreement in principle to purchase Hampden Park from Queen’s Park. The SFA’s contract to lease the stadium for international matches expires in 2020, but the new deal will ensure the installation of safe standing areas and extend Hampden’s status as home to the Scotland team.
Callum McGregor getting lift from Scotland call-ups, claims Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers
Callum McGregor’s breakthrough as a first-choice Scotland player has boosted his morale and made him a better player, according to Brendan Rodgers, his manager at Celtic. McGregor could not get game time under former national coach Gordon Strachan but Alex McLeish signalled that the 24-year-old will be part of his plans by using him as a substitute in the friendly against Costa Rica and then giving him a start in the 1-0 victory over Hungary in Budapest on Tuesday. “The difference in him is that he has a confidence now,” said Rodgers. “He has obviously got the trust from us all here at Celtic that he is a player and performances have warranted that. “He really is a special talent because he is flexible where he can play and I think Alex will have seen that during the week. He is just consistent, seven or eight out of 10 every week for me, in terms of how he plays. “He has this incredible knack of keeping the ball. At international level that is a must. If you see some of the passes he played in the week, on a difficult pitch too, he just takes the team forward. He plays the game so simply he makes it look easy, yet there are so many players who can’t do what he does. “He has got the perfect temperament. He has never missed a day’s training since I have been here. He comes in the team, he plays in big games, he plays at left-back, he plays wide on the right, he is just the same.” Moussa Dembele celebrates after scoring from the penalty spot to put Celtic ahead against Ross County Credit: PA McGregor played in Celtic’s 3-0 home victory over Ross County on Saturday. A Moussa Dembele penalty had the Hoops ahead by the interval, by which stage County had lost their captain, Andrew Davies, to a straight red card for a lunge at Scott Brown. The visitors also had to replace Aaron McCarey with Scott Fox in goal because of injury shortly before the break and fell further behind to strikes by Stuart Armstrong and Tom Rogic, both of whom were set up by winger James Forrest. At Fir Park, it needed a wholesale transformation of Rangers’ attitude after the break to rescue a point after falling 2-0 behind to Motherwell, who took the lead with a Curtis Main penalty and doubled their advantage through Allan Campbell. After being berated by Graeme Murty at the interval, Rangers gave themselves some hope when James Tavernier was judged to have been fouled inside the box and converted the ensuing spot-kick. Five minutes later, Jamie Murphy – a former Motherwell favourite – restored parity with a solo run and shot beyond Trevor Carson. Murphy’s contribution prevented Rangers losing three consecutive matches. “It’s a point we scraped after a start where we got caught,” said manager Murty. “We got done physically at the start and we didn’t cope with balls into our area well enough. I didn’t change anything tactically at half-time. “I told them to step up, take ownership, and they did. They needed to be better and stand up to the physical challenge. We did that in the second half and got the reward, but we can’t afford to give teams a two-goal head start. It shouldn’t take, at this level, the half-time break to get a reaction. “They know they were below the standards they require of themselves. “We’re not happy with the point. Anyone who works for this fantastic club is honoured, but today is not about my status. It’s our task collectively to do more than we did today.” Aberdeen posted an emphatic 4-1 victory over St Johnstone on the much-criticised Pittodrie pitch. The opening 35 minutes were dire but Ryan Christie displayed composure to round Alan Mannus to find the net after being put free by Gary Mackay-Steven. Christie then turned provider by prompting Stevie May for the striker’s fifth goal of the season. The outcome was assured a few minutes after the break when Greg Stewart netted a double, although Matty Willock got a consolation for the Perth side. At Rugby Park, Kilmarnock – already guaranteed a top-six finish – extended their impressive form under Steve Clarke by beating Hamilton Academical with first-half goals from Lee Erwin and Stephen O’Donnell. Elsewhere, Partick Thistle’s poor run continued with a 2-0 defeat by Hibs at Easter Road, where Jamie Maclaren and Paul Hanlon were the scorers and the Jags’ Danny Devine was sent off. Off the field, the Scottish Football Association are understood to have secured an agreement in principle to purchase Hampden Park from Queen’s Park. The SFA’s contract to lease the stadium for international matches expires in 2020, but the new deal will ensure the installation of safe standing areas and extend Hampden’s status as home to the Scotland team.
An absorbing contest at Fir Park saw Celtic increase their lead over Rangers to 10 points as, for the second week in succession, they were involved in a game which finished short of the full complement of players. In contrast to their previous outing at Ibrox, where Jozo Simunovic was sent off but Celtic won, on this occasion Motherwell were depleted by the dismissal of Cedric Kipre but kept a clean sheet against the league leaders in a game notable for fine performances by both goalkeepers. The Celtic team selection contained bad news for Alex McLeish ahead of Scotland’s friendly against Costa Rica at Hampden Park on Friday. Absent was Kieran Tierney, victim of what Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers described as a tweaked calf. Motherwell, too, were minus significant players in Craig Tanner and Andy Rose, both having sustained knee injuries. The evidence of the opening 10 minutes suggested that Motherwell were more afflicted than the visitors by their casualties and the possession ratio favoured the champions by 3:1, but Chris Cadden signalled a shift in the balance of opportunities when he struck a speculative effort from 25 yards that was blocked by Scott Bain. The Celtic goalkeeper had been third choice behind Craig Gordon and Dorus de Vries, but injuries to both meant that he made his club debut at Ibrox and was sufficiently impressive to retain his place at the expense of his Dutch colleague, who was on the bench. Bain was forced to be surprisingly active throughout the rest of the first half but he should have been beaten when Curtis Main met a cross from Elliot Frear with a downward header from close range. The English striker, however, did not get sufficient force to put the ball beyond the keeper, who dropped to his left to scoop it off the line. A third attempt to confound Bain within two minutes was similarly frustrated. Frear again provided the prompt with another high ball from the left flank, this time played off Main’s chest to Ryan Bowman, whose shot on the bounce was almost straight at the goalkeeper, who was able to make another crucial intervention. Motherwell continued to animate their fans with expansive play and had supporters on their feet for what looked a certain goal from a fiery, low free kick from 30 yards by Main, but Bain dived full length to turn the ball around the post. His next test was to read a dangerous chip from Cadden, which was duly tipped over the crossbar. Motherwell’s momentum was checked four minutes before the break by a needless reaction by Kipre, who stuck out a boot when shoved by Brown. The action was petulant rather than malicious but it took place in full view of Craig Thomson, who immediately showed the red card to the French midfielder. It was the fifth time this season that Thomson had sent off a Motherwell player. Kipre took his time departing the scene, protesting all the while that he had done nothing to merit the sanction. In that regard, he had the support of Stephen Robinson. “I’m 100% certain it’s not a red card,” the Motherwell manager said. “Cedric has brushed his leg against him, certainly not the stamp that was indicated. “It could have been two yellow cards for the boys and nobody would have blinked an eye. It spoiled the game for the supporters again. We’ve got a big crowd, the game is very competitive and then we have to sit back and play for a point.” The balance of play pivoted upon the dismissal and beyond the interval it was Trevor Carson who had to produce a sequence of saves to keep Celtic at bay. After defying James Forrest, the Northern Irishman thwarted Tom Rogic twice within a minute with eye-catching blocks. Celtic tried to spring the home defence by ceaselessly working the ball from flank to flank and fuelled their efforts by sending on Stuart Armstrong, Scott Sinclair and Patrick Roberts for Olivier Ntcham, James Forrest and Odsonne Edouard. Motherwell, though, defended doggedly, never more so than in the last few seconds of stoppage time. They had mustered sufficient stamina to mount a late surge on the Celtic box where Main tried to hustle Jack Hendry, who retaliated by grabbing the striker’s jersey. Main and the Motherwell fans howled for a penalty kick but Celtic broke to the other end where Sinclair, with a clear view of goal, got his shot away only for the tireless Richard Tait to throw out one leg for a spectacular block – sufficient to maintain the Steelmen’s frail hopes of a top-six finish and also to guarantee the same prize for Kilmarnock.
Motherwell 0 Celtic 0: Ten-man hosts hold out for draw; league leaders move 10 points clear at top
An absorbing contest at Fir Park saw Celtic increase their lead over Rangers to 10 points as, for the second week in succession, they were involved in a game which finished short of the full complement of players. In contrast to their previous outing at Ibrox, where Jozo Simunovic was sent off but Celtic won, on this occasion Motherwell were depleted by the dismissal of Cedric Kipre but kept a clean sheet against the league leaders in a game notable for fine performances by both goalkeepers. The Celtic team selection contained bad news for Alex McLeish ahead of Scotland’s friendly against Costa Rica at Hampden Park on Friday. Absent was Kieran Tierney, victim of what Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers described as a tweaked calf. Motherwell, too, were minus significant players in Craig Tanner and Andy Rose, both having sustained knee injuries. The evidence of the opening 10 minutes suggested that Motherwell were more afflicted than the visitors by their casualties and the possession ratio favoured the champions by 3:1, but Chris Cadden signalled a shift in the balance of opportunities when he struck a speculative effort from 25 yards that was blocked by Scott Bain. The Celtic goalkeeper had been third choice behind Craig Gordon and Dorus de Vries, but injuries to both meant that he made his club debut at Ibrox and was sufficiently impressive to retain his place at the expense of his Dutch colleague, who was on the bench. Bain was forced to be surprisingly active throughout the rest of the first half but he should have been beaten when Curtis Main met a cross from Elliot Frear with a downward header from close range. The English striker, however, did not get sufficient force to put the ball beyond the keeper, who dropped to his left to scoop it off the line. A third attempt to confound Bain within two minutes was similarly frustrated. Frear again provided the prompt with another high ball from the left flank, this time played off Main’s chest to Ryan Bowman, whose shot on the bounce was almost straight at the goalkeeper, who was able to make another crucial intervention. Motherwell continued to animate their fans with expansive play and had supporters on their feet for what looked a certain goal from a fiery, low free kick from 30 yards by Main, but Bain dived full length to turn the ball around the post. His next test was to read a dangerous chip from Cadden, which was duly tipped over the crossbar. Motherwell’s momentum was checked four minutes before the break by a needless reaction by Kipre, who stuck out a boot when shoved by Brown. The action was petulant rather than malicious but it took place in full view of Craig Thomson, who immediately showed the red card to the French midfielder. It was the fifth time this season that Thomson had sent off a Motherwell player. Kipre took his time departing the scene, protesting all the while that he had done nothing to merit the sanction. In that regard, he had the support of Stephen Robinson. “I’m 100% certain it’s not a red card,” the Motherwell manager said. “Cedric has brushed his leg against him, certainly not the stamp that was indicated. “It could have been two yellow cards for the boys and nobody would have blinked an eye. It spoiled the game for the supporters again. We’ve got a big crowd, the game is very competitive and then we have to sit back and play for a point.” The balance of play pivoted upon the dismissal and beyond the interval it was Trevor Carson who had to produce a sequence of saves to keep Celtic at bay. After defying James Forrest, the Northern Irishman thwarted Tom Rogic twice within a minute with eye-catching blocks. Celtic tried to spring the home defence by ceaselessly working the ball from flank to flank and fuelled their efforts by sending on Stuart Armstrong, Scott Sinclair and Patrick Roberts for Olivier Ntcham, James Forrest and Odsonne Edouard. Motherwell, though, defended doggedly, never more so than in the last few seconds of stoppage time. They had mustered sufficient stamina to mount a late surge on the Celtic box where Main tried to hustle Jack Hendry, who retaliated by grabbing the striker’s jersey. Main and the Motherwell fans howled for a penalty kick but Celtic broke to the other end where Sinclair, with a clear view of goal, got his shot away only for the tireless Richard Tait to throw out one leg for a spectacular block – sufficient to maintain the Steelmen’s frail hopes of a top-six finish and also to guarantee the same prize for Kilmarnock.
Rangers forward Alfredo Morelos paid the price for his notorious miss against Celtic last week when he was relegated to the bench for the visit of Kilmarnock on Saturday. However, the 21-year-old Colombian, who was the subject of an £8 million bid by Beijing Renhe, which Rangers rejected during the January transfer window, will regain his confidence, according to the Ibrox assistant coach, Jonatan Johansson. The Finn was speaking both from the point of view of a former Rangers striker – he played for the club between 1997 and 2000 – and as the man whose assessment of Morelos was crucial in persuading ex-Ibrox manager Pedro Caixinha to bring him to Glasgow from HJK Helsinki last summer. “People forget sometimes how young Alfredo is because he plays such a physical game,” Johansson said. “In the last two or three years he has moved countries and had to learn new languages, so these have been big changes for him. Moving from Finland to Rangers is a huge step up. Missing chances will make him angry. “No one at this club doubts what Alfredo can do. The fans seem to love the way he plays. Every career has highs and lows, so that is something that will make him stronger. He is such an important player for us. “Alfredo is very strong in what he gives to the team. His movement is good, he is a goalscorer and he creates chances for others. “In every game he gets into three or four positions to score and that’s what you want from your striker. As long as he keeps making those chances his goals will keep coming.” One unavoidable assessment passed on all Rangers forwards is their effectiveness against Celtic. Last weekend, aside from missing an open goal from close range, Morelos failed to beat the stand-in Hoops goalkeeper, Scott Bain, with another gift chance. He also had three excellent chances in the Old Firm derby at Celtic Park in December, none of which he converted. “You want to score against your big rivals in any league,” Johansson said. “I think the way he has played in the two games and the way he has created chances in them and caused problems shows how good he is. “The goals unfortunately didn’t come but I’m sure they will. He has been on a long journey for such a young lad, but he is a tough boy. He has a great personality but he doesn’t speak English that well, so he is taking lessons. “Once he gets the language it will help him even more. He loves playing football and you see him coming alive in games and even in training. He is very happy with life right now.” When the bid for Morelos came from China there was speculation that the player was unsettled in Glasgow, especially after Caixinha was sacked in October, depriving the player of a Spanish-speaking mentor. Johansson, however, dismissed the notion. “With Alfredo it was never that he was desperate to move on because he didn’t like Rangers. It just so happened that a big offer came in for him. That is great in one way because it means he is doing well for Rangers and that we as a club are doing something right. “At that period of time the interest was back and forward and it didn’t help, but now he has committed himself to the club with a new contract and that shows just how happy he is to be here at Rangers. “I felt his good points would suit the Scottish game quite well. He is strong and likes to hold the ball up and battles with defenders, plus he scores goals. How quickly he has fitted in and the number of goals he has scored is brilliant. You never know with transfers how they will turn out but Alfredo has been great.” By half-time on Saturday, the Rangers v Kilmarnock fixture was the only Scottish Premiership fixture to remain goalless. When the deadlock was broken nine minutes after the break it was Kris Boyd – a former Rangers striker – who found the net for his 20th goal of the season after he was first to react to the rebound from a Youssouf Mulumbu effort that was blocked by Wes Foderingham. Boyd was replaced by Rory McKenzie shortly afterwards and Rangers sent on Morelos for Josh Windass at the same time but there was no further scoring, although Russell Martin came agonisingly close to an equaliser with a header that came off the underside of the Killie crossbar and then clipped the inside of a post. Elsewhere, it proved a tough afternoon for the bottom three clubs. Ross County, without a permanent manager, might have supposed that their luck had turned at home to Hamilton when Jamie Lindsay put them ahead midway through the first half. Accies, though, responded with Doug Imrie’s equaliser from the penalty spot four minutes after the break and the visitors went ahead with a shot from Marios Ogboe in the 52nd minute. Andrew Davies salvaged a point for the Staggies when he made it 2-2 with 13 minutes left to play. At Tynecastle, Partick Thistle were beaten 3-0 and the damage was done before the break. Kyle Lafferty opened the scoring for Hearts after 17 minutes and, within four minutes of that strike, the Jags were further behind when Joaquim Adao supplied Steven Naismith for Hearts’ second goal. John Souttar added another a few seconds before the interval. Dundee have endured turbulence lately and their situation deteriorated when a fumble by their goalkeeper, Elliot Parish, allowed Graeme Shinnie to put Aberdeen ahead at Pittodrie in the 35th minute, with what proved to be the only goal of the game.
Rangers' Alfredo Morelos backed to regain confidence after being dropped to bench after Celtic miss
Rangers forward Alfredo Morelos paid the price for his notorious miss against Celtic last week when he was relegated to the bench for the visit of Kilmarnock on Saturday. However, the 21-year-old Colombian, who was the subject of an £8 million bid by Beijing Renhe, which Rangers rejected during the January transfer window, will regain his confidence, according to the Ibrox assistant coach, Jonatan Johansson. The Finn was speaking both from the point of view of a former Rangers striker – he played for the club between 1997 and 2000 – and as the man whose assessment of Morelos was crucial in persuading ex-Ibrox manager Pedro Caixinha to bring him to Glasgow from HJK Helsinki last summer. “People forget sometimes how young Alfredo is because he plays such a physical game,” Johansson said. “In the last two or three years he has moved countries and had to learn new languages, so these have been big changes for him. Moving from Finland to Rangers is a huge step up. Missing chances will make him angry. “No one at this club doubts what Alfredo can do. The fans seem to love the way he plays. Every career has highs and lows, so that is something that will make him stronger. He is such an important player for us. “Alfredo is very strong in what he gives to the team. His movement is good, he is a goalscorer and he creates chances for others. “In every game he gets into three or four positions to score and that’s what you want from your striker. As long as he keeps making those chances his goals will keep coming.” One unavoidable assessment passed on all Rangers forwards is their effectiveness against Celtic. Last weekend, aside from missing an open goal from close range, Morelos failed to beat the stand-in Hoops goalkeeper, Scott Bain, with another gift chance. He also had three excellent chances in the Old Firm derby at Celtic Park in December, none of which he converted. “You want to score against your big rivals in any league,” Johansson said. “I think the way he has played in the two games and the way he has created chances in them and caused problems shows how good he is. “The goals unfortunately didn’t come but I’m sure they will. He has been on a long journey for such a young lad, but he is a tough boy. He has a great personality but he doesn’t speak English that well, so he is taking lessons. “Once he gets the language it will help him even more. He loves playing football and you see him coming alive in games and even in training. He is very happy with life right now.” When the bid for Morelos came from China there was speculation that the player was unsettled in Glasgow, especially after Caixinha was sacked in October, depriving the player of a Spanish-speaking mentor. Johansson, however, dismissed the notion. “With Alfredo it was never that he was desperate to move on because he didn’t like Rangers. It just so happened that a big offer came in for him. That is great in one way because it means he is doing well for Rangers and that we as a club are doing something right. “At that period of time the interest was back and forward and it didn’t help, but now he has committed himself to the club with a new contract and that shows just how happy he is to be here at Rangers. “I felt his good points would suit the Scottish game quite well. He is strong and likes to hold the ball up and battles with defenders, plus he scores goals. How quickly he has fitted in and the number of goals he has scored is brilliant. You never know with transfers how they will turn out but Alfredo has been great.” By half-time on Saturday, the Rangers v Kilmarnock fixture was the only Scottish Premiership fixture to remain goalless. When the deadlock was broken nine minutes after the break it was Kris Boyd – a former Rangers striker – who found the net for his 20th goal of the season after he was first to react to the rebound from a Youssouf Mulumbu effort that was blocked by Wes Foderingham. Boyd was replaced by Rory McKenzie shortly afterwards and Rangers sent on Morelos for Josh Windass at the same time but there was no further scoring, although Russell Martin came agonisingly close to an equaliser with a header that came off the underside of the Killie crossbar and then clipped the inside of a post. Elsewhere, it proved a tough afternoon for the bottom three clubs. Ross County, without a permanent manager, might have supposed that their luck had turned at home to Hamilton when Jamie Lindsay put them ahead midway through the first half. Accies, though, responded with Doug Imrie’s equaliser from the penalty spot four minutes after the break and the visitors went ahead with a shot from Marios Ogboe in the 52nd minute. Andrew Davies salvaged a point for the Staggies when he made it 2-2 with 13 minutes left to play. At Tynecastle, Partick Thistle were beaten 3-0 and the damage was done before the break. Kyle Lafferty opened the scoring for Hearts after 17 minutes and, within four minutes of that strike, the Jags were further behind when Joaquim Adao supplied Steven Naismith for Hearts’ second goal. John Souttar added another a few seconds before the interval. Dundee have endured turbulence lately and their situation deteriorated when a fumble by their goalkeeper, Elliot Parish, allowed Graeme Shinnie to put Aberdeen ahead at Pittodrie in the 35th minute, with what proved to be the only goal of the game.
After the hype, the low. Rangers’ home defeat in last weekend’s Old Firm derby ensured that Graeme Murty would embark on a rigorous bout of soul-searching – the invariable lot of the beaten manager in this fixture. “I watched the game back three or four times and in the 10 minutes up until they scored their third goal they got out of their half once,” Murty said. “Alfredo Morelos has a one v one with the keeper and we’re dictating the tempo and, but for some defending that wasn’t our finest moment, we’re in control of the game. “I have looked back on the changes that we made and I think that, as well as the players getting better, I will get better because that is the first time I have been in the situation where we have gone into a game and people have expected us to beat Celtic. “Because we are at 2-2 and they are down to 10 men people are expecting us to win. I have never been in that situation either. “Because of the expectation, because of the fact they’d got a goal to go 3-2 up, we tried to do things all at once rather than continuing to do the things that got us success, but I have had numerous chats with different people, talking about the many positives from the game. “We can’t afford to get weighed down in the negatives because they can drag you too far. We have to make sure we understand the lessons from it and improve individually but also collectively and deal with whatever situations are thrown up." Celtic players celebrate Odsonne Edouard's winning goal in last weekend's Old Firm game Credit: REUTERS Had Sunday’s outcome been reversed, Rangers would have been playing Kilmarnock at home on Saturday in hope of drawing level on points with Celtic ahead of the champions’ visit to Motherwell on Sunday. Instead, the imposition of sober reality means that, even should Rangers prevail against the Ayrshire side, Celtic are closing in on a seventh successive Scottish title with a comfort margin that will include two games in hand before kick-off at Fir Park. The late miss by Alfredo Morelos in front of the gaping Celtic goal instantly became part of Old Firm folklore and left the Colombian striker looking crushed. “He was very down, he was very low, as you would expect,” Murty said. “He is another one who actually has to put it behind him and learn from it. My feeling is that we will be a better team for the experience. Walking off the football pitch with that level of performance, having to perform in a pressure environment will help them. “It is a disappointment, a hard one to take, but the next time we are in a situation like that we will be a better team, I have no doubt.” Kilmarnock, too, experienced dismay in midweek, losing their William Hill Scottish Cup quarter-final replay at home to Aberdeen in a penalty decided after a 1-1 draw. Like Murty, however, Steve Clarke, chose to emphasise the progress his players have made after a poor start to the season. “When I signed my contract to come here in October the team were 12th, Clarke said. “We're now fifth. We've come a long way in a short space of time but we don't get carried away because we've actually achieved nothing. “If we could secure a top-six place I think it would be a great achievement from the players.” Kilmarnock last achieved a top six finish in 2011 and are currently fifth, four points ahead of Hearts, having played one game fewer than the Tynecastle side. Killie’s momentum has been fuelled by a prolific season for their veteran striker, Kris Boyd, who is the division’s leading scorer with 14 goals. Morelos is on 13 and his Rangers team-mate, Josh Windass – Scottish Premiership player of the month for February – has 12 to his credit. Windass revealed that he is engaged in a personal contest with Boyd and also with Morelos. “I was doing a programme with Boydie a few weeks ago. We were having a bit of banter about the top goalscorer award and I think the three of us are competing for that,” Windass said. “He’s flying, absolutely flying. I check their results every week and see that he’s scored and I’m raging. “Alfredo doesn’t speak that much English but I’m sure he doesn’t like it too much when I score and go ahead of him. He’s a competitive striker and it’s the same with me. We’re all trying to do our best to succeed for Rangers.” Windass, it is fair to say, has yet to win over some amongst the Rangers support, despite scoring the opener against Celtic. He was pilloried for gesturing for his critics to be quiet after he netted against Partick Thistle last month. “The fans were on our backs a little bit because we were having a bit of a nightmare,” he said. “I scored and thought, ‘Why not?’ “I do loads of daft stuff. Would I do it again? I don’t know. I’ll let you know next time.”
Rangers manager Graeme Murty hopes to bounce back from Celtic defeat and admits disappointment was hard to take
After the hype, the low. Rangers’ home defeat in last weekend’s Old Firm derby ensured that Graeme Murty would embark on a rigorous bout of soul-searching – the invariable lot of the beaten manager in this fixture. “I watched the game back three or four times and in the 10 minutes up until they scored their third goal they got out of their half once,” Murty said. “Alfredo Morelos has a one v one with the keeper and we’re dictating the tempo and, but for some defending that wasn’t our finest moment, we’re in control of the game. “I have looked back on the changes that we made and I think that, as well as the players getting better, I will get better because that is the first time I have been in the situation where we have gone into a game and people have expected us to beat Celtic. “Because we are at 2-2 and they are down to 10 men people are expecting us to win. I have never been in that situation either. “Because of the expectation, because of the fact they’d got a goal to go 3-2 up, we tried to do things all at once rather than continuing to do the things that got us success, but I have had numerous chats with different people, talking about the many positives from the game. “We can’t afford to get weighed down in the negatives because they can drag you too far. We have to make sure we understand the lessons from it and improve individually but also collectively and deal with whatever situations are thrown up." Celtic players celebrate Odsonne Edouard's winning goal in last weekend's Old Firm game Credit: REUTERS Had Sunday’s outcome been reversed, Rangers would have been playing Kilmarnock at home on Saturday in hope of drawing level on points with Celtic ahead of the champions’ visit to Motherwell on Sunday. Instead, the imposition of sober reality means that, even should Rangers prevail against the Ayrshire side, Celtic are closing in on a seventh successive Scottish title with a comfort margin that will include two games in hand before kick-off at Fir Park. The late miss by Alfredo Morelos in front of the gaping Celtic goal instantly became part of Old Firm folklore and left the Colombian striker looking crushed. “He was very down, he was very low, as you would expect,” Murty said. “He is another one who actually has to put it behind him and learn from it. My feeling is that we will be a better team for the experience. Walking off the football pitch with that level of performance, having to perform in a pressure environment will help them. “It is a disappointment, a hard one to take, but the next time we are in a situation like that we will be a better team, I have no doubt.” Kilmarnock, too, experienced dismay in midweek, losing their William Hill Scottish Cup quarter-final replay at home to Aberdeen in a penalty decided after a 1-1 draw. Like Murty, however, Steve Clarke, chose to emphasise the progress his players have made after a poor start to the season. “When I signed my contract to come here in October the team were 12th, Clarke said. “We're now fifth. We've come a long way in a short space of time but we don't get carried away because we've actually achieved nothing. “If we could secure a top-six place I think it would be a great achievement from the players.” Kilmarnock last achieved a top six finish in 2011 and are currently fifth, four points ahead of Hearts, having played one game fewer than the Tynecastle side. Killie’s momentum has been fuelled by a prolific season for their veteran striker, Kris Boyd, who is the division’s leading scorer with 14 goals. Morelos is on 13 and his Rangers team-mate, Josh Windass – Scottish Premiership player of the month for February – has 12 to his credit. Windass revealed that he is engaged in a personal contest with Boyd and also with Morelos. “I was doing a programme with Boydie a few weeks ago. We were having a bit of banter about the top goalscorer award and I think the three of us are competing for that,” Windass said. “He’s flying, absolutely flying. I check their results every week and see that he’s scored and I’m raging. “Alfredo doesn’t speak that much English but I’m sure he doesn’t like it too much when I score and go ahead of him. He’s a competitive striker and it’s the same with me. We’re all trying to do our best to succeed for Rangers.” Windass, it is fair to say, has yet to win over some amongst the Rangers support, despite scoring the opener against Celtic. He was pilloried for gesturing for his critics to be quiet after he netted against Partick Thistle last month. “The fans were on our backs a little bit because we were having a bit of a nightmare,” he said. “I scored and thought, ‘Why not?’ “I do loads of daft stuff. Would I do it again? I don’t know. I’ll let you know next time.”
After the hype, the low. Rangers’ home defeat in last weekend’s Old Firm derby ensured that Graeme Murty would embark on a rigorous bout of soul-searching – the invariable lot of the beaten manager in this fixture. “I watched the game back three or four times and in the 10 minutes up until they scored their third goal they got out of their half once,” Murty said. “Alfredo Morelos has a one v one with the keeper and we’re dictating the tempo and, but for some defending that wasn’t our finest moment, we’re in control of the game. “I have looked back on the changes that we made and I think that, as well as the players getting better, I will get better because that is the first time I have been in the situation where we have gone into a game and people have expected us to beat Celtic. “Because we are at 2-2 and they are down to 10 men people are expecting us to win. I have never been in that situation either. “Because of the expectation, because of the fact they’d got a goal to go 3-2 up, we tried to do things all at once rather than continuing to do the things that got us success, but I have had numerous chats with different people, talking about the many positives from the game. “We can’t afford to get weighed down in the negatives because they can drag you too far. We have to make sure we understand the lessons from it and improve individually but also collectively and deal with whatever situations are thrown up." Celtic players celebrate Odsonne Edouard's winning goal in last weekend's Old Firm game Credit: REUTERS Had Sunday’s outcome been reversed, Rangers would have been playing Kilmarnock at home on Saturday in hope of drawing level on points with Celtic ahead of the champions’ visit to Motherwell on Sunday. Instead, the imposition of sober reality means that, even should Rangers prevail against the Ayrshire side, Celtic are closing in on a seventh successive Scottish title with a comfort margin that will include two games in hand before kick-off at Fir Park. The late miss by Alfredo Morelos in front of the gaping Celtic goal instantly became part of Old Firm folklore and left the Colombian striker looking crushed. “He was very down, he was very low, as you would expect,” Murty said. “He is another one who actually has to put it behind him and learn from it. My feeling is that we will be a better team for the experience. Walking off the football pitch with that level of performance, having to perform in a pressure environment will help them. “It is a disappointment, a hard one to take, but the next time we are in a situation like that we will be a better team, I have no doubt.” Kilmarnock, too, experienced dismay in midweek, losing their William Hill Scottish Cup quarter-final replay at home to Aberdeen in a penalty decided after a 1-1 draw. Like Murty, however, Steve Clarke, chose to emphasise the progress his players have made after a poor start to the season. “When I signed my contract to come here in October the team were 12th, Clarke said. “We're now fifth. We've come a long way in a short space of time but we don't get carried away because we've actually achieved nothing. “If we could secure a top-six place I think it would be a great achievement from the players.” Kilmarnock last achieved a top six finish in 2011 and are currently fifth, four points ahead of Hearts, having played one game fewer than the Tynecastle side. Killie’s momentum has been fuelled by a prolific season for their veteran striker, Kris Boyd, who is the division’s leading scorer with 14 goals. Morelos is on 13 and his Rangers team-mate, Josh Windass – Scottish Premiership player of the month for February – has 12 to his credit. Windass revealed that he is engaged in a personal contest with Boyd and also with Morelos. “I was doing a programme with Boydie a few weeks ago. We were having a bit of banter about the top goalscorer award and I think the three of us are competing for that,” Windass said. “He’s flying, absolutely flying. I check their results every week and see that he’s scored and I’m raging. “Alfredo doesn’t speak that much English but I’m sure he doesn’t like it too much when I score and go ahead of him. He’s a competitive striker and it’s the same with me. We’re all trying to do our best to succeed for Rangers.” Windass, it is fair to say, has yet to win over some amongst the Rangers support, despite scoring the opener against Celtic. He was pilloried for gesturing for his critics to be quiet after he netted against Partick Thistle last month. “The fans were on our backs a little bit because we were having a bit of a nightmare,” he said. “I scored and thought, ‘Why not?’ “I do loads of daft stuff. Would I do it again? I don’t know. I’ll let you know next time.”
Rangers manager Graeme Murty hopes to bounce back from Celtic defeat and admits disappointment was hard to take
After the hype, the low. Rangers’ home defeat in last weekend’s Old Firm derby ensured that Graeme Murty would embark on a rigorous bout of soul-searching – the invariable lot of the beaten manager in this fixture. “I watched the game back three or four times and in the 10 minutes up until they scored their third goal they got out of their half once,” Murty said. “Alfredo Morelos has a one v one with the keeper and we’re dictating the tempo and, but for some defending that wasn’t our finest moment, we’re in control of the game. “I have looked back on the changes that we made and I think that, as well as the players getting better, I will get better because that is the first time I have been in the situation where we have gone into a game and people have expected us to beat Celtic. “Because we are at 2-2 and they are down to 10 men people are expecting us to win. I have never been in that situation either. “Because of the expectation, because of the fact they’d got a goal to go 3-2 up, we tried to do things all at once rather than continuing to do the things that got us success, but I have had numerous chats with different people, talking about the many positives from the game. “We can’t afford to get weighed down in the negatives because they can drag you too far. We have to make sure we understand the lessons from it and improve individually but also collectively and deal with whatever situations are thrown up." Celtic players celebrate Odsonne Edouard's winning goal in last weekend's Old Firm game Credit: REUTERS Had Sunday’s outcome been reversed, Rangers would have been playing Kilmarnock at home on Saturday in hope of drawing level on points with Celtic ahead of the champions’ visit to Motherwell on Sunday. Instead, the imposition of sober reality means that, even should Rangers prevail against the Ayrshire side, Celtic are closing in on a seventh successive Scottish title with a comfort margin that will include two games in hand before kick-off at Fir Park. The late miss by Alfredo Morelos in front of the gaping Celtic goal instantly became part of Old Firm folklore and left the Colombian striker looking crushed. “He was very down, he was very low, as you would expect,” Murty said. “He is another one who actually has to put it behind him and learn from it. My feeling is that we will be a better team for the experience. Walking off the football pitch with that level of performance, having to perform in a pressure environment will help them. “It is a disappointment, a hard one to take, but the next time we are in a situation like that we will be a better team, I have no doubt.” Kilmarnock, too, experienced dismay in midweek, losing their William Hill Scottish Cup quarter-final replay at home to Aberdeen in a penalty decided after a 1-1 draw. Like Murty, however, Steve Clarke, chose to emphasise the progress his players have made after a poor start to the season. “When I signed my contract to come here in October the team were 12th, Clarke said. “We're now fifth. We've come a long way in a short space of time but we don't get carried away because we've actually achieved nothing. “If we could secure a top-six place I think it would be a great achievement from the players.” Kilmarnock last achieved a top six finish in 2011 and are currently fifth, four points ahead of Hearts, having played one game fewer than the Tynecastle side. Killie’s momentum has been fuelled by a prolific season for their veteran striker, Kris Boyd, who is the division’s leading scorer with 14 goals. Morelos is on 13 and his Rangers team-mate, Josh Windass – Scottish Premiership player of the month for February – has 12 to his credit. Windass revealed that he is engaged in a personal contest with Boyd and also with Morelos. “I was doing a programme with Boydie a few weeks ago. We were having a bit of banter about the top goalscorer award and I think the three of us are competing for that,” Windass said. “He’s flying, absolutely flying. I check their results every week and see that he’s scored and I’m raging. “Alfredo doesn’t speak that much English but I’m sure he doesn’t like it too much when I score and go ahead of him. He’s a competitive striker and it’s the same with me. We’re all trying to do our best to succeed for Rangers.” Windass, it is fair to say, has yet to win over some amongst the Rangers support, despite scoring the opener against Celtic. He was pilloried for gesturing for his critics to be quiet after he netted against Partick Thistle last month. “The fans were on our backs a little bit because we were having a bit of a nightmare,” he said. “I scored and thought, ‘Why not?’ “I do loads of daft stuff. Would I do it again? I don’t know. I’ll let you know next time.”
The disruption visited upon the UK by a Siberian weather system could have been avoided by the simple ploy of parading the Scottish Cup through the affected areas. That claim is based on the miraculous ­capacity of the tournament’s quarter-final ties to proceed on a weekend which saw the entire league fixture card in Scotland wiped out. That said, the sight of a manned snowplough prowling the car park ahead of Celtic’s meeting with Greenock Morton on Saturday testified to the determination of the holders to take another stride ­towards the unprecedented feat of a clean sweep of the Scottish honours in successive seasons. In the title race, the Hoops can only be stopped if Rangers overturn a six-point deficit in their remaining nine games, starting with next Sunday’s Old Firm derby at Ibrox, and overcome a goal difference of 11 ­between the sides. Sobriety compels the assumption that Celtic are essentially two contests away from their historic feat and that the first of those will be another encounter with Rangers at Hampden Park in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final on the weekend of April 15/16. Rangers’ 4-1 home victory over Falkirk yesterday, in which Jason Cummings scored a hat-trick, completed the equation begun by Celtic’s 3-0 win over their visitors from the Championship, ­although Morton held out for more than an hour before Moussa Dembele’s double and a late contribution from Odsonne Edouard ensured the holders’ advance. Jason Cummings scored all four goals for Rangers in the 4-1 win over Falkirk Credit: Getty Images The Ton’s most notable disruptive action occurred before kick-off, when captain Thomas O’Ware won the coin toss and chose to make their hosts play towards the Jock Stein Stand in the first half, a reversal of the usual custom. “I think big Tam was on the wind-up with that one and I don’t think it went down well,” said Morton’s seasoned midfielder, Gary Harkins. “We made it tough for them and played quite well, although we lost a couple of bad goals, but it’s obviously a really tough place to come and we got punished in the end. The fans were brilliant and I’m from Greenock so I know how hard it was for them to get up here. They were really good.” Home town boy he may be, but Harkins has been so nomadic a footballer that it would not be startling to see him travel by camel rather than team bus. After a spell as a Celtic youth, he played in the colours of Blackburn, Huddersfield, Bury, Blackpool, Grimsby Town, Partick Thistle, Dundee (three times), Kilmarnock, St Mirren, Oldham and Ayr United before fetching up on his native patch. Harkins’ experience was evident against Celtic, when he was the most effective midfielder on view in the first half. Inevitably, he tired against inexorable pressure as the contest wore on, but he and his team-mates remain energised by another domestic prospect. Morton hold the record for promotions and relegations from the top flight of Scottish football – 10 times up and down – the most recent of which was demotion as long ago as 1988. Morton's Gary Harkins (L) arrives at Celtic Park on Saturday Credit: PA “I was three,” said Harkins. “It would be great to do it but it’s a tough run-in. We’ve been on a good run, although we had a bad result the other night against Livingston, but you’ve seen that we can play well when we come to places like Celtic. “There are a lot of boys in the team who are good enough to do it, so they should be looking at themselves and thinking, ‘I need to push on, I want to go on and do that.’ I’m still ambitious, I want to play at the highest level I can and if I could do that with my hometown club I’d be delighted.” For Celtic, the Scottish Cup semi-final now takes its place in a queue of fixtures stretching towards the season’s climax, the collision with Rangers at Ibrox being next on the agenda. Edouard, who replaced Scott Sinclair for the start of the second half against Morton, was singled out for praise by Brendan Rodgers and the 20-year-old striker, on loan from Paris Saint-Germain, hopes that his performance has pushed him into the manager’s reckoning for a place in the Old Firm derby. “For me, this is the most important match of the year,” Edouard said. “It’s against our biggest rivals. On these days, victory for the fans is very important. You cannot think about defeat. We know it will be hard at Rangers’ home but we are used to high-pressure situations. Of course, I hope I have done enough to be included in the game. It would mean everything to me to be involved. To win the treble two years in a row would be truly special. People would talk about it for many years.”
Celtic near another record-breaking season unless Rangers can halt their run
The disruption visited upon the UK by a Siberian weather system could have been avoided by the simple ploy of parading the Scottish Cup through the affected areas. That claim is based on the miraculous ­capacity of the tournament’s quarter-final ties to proceed on a weekend which saw the entire league fixture card in Scotland wiped out. That said, the sight of a manned snowplough prowling the car park ahead of Celtic’s meeting with Greenock Morton on Saturday testified to the determination of the holders to take another stride ­towards the unprecedented feat of a clean sweep of the Scottish honours in successive seasons. In the title race, the Hoops can only be stopped if Rangers overturn a six-point deficit in their remaining nine games, starting with next Sunday’s Old Firm derby at Ibrox, and overcome a goal difference of 11 ­between the sides. Sobriety compels the assumption that Celtic are essentially two contests away from their historic feat and that the first of those will be another encounter with Rangers at Hampden Park in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final on the weekend of April 15/16. Rangers’ 4-1 home victory over Falkirk yesterday, in which Jason Cummings scored a hat-trick, completed the equation begun by Celtic’s 3-0 win over their visitors from the Championship, ­although Morton held out for more than an hour before Moussa Dembele’s double and a late contribution from Odsonne Edouard ensured the holders’ advance. Jason Cummings scored all four goals for Rangers in the 4-1 win over Falkirk Credit: Getty Images The Ton’s most notable disruptive action occurred before kick-off, when captain Thomas O’Ware won the coin toss and chose to make their hosts play towards the Jock Stein Stand in the first half, a reversal of the usual custom. “I think big Tam was on the wind-up with that one and I don’t think it went down well,” said Morton’s seasoned midfielder, Gary Harkins. “We made it tough for them and played quite well, although we lost a couple of bad goals, but it’s obviously a really tough place to come and we got punished in the end. The fans were brilliant and I’m from Greenock so I know how hard it was for them to get up here. They were really good.” Home town boy he may be, but Harkins has been so nomadic a footballer that it would not be startling to see him travel by camel rather than team bus. After a spell as a Celtic youth, he played in the colours of Blackburn, Huddersfield, Bury, Blackpool, Grimsby Town, Partick Thistle, Dundee (three times), Kilmarnock, St Mirren, Oldham and Ayr United before fetching up on his native patch. Harkins’ experience was evident against Celtic, when he was the most effective midfielder on view in the first half. Inevitably, he tired against inexorable pressure as the contest wore on, but he and his team-mates remain energised by another domestic prospect. Morton hold the record for promotions and relegations from the top flight of Scottish football – 10 times up and down – the most recent of which was demotion as long ago as 1988. Morton's Gary Harkins (L) arrives at Celtic Park on Saturday Credit: PA “I was three,” said Harkins. “It would be great to do it but it’s a tough run-in. We’ve been on a good run, although we had a bad result the other night against Livingston, but you’ve seen that we can play well when we come to places like Celtic. “There are a lot of boys in the team who are good enough to do it, so they should be looking at themselves and thinking, ‘I need to push on, I want to go on and do that.’ I’m still ambitious, I want to play at the highest level I can and if I could do that with my hometown club I’d be delighted.” For Celtic, the Scottish Cup semi-final now takes its place in a queue of fixtures stretching towards the season’s climax, the collision with Rangers at Ibrox being next on the agenda. Edouard, who replaced Scott Sinclair for the start of the second half against Morton, was singled out for praise by Brendan Rodgers and the 20-year-old striker, on loan from Paris Saint-Germain, hopes that his performance has pushed him into the manager’s reckoning for a place in the Old Firm derby. “For me, this is the most important match of the year,” Edouard said. “It’s against our biggest rivals. On these days, victory for the fans is very important. You cannot think about defeat. We know it will be hard at Rangers’ home but we are used to high-pressure situations. Of course, I hope I have done enough to be included in the game. It would mean everything to me to be involved. To win the treble two years in a row would be truly special. People would talk about it for many years.”
The disruption visited upon the UK by a Siberian weather system could have been avoided by the simple ploy of parading the Scottish Cup through the affected areas. That claim is based on the miraculous ­capacity of the tournament’s quarter-final ties to proceed on a weekend which saw the entire league fixture card in Scotland wiped out. That said, the sight of a manned snowplough prowling the car park ahead of Celtic’s meeting with Greenock Morton on Saturday testified to the determination of the holders to take another stride ­towards the unprecedented feat of a clean sweep of the Scottish honours in successive seasons. In the title race, the Hoops can only be stopped if Rangers overturn a six-point deficit in their remaining nine games, starting with next Sunday’s Old Firm derby at Ibrox, and overcome a goal difference of 11 ­between the sides. Sobriety compels the assumption that Celtic are essentially two contests away from their historic feat and that the first of those will be another encounter with Rangers at Hampden Park in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final on the weekend of April 15/16. Rangers’ 4-1 home victory over Falkirk yesterday, in which Jason Cummings scored a hat-trick, completed the equation begun by Celtic’s 3-0 win over their visitors from the Championship, ­although Morton held out for more than an hour before Moussa Dembele’s double and a late contribution from Odsonne Edouard ensured the holders’ advance. Jason Cummings scored all four goals for Rangers in the 4-1 win over Falkirk Credit: Getty Images The Ton’s most notable disruptive action occurred before kick-off, when captain Thomas O’Ware won the coin toss and chose to make their hosts play towards the Jock Stein Stand in the first half, a reversal of the usual custom. “I think big Tam was on the wind-up with that one and I don’t think it went down well,” said Morton’s seasoned midfielder, Gary Harkins. “We made it tough for them and played quite well, although we lost a couple of bad goals, but it’s obviously a really tough place to come and we got punished in the end. The fans were brilliant and I’m from Greenock so I know how hard it was for them to get up here. They were really good.” Home town boy he may be, but Harkins has been so nomadic a footballer that it would not be startling to see him travel by camel rather than team bus. After a spell as a Celtic youth, he played in the colours of Blackburn, Huddersfield, Bury, Blackpool, Grimsby Town, Partick Thistle, Dundee (three times), Kilmarnock, St Mirren, Oldham and Ayr United before fetching up on his native patch. Harkins’ experience was evident against Celtic, when he was the most effective midfielder on view in the first half. Inevitably, he tired against inexorable pressure as the contest wore on, but he and his team-mates remain energised by another domestic prospect. Morton hold the record for promotions and relegations from the top flight of Scottish football – 10 times up and down – the most recent of which was demotion as long ago as 1988. Morton's Gary Harkins (L) arrives at Celtic Park on Saturday Credit: PA “I was three,” said Harkins. “It would be great to do it but it’s a tough run-in. We’ve been on a good run, although we had a bad result the other night against Livingston, but you’ve seen that we can play well when we come to places like Celtic. “There are a lot of boys in the team who are good enough to do it, so they should be looking at themselves and thinking, ‘I need to push on, I want to go on and do that.’ I’m still ambitious, I want to play at the highest level I can and if I could do that with my hometown club I’d be delighted.” For Celtic, the Scottish Cup semi-final now takes its place in a queue of fixtures stretching towards the season’s climax, the collision with Rangers at Ibrox being next on the agenda. Edouard, who replaced Scott Sinclair for the start of the second half against Morton, was singled out for praise by Brendan Rodgers and the 20-year-old striker, on loan from Paris Saint-Germain, hopes that his performance has pushed him into the manager’s reckoning for a place in the Old Firm derby. “For me, this is the most important match of the year,” Edouard said. “It’s against our biggest rivals. On these days, victory for the fans is very important. You cannot think about defeat. We know it will be hard at Rangers’ home but we are used to high-pressure situations. Of course, I hope I have done enough to be included in the game. It would mean everything to me to be involved. To win the treble two years in a row would be truly special. People would talk about it for many years.”
Celtic near another record-breaking season unless Rangers can halt their run
The disruption visited upon the UK by a Siberian weather system could have been avoided by the simple ploy of parading the Scottish Cup through the affected areas. That claim is based on the miraculous ­capacity of the tournament’s quarter-final ties to proceed on a weekend which saw the entire league fixture card in Scotland wiped out. That said, the sight of a manned snowplough prowling the car park ahead of Celtic’s meeting with Greenock Morton on Saturday testified to the determination of the holders to take another stride ­towards the unprecedented feat of a clean sweep of the Scottish honours in successive seasons. In the title race, the Hoops can only be stopped if Rangers overturn a six-point deficit in their remaining nine games, starting with next Sunday’s Old Firm derby at Ibrox, and overcome a goal difference of 11 ­between the sides. Sobriety compels the assumption that Celtic are essentially two contests away from their historic feat and that the first of those will be another encounter with Rangers at Hampden Park in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final on the weekend of April 15/16. Rangers’ 4-1 home victory over Falkirk yesterday, in which Jason Cummings scored a hat-trick, completed the equation begun by Celtic’s 3-0 win over their visitors from the Championship, ­although Morton held out for more than an hour before Moussa Dembele’s double and a late contribution from Odsonne Edouard ensured the holders’ advance. Jason Cummings scored all four goals for Rangers in the 4-1 win over Falkirk Credit: Getty Images The Ton’s most notable disruptive action occurred before kick-off, when captain Thomas O’Ware won the coin toss and chose to make their hosts play towards the Jock Stein Stand in the first half, a reversal of the usual custom. “I think big Tam was on the wind-up with that one and I don’t think it went down well,” said Morton’s seasoned midfielder, Gary Harkins. “We made it tough for them and played quite well, although we lost a couple of bad goals, but it’s obviously a really tough place to come and we got punished in the end. The fans were brilliant and I’m from Greenock so I know how hard it was for them to get up here. They were really good.” Home town boy he may be, but Harkins has been so nomadic a footballer that it would not be startling to see him travel by camel rather than team bus. After a spell as a Celtic youth, he played in the colours of Blackburn, Huddersfield, Bury, Blackpool, Grimsby Town, Partick Thistle, Dundee (three times), Kilmarnock, St Mirren, Oldham and Ayr United before fetching up on his native patch. Harkins’ experience was evident against Celtic, when he was the most effective midfielder on view in the first half. Inevitably, he tired against inexorable pressure as the contest wore on, but he and his team-mates remain energised by another domestic prospect. Morton hold the record for promotions and relegations from the top flight of Scottish football – 10 times up and down – the most recent of which was demotion as long ago as 1988. Morton's Gary Harkins (L) arrives at Celtic Park on Saturday Credit: PA “I was three,” said Harkins. “It would be great to do it but it’s a tough run-in. We’ve been on a good run, although we had a bad result the other night against Livingston, but you’ve seen that we can play well when we come to places like Celtic. “There are a lot of boys in the team who are good enough to do it, so they should be looking at themselves and thinking, ‘I need to push on, I want to go on and do that.’ I’m still ambitious, I want to play at the highest level I can and if I could do that with my hometown club I’d be delighted.” For Celtic, the Scottish Cup semi-final now takes its place in a queue of fixtures stretching towards the season’s climax, the collision with Rangers at Ibrox being next on the agenda. Edouard, who replaced Scott Sinclair for the start of the second half against Morton, was singled out for praise by Brendan Rodgers and the 20-year-old striker, on loan from Paris Saint-Germain, hopes that his performance has pushed him into the manager’s reckoning for a place in the Old Firm derby. “For me, this is the most important match of the year,” Edouard said. “It’s against our biggest rivals. On these days, victory for the fans is very important. You cannot think about defeat. We know it will be hard at Rangers’ home but we are used to high-pressure situations. Of course, I hope I have done enough to be included in the game. It would mean everything to me to be involved. To win the treble two years in a row would be truly special. People would talk about it for many years.”
The disruption visited upon the UK by a Siberian weather system could have been avoided by the simple ploy of parading the Scottish Cup through the affected areas. That claim is based on the miraculous ­capacity of the tournament’s quarter-final ties to proceed on a weekend which saw the entire league fixture card in Scotland wiped out. That said, the sight of a manned snowplough prowling the car park ahead of Celtic’s meeting with Greenock Morton on Saturday testified to the determination of the holders to take another stride ­towards the unprecedented feat of a clean sweep of the Scottish honours in successive seasons. In the title race, the Hoops can only be stopped if Rangers overturn a six-point deficit in their remaining nine games, starting with next Sunday’s Old Firm derby at Ibrox, and overcome a goal difference of 11 ­between the sides. Sobriety compels the assumption that Celtic are essentially two contests away from their historic feat and that the first of those will be another encounter with Rangers at Hampden Park in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final on the weekend of April 15/16. Rangers’ 4-1 home victory over Falkirk yesterday, in which Jason Cummings scored a hat-trick, completed the equation begun by Celtic’s 3-0 win over their visitors from the Championship, ­although Morton held out for more than an hour before Moussa Dembele’s double and a late contribution from Odsonne Edouard ensured the holders’ advance. Jason Cummings scored all four goals for Rangers in the 4-1 win over Falkirk Credit: Getty Images The Ton’s most notable disruptive action occurred before kick-off, when captain Thomas O’Ware won the coin toss and chose to make their hosts play towards the Jock Stein Stand in the first half, a reversal of the usual custom. “I think big Tam was on the wind-up with that one and I don’t think it went down well,” said Morton’s seasoned midfielder, Gary Harkins. “We made it tough for them and played quite well, although we lost a couple of bad goals, but it’s obviously a really tough place to come and we got punished in the end. The fans were brilliant and I’m from Greenock so I know how hard it was for them to get up here. They were really good.” Home town boy he may be, but Harkins has been so nomadic a footballer that it would not be startling to see him travel by camel rather than team bus. After a spell as a Celtic youth, he played in the colours of Blackburn, Huddersfield, Bury, Blackpool, Grimsby Town, Partick Thistle, Dundee (three times), Kilmarnock, St Mirren, Oldham and Ayr United before fetching up on his native patch. Harkins’ experience was evident against Celtic, when he was the most effective midfielder on view in the first half. Inevitably, he tired against inexorable pressure as the contest wore on, but he and his team-mates remain energised by another domestic prospect. Morton hold the record for promotions and relegations from the top flight of Scottish football – 10 times up and down – the most recent of which was demotion as long ago as 1988. Morton's Gary Harkins (L) arrives at Celtic Park on Saturday Credit: PA “I was three,” said Harkins. “It would be great to do it but it’s a tough run-in. We’ve been on a good run, although we had a bad result the other night against Livingston, but you’ve seen that we can play well when we come to places like Celtic. “There are a lot of boys in the team who are good enough to do it, so they should be looking at themselves and thinking, ‘I need to push on, I want to go on and do that.’ I’m still ambitious, I want to play at the highest level I can and if I could do that with my hometown club I’d be delighted.” For Celtic, the Scottish Cup semi-final now takes its place in a queue of fixtures stretching towards the season’s climax, the collision with Rangers at Ibrox being next on the agenda. Edouard, who replaced Scott Sinclair for the start of the second half against Morton, was singled out for praise by Brendan Rodgers and the 20-year-old striker, on loan from Paris Saint-Germain, hopes that his performance has pushed him into the manager’s reckoning for a place in the Old Firm derby. “For me, this is the most important match of the year,” Edouard said. “It’s against our biggest rivals. On these days, victory for the fans is very important. You cannot think about defeat. We know it will be hard at Rangers’ home but we are used to high-pressure situations. Of course, I hope I have done enough to be included in the game. It would mean everything to me to be involved. To win the treble two years in a row would be truly special. People would talk about it for many years.”
Celtic near another record-breaking season unless Rangers can halt their run
The disruption visited upon the UK by a Siberian weather system could have been avoided by the simple ploy of parading the Scottish Cup through the affected areas. That claim is based on the miraculous ­capacity of the tournament’s quarter-final ties to proceed on a weekend which saw the entire league fixture card in Scotland wiped out. That said, the sight of a manned snowplough prowling the car park ahead of Celtic’s meeting with Greenock Morton on Saturday testified to the determination of the holders to take another stride ­towards the unprecedented feat of a clean sweep of the Scottish honours in successive seasons. In the title race, the Hoops can only be stopped if Rangers overturn a six-point deficit in their remaining nine games, starting with next Sunday’s Old Firm derby at Ibrox, and overcome a goal difference of 11 ­between the sides. Sobriety compels the assumption that Celtic are essentially two contests away from their historic feat and that the first of those will be another encounter with Rangers at Hampden Park in the William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final on the weekend of April 15/16. Rangers’ 4-1 home victory over Falkirk yesterday, in which Jason Cummings scored a hat-trick, completed the equation begun by Celtic’s 3-0 win over their visitors from the Championship, ­although Morton held out for more than an hour before Moussa Dembele’s double and a late contribution from Odsonne Edouard ensured the holders’ advance. Jason Cummings scored all four goals for Rangers in the 4-1 win over Falkirk Credit: Getty Images The Ton’s most notable disruptive action occurred before kick-off, when captain Thomas O’Ware won the coin toss and chose to make their hosts play towards the Jock Stein Stand in the first half, a reversal of the usual custom. “I think big Tam was on the wind-up with that one and I don’t think it went down well,” said Morton’s seasoned midfielder, Gary Harkins. “We made it tough for them and played quite well, although we lost a couple of bad goals, but it’s obviously a really tough place to come and we got punished in the end. The fans were brilliant and I’m from Greenock so I know how hard it was for them to get up here. They were really good.” Home town boy he may be, but Harkins has been so nomadic a footballer that it would not be startling to see him travel by camel rather than team bus. After a spell as a Celtic youth, he played in the colours of Blackburn, Huddersfield, Bury, Blackpool, Grimsby Town, Partick Thistle, Dundee (three times), Kilmarnock, St Mirren, Oldham and Ayr United before fetching up on his native patch. Harkins’ experience was evident against Celtic, when he was the most effective midfielder on view in the first half. Inevitably, he tired against inexorable pressure as the contest wore on, but he and his team-mates remain energised by another domestic prospect. Morton hold the record for promotions and relegations from the top flight of Scottish football – 10 times up and down – the most recent of which was demotion as long ago as 1988. Morton's Gary Harkins (L) arrives at Celtic Park on Saturday Credit: PA “I was three,” said Harkins. “It would be great to do it but it’s a tough run-in. We’ve been on a good run, although we had a bad result the other night against Livingston, but you’ve seen that we can play well when we come to places like Celtic. “There are a lot of boys in the team who are good enough to do it, so they should be looking at themselves and thinking, ‘I need to push on, I want to go on and do that.’ I’m still ambitious, I want to play at the highest level I can and if I could do that with my hometown club I’d be delighted.” For Celtic, the Scottish Cup semi-final now takes its place in a queue of fixtures stretching towards the season’s climax, the collision with Rangers at Ibrox being next on the agenda. Edouard, who replaced Scott Sinclair for the start of the second half against Morton, was singled out for praise by Brendan Rodgers and the 20-year-old striker, on loan from Paris Saint-Germain, hopes that his performance has pushed him into the manager’s reckoning for a place in the Old Firm derby. “For me, this is the most important match of the year,” Edouard said. “It’s against our biggest rivals. On these days, victory for the fans is very important. You cannot think about defeat. We know it will be hard at Rangers’ home but we are used to high-pressure situations. Of course, I hope I have done enough to be included in the game. It would mean everything to me to be involved. To win the treble two years in a row would be truly special. People would talk about it for many years.”
Celtic kept on course for a second successive domestic treble when they disposed of Greenock Morton in the quarter-finals of the William Hill Scottish Cup with what proved to be an ultimately comfortable victory, despite a goalless first half. The holders enjoyed 70% of possession in the first half but could not find a way through an obdurate Morton midfield and back line, marshalled by the vastly experienced Gary Harkins. By the hour mark of the lunchtime fixture some Celtic fans had begun to speculate on the possibility of a replay but their anxiety was soothed when Moussa Dembele met a fine cross from Tom Rogic with a header which Derek Gaston reached, but could not stop. Dembele added a second from the penalty spot soon afterwards, having gone down in a challenge from Michael Doyle, although the initial contact occurred outside the box. Odsonne Edouard, who had replaced Scott Sinclair at half time, struck Celtic’s third in the dying seconds and – despite having missed two simple chances while the score was still 0-0 – was praised by Brendan Rodgers. “Odsonne was the key difference in the game,” said the Hoops manager. “He shows his quality, his hold-up play, his movement, his speed, then scores a very good goal.” The second tie of the afternoon, between Aberdeen and Kilmarnock, went ahead at Pittodrie although the South Stand was closed because its water supply had been disrupted. Kilmarnock have been the surprise package of the Scottish Premiership since Steve Clarke took over in the autumn, but their record against Aberdeen is less impressive and includes two 3-1 defeats. Moussa Dembele opened the scoring for the hosts with two goals in nine minutes Credit: Getty Images The Dons seemed to be heading towards another victory when they went ahead in the first half after their captain, Graeme Shinnie, saw an attempted cross veer into the net. That advantage was, however, annulled when Shay Logan and Kari Arnason were judged to have fouled Jordan Jones for a penalty kick which was put away by the veteran Killie striker, Kris Boyd, for his 17th goal of the season, to ensure a replay at Rugby Park on March 13. Speaking to BBC Scotland afterwards, the Aberdeen manager, Derek McInnes, disputed the award that led to the equaliser when he said: “I don’t think it’s a penalty. There isn’t any contact, he (Jones) goes down and I can understand maybe why, at first, he thought it could have been a penalty but I don’t think my players bring Jones down. “We got off to a brilliant start and Shinnie’s driving runs from full-back were a key part of that in the first half. We were the better team in the first half, we had the better of the opportunities and we played the game more in their half of the field. Meanwhile, ahead of today’s meeting of Rangers and Falkirk, Graeme Murty admitted that he remains taken aback that he is in charge at Ibrox, even four months into a second interim spell in the position. Talk of a title challenge to Celtic owes more to fanciful imaginations than sober reality, but a second-place finish and a single-figure points gap would represent progress to the Rangers faithful and advance Murty’s prospect of a longer spell as manager. “I'm still stunned to be sitting here, to be perfectly honest,” Murty said. “I'm enjoying every moment and I am still thankful and grateful for the opportunity. Graeme Murty is in his second spell as Rangers interim manager Credit: PA “Whether it continues will always be outwith the people in this group and it won't be down to me, but what we can do is make sure the players put themselves in a really good situation to be successful in the latter part of the season. And if we do that, you never know what might happen. It might all have a positive outcome.” Should Rangers beat Falkirk, Murty will reacquaint himself with Hampden Park. He never played there during his four appearances for Scotland but Murty savoured a visit to the stadium when Rangers beat Ronny Deila’s Celtic in a Scottish Cup semi-final in 2016. “I love it. It’s fantastic,” he said. “My first experience as a Rangers employee of an Old Firm game was going there and watching it and the players will tell you that they’re desperate to get there. But we have to take care of the next game and when we actually walk out at Ibrox, that game at Hampden won’t be on our minds. “It’ll be making sure that we take care of business and perform properly and – credit to the players – they’ve done that remarkably well since Christmas and moved their own game forward, fairly significantly, I would say." Motherwell are at home to Hearts earlier this afternoon in the other quarter-final tie and the draw for the semi-finals will be made at Ibrox after the Rangers v Falkirk match.
Brendan Rodgers hails Odsonne Edouard as Celtic aim for another domestic treble
Celtic kept on course for a second successive domestic treble when they disposed of Greenock Morton in the quarter-finals of the William Hill Scottish Cup with what proved to be an ultimately comfortable victory, despite a goalless first half. The holders enjoyed 70% of possession in the first half but could not find a way through an obdurate Morton midfield and back line, marshalled by the vastly experienced Gary Harkins. By the hour mark of the lunchtime fixture some Celtic fans had begun to speculate on the possibility of a replay but their anxiety was soothed when Moussa Dembele met a fine cross from Tom Rogic with a header which Derek Gaston reached, but could not stop. Dembele added a second from the penalty spot soon afterwards, having gone down in a challenge from Michael Doyle, although the initial contact occurred outside the box. Odsonne Edouard, who had replaced Scott Sinclair at half time, struck Celtic’s third in the dying seconds and – despite having missed two simple chances while the score was still 0-0 – was praised by Brendan Rodgers. “Odsonne was the key difference in the game,” said the Hoops manager. “He shows his quality, his hold-up play, his movement, his speed, then scores a very good goal.” The second tie of the afternoon, between Aberdeen and Kilmarnock, went ahead at Pittodrie although the South Stand was closed because its water supply had been disrupted. Kilmarnock have been the surprise package of the Scottish Premiership since Steve Clarke took over in the autumn, but their record against Aberdeen is less impressive and includes two 3-1 defeats. Moussa Dembele opened the scoring for the hosts with two goals in nine minutes Credit: Getty Images The Dons seemed to be heading towards another victory when they went ahead in the first half after their captain, Graeme Shinnie, saw an attempted cross veer into the net. That advantage was, however, annulled when Shay Logan and Kari Arnason were judged to have fouled Jordan Jones for a penalty kick which was put away by the veteran Killie striker, Kris Boyd, for his 17th goal of the season, to ensure a replay at Rugby Park on March 13. Speaking to BBC Scotland afterwards, the Aberdeen manager, Derek McInnes, disputed the award that led to the equaliser when he said: “I don’t think it’s a penalty. There isn’t any contact, he (Jones) goes down and I can understand maybe why, at first, he thought it could have been a penalty but I don’t think my players bring Jones down. “We got off to a brilliant start and Shinnie’s driving runs from full-back were a key part of that in the first half. We were the better team in the first half, we had the better of the opportunities and we played the game more in their half of the field. Meanwhile, ahead of today’s meeting of Rangers and Falkirk, Graeme Murty admitted that he remains taken aback that he is in charge at Ibrox, even four months into a second interim spell in the position. Talk of a title challenge to Celtic owes more to fanciful imaginations than sober reality, but a second-place finish and a single-figure points gap would represent progress to the Rangers faithful and advance Murty’s prospect of a longer spell as manager. “I'm still stunned to be sitting here, to be perfectly honest,” Murty said. “I'm enjoying every moment and I am still thankful and grateful for the opportunity. Graeme Murty is in his second spell as Rangers interim manager Credit: PA “Whether it continues will always be outwith the people in this group and it won't be down to me, but what we can do is make sure the players put themselves in a really good situation to be successful in the latter part of the season. And if we do that, you never know what might happen. It might all have a positive outcome.” Should Rangers beat Falkirk, Murty will reacquaint himself with Hampden Park. He never played there during his four appearances for Scotland but Murty savoured a visit to the stadium when Rangers beat Ronny Deila’s Celtic in a Scottish Cup semi-final in 2016. “I love it. It’s fantastic,” he said. “My first experience as a Rangers employee of an Old Firm game was going there and watching it and the players will tell you that they’re desperate to get there. But we have to take care of the next game and when we actually walk out at Ibrox, that game at Hampden won’t be on our minds. “It’ll be making sure that we take care of business and perform properly and – credit to the players – they’ve done that remarkably well since Christmas and moved their own game forward, fairly significantly, I would say." Motherwell are at home to Hearts earlier this afternoon in the other quarter-final tie and the draw for the semi-finals will be made at Ibrox after the Rangers v Falkirk match.
Celtic kept on course for a second successive domestic treble when they disposed of Greenock Morton in the quarter-finals of the William Hill Scottish Cup with what proved to be an ultimately comfortable victory, despite a goalless first half. The holders enjoyed 70% of possession in the first half but could not find a way through an obdurate Morton midfield and back line, marshalled by the vastly experienced Gary Harkins. By the hour mark of the lunchtime fixture some Celtic fans had begun to speculate on the possibility of a replay but their anxiety was soothed when Moussa Dembele met a fine cross from Tom Rogic with a header which Derek Gaston reached, but could not stop. Dembele added a second from the penalty spot soon afterwards, having gone down in a challenge from Michael Doyle, although the initial contact occurred outside the box. Odsonne Edouard, who had replaced Scott Sinclair at half time, struck Celtic’s third in the dying seconds and – despite having missed two simple chances while the score was still 0-0 – was praised by Brendan Rodgers. “Odsonne was the key difference in the game,” said the Hoops manager. “He shows his quality, his hold-up play, his movement, his speed, then scores a very good goal.” The second tie of the afternoon, between Aberdeen and Kilmarnock, went ahead at Pittodrie although the South Stand was closed because its water supply had been disrupted. Kilmarnock have been the surprise package of the Scottish Premiership since Steve Clarke took over in the autumn, but their record against Aberdeen is less impressive and includes two 3-1 defeats. Moussa Dembele opened the scoring for the hosts with two goals in nine minutes Credit: Getty Images The Dons seemed to be heading towards another victory when they went ahead in the first half after their captain, Graeme Shinnie, saw an attempted cross veer into the net. That advantage was, however, annulled when Shay Logan and Kari Arnason were judged to have fouled Jordan Jones for a penalty kick which was put away by the veteran Killie striker, Kris Boyd, for his 17th goal of the season, to ensure a replay at Rugby Park on March 13. Speaking to BBC Scotland afterwards, the Aberdeen manager, Derek McInnes, disputed the award that led to the equaliser when he said: “I don’t think it’s a penalty. There isn’t any contact, he (Jones) goes down and I can understand maybe why, at first, he thought it could have been a penalty but I don’t think my players bring Jones down. “We got off to a brilliant start and Shinnie’s driving runs from full-back were a key part of that in the first half. We were the better team in the first half, we had the better of the opportunities and we played the game more in their half of the field. Meanwhile, ahead of today’s meeting of Rangers and Falkirk, Graeme Murty admitted that he remains taken aback that he is in charge at Ibrox, even four months into a second interim spell in the position. Talk of a title challenge to Celtic owes more to fanciful imaginations than sober reality, but a second-place finish and a single-figure points gap would represent progress to the Rangers faithful and advance Murty’s prospect of a longer spell as manager. “I'm still stunned to be sitting here, to be perfectly honest,” Murty said. “I'm enjoying every moment and I am still thankful and grateful for the opportunity. Graeme Murty is in his second spell as Rangers interim manager Credit: PA “Whether it continues will always be outwith the people in this group and it won't be down to me, but what we can do is make sure the players put themselves in a really good situation to be successful in the latter part of the season. And if we do that, you never know what might happen. It might all have a positive outcome.” Should Rangers beat Falkirk, Murty will reacquaint himself with Hampden Park. He never played there during his four appearances for Scotland but Murty savoured a visit to the stadium when Rangers beat Ronny Deila’s Celtic in a Scottish Cup semi-final in 2016. “I love it. It’s fantastic,” he said. “My first experience as a Rangers employee of an Old Firm game was going there and watching it and the players will tell you that they’re desperate to get there. But we have to take care of the next game and when we actually walk out at Ibrox, that game at Hampden won’t be on our minds. “It’ll be making sure that we take care of business and perform properly and – credit to the players – they’ve done that remarkably well since Christmas and moved their own game forward, fairly significantly, I would say." Motherwell are at home to Hearts earlier this afternoon in the other quarter-final tie and the draw for the semi-finals will be made at Ibrox after the Rangers v Falkirk match.
Brendan Rodgers hails Odsonne Edouard as Celtic aim for another domestic treble
Celtic kept on course for a second successive domestic treble when they disposed of Greenock Morton in the quarter-finals of the William Hill Scottish Cup with what proved to be an ultimately comfortable victory, despite a goalless first half. The holders enjoyed 70% of possession in the first half but could not find a way through an obdurate Morton midfield and back line, marshalled by the vastly experienced Gary Harkins. By the hour mark of the lunchtime fixture some Celtic fans had begun to speculate on the possibility of a replay but their anxiety was soothed when Moussa Dembele met a fine cross from Tom Rogic with a header which Derek Gaston reached, but could not stop. Dembele added a second from the penalty spot soon afterwards, having gone down in a challenge from Michael Doyle, although the initial contact occurred outside the box. Odsonne Edouard, who had replaced Scott Sinclair at half time, struck Celtic’s third in the dying seconds and – despite having missed two simple chances while the score was still 0-0 – was praised by Brendan Rodgers. “Odsonne was the key difference in the game,” said the Hoops manager. “He shows his quality, his hold-up play, his movement, his speed, then scores a very good goal.” The second tie of the afternoon, between Aberdeen and Kilmarnock, went ahead at Pittodrie although the South Stand was closed because its water supply had been disrupted. Kilmarnock have been the surprise package of the Scottish Premiership since Steve Clarke took over in the autumn, but their record against Aberdeen is less impressive and includes two 3-1 defeats. Moussa Dembele opened the scoring for the hosts with two goals in nine minutes Credit: Getty Images The Dons seemed to be heading towards another victory when they went ahead in the first half after their captain, Graeme Shinnie, saw an attempted cross veer into the net. That advantage was, however, annulled when Shay Logan and Kari Arnason were judged to have fouled Jordan Jones for a penalty kick which was put away by the veteran Killie striker, Kris Boyd, for his 17th goal of the season, to ensure a replay at Rugby Park on March 13. Speaking to BBC Scotland afterwards, the Aberdeen manager, Derek McInnes, disputed the award that led to the equaliser when he said: “I don’t think it’s a penalty. There isn’t any contact, he (Jones) goes down and I can understand maybe why, at first, he thought it could have been a penalty but I don’t think my players bring Jones down. “We got off to a brilliant start and Shinnie’s driving runs from full-back were a key part of that in the first half. We were the better team in the first half, we had the better of the opportunities and we played the game more in their half of the field. Meanwhile, ahead of today’s meeting of Rangers and Falkirk, Graeme Murty admitted that he remains taken aback that he is in charge at Ibrox, even four months into a second interim spell in the position. Talk of a title challenge to Celtic owes more to fanciful imaginations than sober reality, but a second-place finish and a single-figure points gap would represent progress to the Rangers faithful and advance Murty’s prospect of a longer spell as manager. “I'm still stunned to be sitting here, to be perfectly honest,” Murty said. “I'm enjoying every moment and I am still thankful and grateful for the opportunity. Graeme Murty is in his second spell as Rangers interim manager Credit: PA “Whether it continues will always be outwith the people in this group and it won't be down to me, but what we can do is make sure the players put themselves in a really good situation to be successful in the latter part of the season. And if we do that, you never know what might happen. It might all have a positive outcome.” Should Rangers beat Falkirk, Murty will reacquaint himself with Hampden Park. He never played there during his four appearances for Scotland but Murty savoured a visit to the stadium when Rangers beat Ronny Deila’s Celtic in a Scottish Cup semi-final in 2016. “I love it. It’s fantastic,” he said. “My first experience as a Rangers employee of an Old Firm game was going there and watching it and the players will tell you that they’re desperate to get there. But we have to take care of the next game and when we actually walk out at Ibrox, that game at Hampden won’t be on our minds. “It’ll be making sure that we take care of business and perform properly and – credit to the players – they’ve done that remarkably well since Christmas and moved their own game forward, fairly significantly, I would say." Motherwell are at home to Hearts earlier this afternoon in the other quarter-final tie and the draw for the semi-finals will be made at Ibrox after the Rangers v Falkirk match.
Celtic kept on course for a second successive domestic treble when they disposed of Greenock Morton in the quarter-finals of the William Hill Scottish Cup with what proved to be an ultimately comfortable victory, despite a goalless first half. The holders enjoyed 70% of possession in the first half but could not find a way through an obdurate Morton midfield and back line, marshalled by the vastly experienced Gary Harkins. By the hour mark of the lunchtime fixture some Celtic fans had begun to speculate on the possibility of a replay but their anxiety was soothed when Moussa Dembele met a fine cross from Tom Rogic with a header which Derek Gaston reached, but could not stop. Dembele added a second from the penalty spot soon afterwards, having gone down in a challenge from Michael Doyle, although the initial contact occurred outside the box. Odsonne Edouard, who had replaced Scott Sinclair at half time, struck Celtic’s third in the dying seconds and – despite having missed two simple chances while the score was still 0-0 – was praised by Brendan Rodgers. “Odsonne was the key difference in the game,” said the Hoops manager. “He shows his quality, his hold-up play, his movement, his speed, then scores a very good goal.” The second tie of the afternoon, between Aberdeen and Kilmarnock, went ahead at Pittodrie although the South Stand was closed because its water supply had been disrupted. Kilmarnock have been the surprise package of the Scottish Premiership since Steve Clarke took over in the autumn, but their record against Aberdeen is less impressive and includes two 3-1 defeats. Moussa Dembele opened the scoring for the hosts with two goals in nine minutes Credit: Getty Images The Dons seemed to be heading towards another victory when they went ahead in the first half after their captain, Graeme Shinnie, saw an attempted cross veer into the net. That advantage was, however, annulled when Shay Logan and Kari Arnason were judged to have fouled Jordan Jones for a penalty kick which was put away by the veteran Killie striker, Kris Boyd, for his 17th goal of the season, to ensure a replay at Rugby Park on March 13. Speaking to BBC Scotland afterwards, the Aberdeen manager, Derek McInnes, disputed the award that led to the equaliser when he said: “I don’t think it’s a penalty. There isn’t any contact, he (Jones) goes down and I can understand maybe why, at first, he thought it could have been a penalty but I don’t think my players bring Jones down. “We got off to a brilliant start and Shinnie’s driving runs from full-back were a key part of that in the first half. We were the better team in the first half, we had the better of the opportunities and we played the game more in their half of the field. Meanwhile, ahead of today’s meeting of Rangers and Falkirk, Graeme Murty admitted that he remains taken aback that he is in charge at Ibrox, even four months into a second interim spell in the position. Talk of a title challenge to Celtic owes more to fanciful imaginations than sober reality, but a second-place finish and a single-figure points gap would represent progress to the Rangers faithful and advance Murty’s prospect of a longer spell as manager. “I'm still stunned to be sitting here, to be perfectly honest,” Murty said. “I'm enjoying every moment and I am still thankful and grateful for the opportunity. Graeme Murty is in his second spell as Rangers interim manager Credit: PA “Whether it continues will always be outwith the people in this group and it won't be down to me, but what we can do is make sure the players put themselves in a really good situation to be successful in the latter part of the season. And if we do that, you never know what might happen. It might all have a positive outcome.” Should Rangers beat Falkirk, Murty will reacquaint himself with Hampden Park. He never played there during his four appearances for Scotland but Murty savoured a visit to the stadium when Rangers beat Ronny Deila’s Celtic in a Scottish Cup semi-final in 2016. “I love it. It’s fantastic,” he said. “My first experience as a Rangers employee of an Old Firm game was going there and watching it and the players will tell you that they’re desperate to get there. But we have to take care of the next game and when we actually walk out at Ibrox, that game at Hampden won’t be on our minds. “It’ll be making sure that we take care of business and perform properly and – credit to the players – they’ve done that remarkably well since Christmas and moved their own game forward, fairly significantly, I would say." Motherwell are at home to Hearts earlier this afternoon in the other quarter-final tie and the draw for the semi-finals will be made at Ibrox after the Rangers v Falkirk match.
Brendan Rodgers hails Odsonne Edouard as Celtic aim for another domestic treble
Celtic kept on course for a second successive domestic treble when they disposed of Greenock Morton in the quarter-finals of the William Hill Scottish Cup with what proved to be an ultimately comfortable victory, despite a goalless first half. The holders enjoyed 70% of possession in the first half but could not find a way through an obdurate Morton midfield and back line, marshalled by the vastly experienced Gary Harkins. By the hour mark of the lunchtime fixture some Celtic fans had begun to speculate on the possibility of a replay but their anxiety was soothed when Moussa Dembele met a fine cross from Tom Rogic with a header which Derek Gaston reached, but could not stop. Dembele added a second from the penalty spot soon afterwards, having gone down in a challenge from Michael Doyle, although the initial contact occurred outside the box. Odsonne Edouard, who had replaced Scott Sinclair at half time, struck Celtic’s third in the dying seconds and – despite having missed two simple chances while the score was still 0-0 – was praised by Brendan Rodgers. “Odsonne was the key difference in the game,” said the Hoops manager. “He shows his quality, his hold-up play, his movement, his speed, then scores a very good goal.” The second tie of the afternoon, between Aberdeen and Kilmarnock, went ahead at Pittodrie although the South Stand was closed because its water supply had been disrupted. Kilmarnock have been the surprise package of the Scottish Premiership since Steve Clarke took over in the autumn, but their record against Aberdeen is less impressive and includes two 3-1 defeats. Moussa Dembele opened the scoring for the hosts with two goals in nine minutes Credit: Getty Images The Dons seemed to be heading towards another victory when they went ahead in the first half after their captain, Graeme Shinnie, saw an attempted cross veer into the net. That advantage was, however, annulled when Shay Logan and Kari Arnason were judged to have fouled Jordan Jones for a penalty kick which was put away by the veteran Killie striker, Kris Boyd, for his 17th goal of the season, to ensure a replay at Rugby Park on March 13. Speaking to BBC Scotland afterwards, the Aberdeen manager, Derek McInnes, disputed the award that led to the equaliser when he said: “I don’t think it’s a penalty. There isn’t any contact, he (Jones) goes down and I can understand maybe why, at first, he thought it could have been a penalty but I don’t think my players bring Jones down. “We got off to a brilliant start and Shinnie’s driving runs from full-back were a key part of that in the first half. We were the better team in the first half, we had the better of the opportunities and we played the game more in their half of the field. Meanwhile, ahead of today’s meeting of Rangers and Falkirk, Graeme Murty admitted that he remains taken aback that he is in charge at Ibrox, even four months into a second interim spell in the position. Talk of a title challenge to Celtic owes more to fanciful imaginations than sober reality, but a second-place finish and a single-figure points gap would represent progress to the Rangers faithful and advance Murty’s prospect of a longer spell as manager. “I'm still stunned to be sitting here, to be perfectly honest,” Murty said. “I'm enjoying every moment and I am still thankful and grateful for the opportunity. Graeme Murty is in his second spell as Rangers interim manager Credit: PA “Whether it continues will always be outwith the people in this group and it won't be down to me, but what we can do is make sure the players put themselves in a really good situation to be successful in the latter part of the season. And if we do that, you never know what might happen. It might all have a positive outcome.” Should Rangers beat Falkirk, Murty will reacquaint himself with Hampden Park. He never played there during his four appearances for Scotland but Murty savoured a visit to the stadium when Rangers beat Ronny Deila’s Celtic in a Scottish Cup semi-final in 2016. “I love it. It’s fantastic,” he said. “My first experience as a Rangers employee of an Old Firm game was going there and watching it and the players will tell you that they’re desperate to get there. But we have to take care of the next game and when we actually walk out at Ibrox, that game at Hampden won’t be on our minds. “It’ll be making sure that we take care of business and perform properly and – credit to the players – they’ve done that remarkably well since Christmas and moved their own game forward, fairly significantly, I would say." Motherwell are at home to Hearts earlier this afternoon in the other quarter-final tie and the draw for the semi-finals will be made at Ibrox after the Rangers v Falkirk match.
As every league game in Scotland fell victim to the Siberian conditions, the weekend’s William Hill Scottish Cup quarter-final ties were still standing, like the multitudinous snowmen which dot the landscape. As of last night, Celtic’s lunchtime home date with Greenock Morton, as well as the Aberdeen v Kilmarnock tie, plus Sunday’s matches – Motherwell v Hearts and Rangers v Falkirk – were declared to be playable by the Scottish Football Association. The governing body, however, was criticised by Morton’s chief executive, Warren Hawke, who said on the club website: “We will have supporters risking life and limb to travel to a football match while the Met Office is issuing warnings to avoid non-essential travel. Ultimately, it isn’t about the area around Celtic Park. “Supporter safety has to be key and I don’t think anyone can guarantee that at this moment in time and I fear for a lot of Morton supporters trying to get to this game tomorrow. Surely the Scottish Football Association and Police Scotland will come together and make a sensible early decision in the best interests of the safety of everyone.” The South Stand at Pittodrie, meanwhile, will be shut, despite thousands of tickets having been sold for that part of the ground. A statement from Aberdeen said: “After further discussions this morning which took into account the readiness of the pitch, condition of the stadium interior, surrounding areas and the latest information available from Police Scotland and Transport Scotland regarding weather and travel conditions, both clubs have agreed to progress with the match as planned. “Unfortunately, due to the weather conditions, water supplies have been affected in parts of the South Stand. As a result, the decision has been taken to close the South Stand to home supporters for this match.” Brendan Rodgers and Celtic welcome Morton with open arms Credit: Jane Barlow/PA Wire The SFA subsequently explained its stance, through Andrew McKinlay, Interim Chief Executive of the Scottish FA, who said: “As it stands there are no plans to call off any of the William Hill Scottish Cup sixth-round fixtures. The desire and hope is that they proceed as planned. “There are no pitch inspections scheduled for these matches at this stage and each host club has worked tirelessly to ensure the pitches and the surrounding areas are safe and in the best possible condition. The safety of supporters, players and staff, as always, remains our top priority. We acknowledge that, either way, some supporters are likely to be left inconvenienced. “However, we are conscious that a great many have already committed to tickets and travels plans and that – along with improving weather conditions, forecasts from authorities and the views of the majority of the clubs involved – has led to our current stance. Any supporter who does decide to travel is urged to do so with caution and consult all relevant public transport and travel bodies before embarking on any journey.” Celtic, whose midweek Scottish Premiership meeting with Dundee was called off because of the weather, are on course for a second successive domestic treble, and Brendan Rodgers said. “We wanted the game on for the team's perspective. There's not games at this stage of the season for fitness - the games at this stage of the season are for winning.” The Hoops manager added: “A lot of work has gone on around the stadium to make it safe and secure for all the supporters tomorrow. We've had a bit of a breather for a couple of days so it won't do us any harm. The guys trained very well this morning so we're ready for the game.” Rangers’ midweek meeting with St Johnstone was played before the weather deteriorated and ended in a 4-1 win for the Ibrox side which, following their 2-0 home victory over Hearts, took them to within six points of Celtic, having played a game more. Asked if success in the Scottish Cup or a tight finish to the league campaign would guarantee him the Ibrox manager’s job on a longer-term basis, Graeme Murty said: “Tell you what - if we win every game between now and the end of the season it will be an interesting conversation. “We want to be talking about how excellent we were at the end of the season when we’ve got something to show for our efforts. The next step is a big game on Sunday at home. We need to bounce into that positive, ready, aggressive and relentless against an opponent that is not going to roll over.” Whether the four Scottish Cup ties survive or not, the semi-final draw will take place live on Sky on Sunday afternoon and will be conducted by the former Ibrox goalkeeper, Neil Alexander – who won the trophy twice as a Rangers player - and Paralympic gold-winning wheelchair tennis player Gordon Reid.
Scottish Cup quarter-final ties given the go-ahead despite Morton's fears over fan safety
As every league game in Scotland fell victim to the Siberian conditions, the weekend’s William Hill Scottish Cup quarter-final ties were still standing, like the multitudinous snowmen which dot the landscape. As of last night, Celtic’s lunchtime home date with Greenock Morton, as well as the Aberdeen v Kilmarnock tie, plus Sunday’s matches – Motherwell v Hearts and Rangers v Falkirk – were declared to be playable by the Scottish Football Association. The governing body, however, was criticised by Morton’s chief executive, Warren Hawke, who said on the club website: “We will have supporters risking life and limb to travel to a football match while the Met Office is issuing warnings to avoid non-essential travel. Ultimately, it isn’t about the area around Celtic Park. “Supporter safety has to be key and I don’t think anyone can guarantee that at this moment in time and I fear for a lot of Morton supporters trying to get to this game tomorrow. Surely the Scottish Football Association and Police Scotland will come together and make a sensible early decision in the best interests of the safety of everyone.” The South Stand at Pittodrie, meanwhile, will be shut, despite thousands of tickets having been sold for that part of the ground. A statement from Aberdeen said: “After further discussions this morning which took into account the readiness of the pitch, condition of the stadium interior, surrounding areas and the latest information available from Police Scotland and Transport Scotland regarding weather and travel conditions, both clubs have agreed to progress with the match as planned. “Unfortunately, due to the weather conditions, water supplies have been affected in parts of the South Stand. As a result, the decision has been taken to close the South Stand to home supporters for this match.” Brendan Rodgers and Celtic welcome Morton with open arms Credit: Jane Barlow/PA Wire The SFA subsequently explained its stance, through Andrew McKinlay, Interim Chief Executive of the Scottish FA, who said: “As it stands there are no plans to call off any of the William Hill Scottish Cup sixth-round fixtures. The desire and hope is that they proceed as planned. “There are no pitch inspections scheduled for these matches at this stage and each host club has worked tirelessly to ensure the pitches and the surrounding areas are safe and in the best possible condition. The safety of supporters, players and staff, as always, remains our top priority. We acknowledge that, either way, some supporters are likely to be left inconvenienced. “However, we are conscious that a great many have already committed to tickets and travels plans and that – along with improving weather conditions, forecasts from authorities and the views of the majority of the clubs involved – has led to our current stance. Any supporter who does decide to travel is urged to do so with caution and consult all relevant public transport and travel bodies before embarking on any journey.” Celtic, whose midweek Scottish Premiership meeting with Dundee was called off because of the weather, are on course for a second successive domestic treble, and Brendan Rodgers said. “We wanted the game on for the team's perspective. There's not games at this stage of the season for fitness - the games at this stage of the season are for winning.” The Hoops manager added: “A lot of work has gone on around the stadium to make it safe and secure for all the supporters tomorrow. We've had a bit of a breather for a couple of days so it won't do us any harm. The guys trained very well this morning so we're ready for the game.” Rangers’ midweek meeting with St Johnstone was played before the weather deteriorated and ended in a 4-1 win for the Ibrox side which, following their 2-0 home victory over Hearts, took them to within six points of Celtic, having played a game more. Asked if success in the Scottish Cup or a tight finish to the league campaign would guarantee him the Ibrox manager’s job on a longer-term basis, Graeme Murty said: “Tell you what - if we win every game between now and the end of the season it will be an interesting conversation. “We want to be talking about how excellent we were at the end of the season when we’ve got something to show for our efforts. The next step is a big game on Sunday at home. We need to bounce into that positive, ready, aggressive and relentless against an opponent that is not going to roll over.” Whether the four Scottish Cup ties survive or not, the semi-final draw will take place live on Sky on Sunday afternoon and will be conducted by the former Ibrox goalkeeper, Neil Alexander – who won the trophy twice as a Rangers player - and Paralympic gold-winning wheelchair tennis player Gordon Reid.
As every league game in Scotland fell victim to the Siberian conditions, the weekend’s William Hill Scottish Cup quarter-final ties were still standing, like the multitudinous snowmen which dot the landscape. As of last night, Celtic’s lunchtime home date with Greenock Morton, as well as the Aberdeen v Kilmarnock tie, plus Sunday’s matches – Motherwell v Hearts and Rangers v Falkirk – were declared to be playable by the Scottish Football Association. The governing body, however, was criticised by Morton’s chief executive, Warren Hawke, who said on the club website: “We will have supporters risking life and limb to travel to a football match while the Met Office is issuing warnings to avoid non-essential travel. Ultimately, it isn’t about the area around Celtic Park. “Supporter safety has to be key and I don’t think anyone can guarantee that at this moment in time and I fear for a lot of Morton supporters trying to get to this game tomorrow. Surely the Scottish Football Association and Police Scotland will come together and make a sensible early decision in the best interests of the safety of everyone.” The South Stand at Pittodrie, meanwhile, will be shut, despite thousands of tickets having been sold for that part of the ground. A statement from Aberdeen said: “After further discussions this morning which took into account the readiness of the pitch, condition of the stadium interior, surrounding areas and the latest information available from Police Scotland and Transport Scotland regarding weather and travel conditions, both clubs have agreed to progress with the match as planned. “Unfortunately, due to the weather conditions, water supplies have been affected in parts of the South Stand. As a result, the decision has been taken to close the South Stand to home supporters for this match.” Brendan Rodgers and Celtic welcome Morton with open arms Credit: Jane Barlow/PA Wire The SFA subsequently explained its stance, through Andrew McKinlay, Interim Chief Executive of the Scottish FA, who said: “As it stands there are no plans to call off any of the William Hill Scottish Cup sixth-round fixtures. The desire and hope is that they proceed as planned. “There are no pitch inspections scheduled for these matches at this stage and each host club has worked tirelessly to ensure the pitches and the surrounding areas are safe and in the best possible condition. The safety of supporters, players and staff, as always, remains our top priority. We acknowledge that, either way, some supporters are likely to be left inconvenienced. “However, we are conscious that a great many have already committed to tickets and travels plans and that – along with improving weather conditions, forecasts from authorities and the views of the majority of the clubs involved – has led to our current stance. Any supporter who does decide to travel is urged to do so with caution and consult all relevant public transport and travel bodies before embarking on any journey.” Celtic, whose midweek Scottish Premiership meeting with Dundee was called off because of the weather, are on course for a second successive domestic treble, and Brendan Rodgers said. “We wanted the game on for the team's perspective. There's not games at this stage of the season for fitness - the games at this stage of the season are for winning.” The Hoops manager added: “A lot of work has gone on around the stadium to make it safe and secure for all the supporters tomorrow. We've had a bit of a breather for a couple of days so it won't do us any harm. The guys trained very well this morning so we're ready for the game.” Rangers’ midweek meeting with St Johnstone was played before the weather deteriorated and ended in a 4-1 win for the Ibrox side which, following their 2-0 home victory over Hearts, took them to within six points of Celtic, having played a game more. Asked if success in the Scottish Cup or a tight finish to the league campaign would guarantee him the Ibrox manager’s job on a longer-term basis, Graeme Murty said: “Tell you what - if we win every game between now and the end of the season it will be an interesting conversation. “We want to be talking about how excellent we were at the end of the season when we’ve got something to show for our efforts. The next step is a big game on Sunday at home. We need to bounce into that positive, ready, aggressive and relentless against an opponent that is not going to roll over.” Whether the four Scottish Cup ties survive or not, the semi-final draw will take place live on Sky on Sunday afternoon and will be conducted by the former Ibrox goalkeeper, Neil Alexander – who won the trophy twice as a Rangers player - and Paralympic gold-winning wheelchair tennis player Gordon Reid.
Scottish Cup quarter-final ties given the go-ahead despite Morton's fears over fan safety
As every league game in Scotland fell victim to the Siberian conditions, the weekend’s William Hill Scottish Cup quarter-final ties were still standing, like the multitudinous snowmen which dot the landscape. As of last night, Celtic’s lunchtime home date with Greenock Morton, as well as the Aberdeen v Kilmarnock tie, plus Sunday’s matches – Motherwell v Hearts and Rangers v Falkirk – were declared to be playable by the Scottish Football Association. The governing body, however, was criticised by Morton’s chief executive, Warren Hawke, who said on the club website: “We will have supporters risking life and limb to travel to a football match while the Met Office is issuing warnings to avoid non-essential travel. Ultimately, it isn’t about the area around Celtic Park. “Supporter safety has to be key and I don’t think anyone can guarantee that at this moment in time and I fear for a lot of Morton supporters trying to get to this game tomorrow. Surely the Scottish Football Association and Police Scotland will come together and make a sensible early decision in the best interests of the safety of everyone.” The South Stand at Pittodrie, meanwhile, will be shut, despite thousands of tickets having been sold for that part of the ground. A statement from Aberdeen said: “After further discussions this morning which took into account the readiness of the pitch, condition of the stadium interior, surrounding areas and the latest information available from Police Scotland and Transport Scotland regarding weather and travel conditions, both clubs have agreed to progress with the match as planned. “Unfortunately, due to the weather conditions, water supplies have been affected in parts of the South Stand. As a result, the decision has been taken to close the South Stand to home supporters for this match.” Brendan Rodgers and Celtic welcome Morton with open arms Credit: Jane Barlow/PA Wire The SFA subsequently explained its stance, through Andrew McKinlay, Interim Chief Executive of the Scottish FA, who said: “As it stands there are no plans to call off any of the William Hill Scottish Cup sixth-round fixtures. The desire and hope is that they proceed as planned. “There are no pitch inspections scheduled for these matches at this stage and each host club has worked tirelessly to ensure the pitches and the surrounding areas are safe and in the best possible condition. The safety of supporters, players and staff, as always, remains our top priority. We acknowledge that, either way, some supporters are likely to be left inconvenienced. “However, we are conscious that a great many have already committed to tickets and travels plans and that – along with improving weather conditions, forecasts from authorities and the views of the majority of the clubs involved – has led to our current stance. Any supporter who does decide to travel is urged to do so with caution and consult all relevant public transport and travel bodies before embarking on any journey.” Celtic, whose midweek Scottish Premiership meeting with Dundee was called off because of the weather, are on course for a second successive domestic treble, and Brendan Rodgers said. “We wanted the game on for the team's perspective. There's not games at this stage of the season for fitness - the games at this stage of the season are for winning.” The Hoops manager added: “A lot of work has gone on around the stadium to make it safe and secure for all the supporters tomorrow. We've had a bit of a breather for a couple of days so it won't do us any harm. The guys trained very well this morning so we're ready for the game.” Rangers’ midweek meeting with St Johnstone was played before the weather deteriorated and ended in a 4-1 win for the Ibrox side which, following their 2-0 home victory over Hearts, took them to within six points of Celtic, having played a game more. Asked if success in the Scottish Cup or a tight finish to the league campaign would guarantee him the Ibrox manager’s job on a longer-term basis, Graeme Murty said: “Tell you what - if we win every game between now and the end of the season it will be an interesting conversation. “We want to be talking about how excellent we were at the end of the season when we’ve got something to show for our efforts. The next step is a big game on Sunday at home. We need to bounce into that positive, ready, aggressive and relentless against an opponent that is not going to roll over.” Whether the four Scottish Cup ties survive or not, the semi-final draw will take place live on Sky on Sunday afternoon and will be conducted by the former Ibrox goalkeeper, Neil Alexander – who won the trophy twice as a Rangers player - and Paralympic gold-winning wheelchair tennis player Gordon Reid.
Concern about a fixture backlog in Scotland increased with the announcement that several weekend league games had been postponed because of the impact of severe weather. The Scottish Cup quarter-finals have not yet been disrupted but an announcement will be made today about the schedule. Of the midweek Scottish Premiership fixtures, only Tuesday’s games between Hearts and Kilmarnock – which finished 1-1 at Tynecastle – and Rangers’ 4-1 victory over St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park survived the freeze. Wednesday evening’s matches – Celtic v Dundee, Hibs v Hamilton and Motherwell v Aberdeen – were all postponed as icy weather swept in from Siberia, with blizzards forcing transport to a near-standstill. Rangers are now six points behind leaders Celtic, having played one game more than the champions, ahead of the third Old Firm derby of the season at Ibrox, a week on Sunday. This weekend’s league matches which have been called off include one Premiership fixture, between St Johnstone and Hamilton. Somewhat surprisingly, the other top-flight league game between Ross County and Partick Thistle, in the division’s most northerly venue at Dingwall, was still scheduled to go ahead. Aberdeen's game against Motherwell is one of a number of games to be called off in the Scottish Premiership Credit: PA In the Championship, Dundee United v St Mirren tonight and tomorrow’s Dunfermline v Livingston match are off. League One fixtures, Airdrieonians v Stranraer and Albion Rovers v Queen’s Park, plus four League 2 matches – Berwick Rangers v Stirling Albion, Clyde v Elgin City, Edinburgh City v Cowdenbeath and Peterhead v Stenhousemuir – also fell victim to the adverse conditions. Scotland was the subject of a Met Office red warning on Wednesday night and yesterday morning, but although the alert was downgraded to amber, it is likely that more games will fall victim to the snowy conditions. An SPFL statement read: “All other SPFL matches remain on at this point but will be reviewed at the earliest opportunity tomorrow morning.” The Scottish Football Association, meanwhile, is also monitoring conditions ahead of a Scottish Cup weekend that sees Celtic at home to Greenock Morton in a lunchtime kick-off. Aberdeen are also due to be in action tomorrow at Pittodrie against Kilmarnock. On Sunday, Motherwell are to meet Hearts at Fir Park, with Rangers at home to Falkirk later in the afternoon. An SFA source said: “We have no inspections scheduled yet and, in fact, pitches are the least of the worries. The questions are – can staff and players get in and can fans travel safely? We are liaising with clubs, police and broadcasters and will update the situation in due course.” Matches are also falling victim to the freeze south of the border. Tomorrow’s Championship game between Sheffield United and Burton Albion was postponed yesterday, along with Bradford v Portsmouth, Gillingham v Rotherham and Oxford v Fleetwood in League One. The League Two match between Newport County and Accrington Stanley was also called off. Rugby Union is also suffering with five of the Pro14’s seven fixtures for this weekend being postponed yesterday. The two remaining Pro14 fixtures are unaffected by the cold snap due to being played in South Africa, with the Southern Kings hosting Dragons in Port Elizabeth and the Cheetahs taking on Connacht in Bloemfontein. A top-of-the-table clash between Scarlets and Leinster is among the Pro14 matches that must now be rescheduled, with widespread disruption at Dublin airport preventing Leinster from making the trip to west Wales. “The health and safety of supporters, match officials, players and staff from both clubs has been the foremost consideration,” read a Pro14 statement. “It is in the best interests of everyone involved to postpone the fixtures and the rescheduled date and kick-off time will be confirmed as soon as possible. “We hope that supporters understand the reasons behind this postponement and that any inconvenience caused is minor compared to the impact of making this decision closer to kick-off.” Meanwhile in the Aviva Premiership, the top-two fixture between Exeter Chiefs and Saracens at Sandy Park in Devon has been moved from tomorrow to Sunday. All remaining fixtures in the competition are expected to go ahead as scheduled.
Beast from the East wreaks havoc with Scottish football and rugby fixtures
Concern about a fixture backlog in Scotland increased with the announcement that several weekend league games had been postponed because of the impact of severe weather. The Scottish Cup quarter-finals have not yet been disrupted but an announcement will be made today about the schedule. Of the midweek Scottish Premiership fixtures, only Tuesday’s games between Hearts and Kilmarnock – which finished 1-1 at Tynecastle – and Rangers’ 4-1 victory over St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park survived the freeze. Wednesday evening’s matches – Celtic v Dundee, Hibs v Hamilton and Motherwell v Aberdeen – were all postponed as icy weather swept in from Siberia, with blizzards forcing transport to a near-standstill. Rangers are now six points behind leaders Celtic, having played one game more than the champions, ahead of the third Old Firm derby of the season at Ibrox, a week on Sunday. This weekend’s league matches which have been called off include one Premiership fixture, between St Johnstone and Hamilton. Somewhat surprisingly, the other top-flight league game between Ross County and Partick Thistle, in the division’s most northerly venue at Dingwall, was still scheduled to go ahead. Aberdeen's game against Motherwell is one of a number of games to be called off in the Scottish Premiership Credit: PA In the Championship, Dundee United v St Mirren tonight and tomorrow’s Dunfermline v Livingston match are off. League One fixtures, Airdrieonians v Stranraer and Albion Rovers v Queen’s Park, plus four League 2 matches – Berwick Rangers v Stirling Albion, Clyde v Elgin City, Edinburgh City v Cowdenbeath and Peterhead v Stenhousemuir – also fell victim to the adverse conditions. Scotland was the subject of a Met Office red warning on Wednesday night and yesterday morning, but although the alert was downgraded to amber, it is likely that more games will fall victim to the snowy conditions. An SPFL statement read: “All other SPFL matches remain on at this point but will be reviewed at the earliest opportunity tomorrow morning.” The Scottish Football Association, meanwhile, is also monitoring conditions ahead of a Scottish Cup weekend that sees Celtic at home to Greenock Morton in a lunchtime kick-off. Aberdeen are also due to be in action tomorrow at Pittodrie against Kilmarnock. On Sunday, Motherwell are to meet Hearts at Fir Park, with Rangers at home to Falkirk later in the afternoon. An SFA source said: “We have no inspections scheduled yet and, in fact, pitches are the least of the worries. The questions are – can staff and players get in and can fans travel safely? We are liaising with clubs, police and broadcasters and will update the situation in due course.” Matches are also falling victim to the freeze south of the border. Tomorrow’s Championship game between Sheffield United and Burton Albion was postponed yesterday, along with Bradford v Portsmouth, Gillingham v Rotherham and Oxford v Fleetwood in League One. The League Two match between Newport County and Accrington Stanley was also called off. Rugby Union is also suffering with five of the Pro14’s seven fixtures for this weekend being postponed yesterday. The two remaining Pro14 fixtures are unaffected by the cold snap due to being played in South Africa, with the Southern Kings hosting Dragons in Port Elizabeth and the Cheetahs taking on Connacht in Bloemfontein. A top-of-the-table clash between Scarlets and Leinster is among the Pro14 matches that must now be rescheduled, with widespread disruption at Dublin airport preventing Leinster from making the trip to west Wales. “The health and safety of supporters, match officials, players and staff from both clubs has been the foremost consideration,” read a Pro14 statement. “It is in the best interests of everyone involved to postpone the fixtures and the rescheduled date and kick-off time will be confirmed as soon as possible. “We hope that supporters understand the reasons behind this postponement and that any inconvenience caused is minor compared to the impact of making this decision closer to kick-off.” Meanwhile in the Aviva Premiership, the top-two fixture between Exeter Chiefs and Saracens at Sandy Park in Devon has been moved from tomorrow to Sunday. All remaining fixtures in the competition are expected to go ahead as scheduled.
Concern about a fixture backlog in Scotland increased with the announcement that several weekend league games had been postponed because of the impact of severe weather. The Scottish Cup quarter-finals have not yet been disrupted but an announcement will be made today about the schedule. Of the midweek Scottish Premiership fixtures, only Tuesday’s games between Hearts and Kilmarnock – which finished 1-1 at Tynecastle – and Rangers’ 4-1 victory over St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park survived the freeze. Wednesday evening’s matches – Celtic v Dundee, Hibs v Hamilton and Motherwell v Aberdeen – were all postponed as icy weather swept in from Siberia, with blizzards forcing transport to a near-standstill. Rangers are now six points behind leaders Celtic, having played one game more than the champions, ahead of the third Old Firm derby of the season at Ibrox, a week on Sunday. This weekend’s league matches which have been called off include one Premiership fixture, between St Johnstone and Hamilton. Somewhat surprisingly, the other top-flight league game between Ross County and Partick Thistle, in the division’s most northerly venue at Dingwall, was still scheduled to go ahead. Aberdeen's game against Motherwell is one of a number of games to be called off in the Scottish Premiership Credit: PA In the Championship, Dundee United v St Mirren tonight and tomorrow’s Dunfermline v Livingston match are off. League One fixtures, Airdrieonians v Stranraer and Albion Rovers v Queen’s Park, plus four League 2 matches – Berwick Rangers v Stirling Albion, Clyde v Elgin City, Edinburgh City v Cowdenbeath and Peterhead v Stenhousemuir – also fell victim to the adverse conditions. Scotland was the subject of a Met Office red warning on Wednesday night and yesterday morning, but although the alert was downgraded to amber, it is likely that more games will fall victim to the snowy conditions. An SPFL statement read: “All other SPFL matches remain on at this point but will be reviewed at the earliest opportunity tomorrow morning.” The Scottish Football Association, meanwhile, is also monitoring conditions ahead of a Scottish Cup weekend that sees Celtic at home to Greenock Morton in a lunchtime kick-off. Aberdeen are also due to be in action tomorrow at Pittodrie against Kilmarnock. On Sunday, Motherwell are to meet Hearts at Fir Park, with Rangers at home to Falkirk later in the afternoon. An SFA source said: “We have no inspections scheduled yet and, in fact, pitches are the least of the worries. The questions are – can staff and players get in and can fans travel safely? We are liaising with clubs, police and broadcasters and will update the situation in due course.” Matches are also falling victim to the freeze south of the border. Tomorrow’s Championship game between Sheffield United and Burton Albion was postponed yesterday, along with Bradford v Portsmouth, Gillingham v Rotherham and Oxford v Fleetwood in League One. The League Two match between Newport County and Accrington Stanley was also called off. Rugby Union is also suffering with five of the Pro14’s seven fixtures for this weekend being postponed yesterday. The two remaining Pro14 fixtures are unaffected by the cold snap due to being played in South Africa, with the Southern Kings hosting Dragons in Port Elizabeth and the Cheetahs taking on Connacht in Bloemfontein. A top-of-the-table clash between Scarlets and Leinster is among the Pro14 matches that must now be rescheduled, with widespread disruption at Dublin airport preventing Leinster from making the trip to west Wales. “The health and safety of supporters, match officials, players and staff from both clubs has been the foremost consideration,” read a Pro14 statement. “It is in the best interests of everyone involved to postpone the fixtures and the rescheduled date and kick-off time will be confirmed as soon as possible. “We hope that supporters understand the reasons behind this postponement and that any inconvenience caused is minor compared to the impact of making this decision closer to kick-off.” Meanwhile in the Aviva Premiership, the top-two fixture between Exeter Chiefs and Saracens at Sandy Park in Devon has been moved from tomorrow to Sunday. All remaining fixtures in the competition are expected to go ahead as scheduled.
Beast from the East wreaks havoc with Scottish football and rugby fixtures
Concern about a fixture backlog in Scotland increased with the announcement that several weekend league games had been postponed because of the impact of severe weather. The Scottish Cup quarter-finals have not yet been disrupted but an announcement will be made today about the schedule. Of the midweek Scottish Premiership fixtures, only Tuesday’s games between Hearts and Kilmarnock – which finished 1-1 at Tynecastle – and Rangers’ 4-1 victory over St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park survived the freeze. Wednesday evening’s matches – Celtic v Dundee, Hibs v Hamilton and Motherwell v Aberdeen – were all postponed as icy weather swept in from Siberia, with blizzards forcing transport to a near-standstill. Rangers are now six points behind leaders Celtic, having played one game more than the champions, ahead of the third Old Firm derby of the season at Ibrox, a week on Sunday. This weekend’s league matches which have been called off include one Premiership fixture, between St Johnstone and Hamilton. Somewhat surprisingly, the other top-flight league game between Ross County and Partick Thistle, in the division’s most northerly venue at Dingwall, was still scheduled to go ahead. Aberdeen's game against Motherwell is one of a number of games to be called off in the Scottish Premiership Credit: PA In the Championship, Dundee United v St Mirren tonight and tomorrow’s Dunfermline v Livingston match are off. League One fixtures, Airdrieonians v Stranraer and Albion Rovers v Queen’s Park, plus four League 2 matches – Berwick Rangers v Stirling Albion, Clyde v Elgin City, Edinburgh City v Cowdenbeath and Peterhead v Stenhousemuir – also fell victim to the adverse conditions. Scotland was the subject of a Met Office red warning on Wednesday night and yesterday morning, but although the alert was downgraded to amber, it is likely that more games will fall victim to the snowy conditions. An SPFL statement read: “All other SPFL matches remain on at this point but will be reviewed at the earliest opportunity tomorrow morning.” The Scottish Football Association, meanwhile, is also monitoring conditions ahead of a Scottish Cup weekend that sees Celtic at home to Greenock Morton in a lunchtime kick-off. Aberdeen are also due to be in action tomorrow at Pittodrie against Kilmarnock. On Sunday, Motherwell are to meet Hearts at Fir Park, with Rangers at home to Falkirk later in the afternoon. An SFA source said: “We have no inspections scheduled yet and, in fact, pitches are the least of the worries. The questions are – can staff and players get in and can fans travel safely? We are liaising with clubs, police and broadcasters and will update the situation in due course.” Matches are also falling victim to the freeze south of the border. Tomorrow’s Championship game between Sheffield United and Burton Albion was postponed yesterday, along with Bradford v Portsmouth, Gillingham v Rotherham and Oxford v Fleetwood in League One. The League Two match between Newport County and Accrington Stanley was also called off. Rugby Union is also suffering with five of the Pro14’s seven fixtures for this weekend being postponed yesterday. The two remaining Pro14 fixtures are unaffected by the cold snap due to being played in South Africa, with the Southern Kings hosting Dragons in Port Elizabeth and the Cheetahs taking on Connacht in Bloemfontein. A top-of-the-table clash between Scarlets and Leinster is among the Pro14 matches that must now be rescheduled, with widespread disruption at Dublin airport preventing Leinster from making the trip to west Wales. “The health and safety of supporters, match officials, players and staff from both clubs has been the foremost consideration,” read a Pro14 statement. “It is in the best interests of everyone involved to postpone the fixtures and the rescheduled date and kick-off time will be confirmed as soon as possible. “We hope that supporters understand the reasons behind this postponement and that any inconvenience caused is minor compared to the impact of making this decision closer to kick-off.” Meanwhile in the Aviva Premiership, the top-two fixture between Exeter Chiefs and Saracens at Sandy Park in Devon has been moved from tomorrow to Sunday. All remaining fixtures in the competition are expected to go ahead as scheduled.
Kilmarnock's Jordan Jones' unstoppable strike sparked a comeback in the 2-2 draw with Hibernian.
Jones scores wonder goal for Kilmarnock
Kilmarnock's Jordan Jones' unstoppable strike sparked a comeback in the 2-2 draw with Hibernian.
Kilmarnock's Jordan Jones' unstoppable strike sparked a comeback in the 2-2 draw with Hibernian.
Jones scores wonder goal for Kilmarnock
Kilmarnock's Jordan Jones' unstoppable strike sparked a comeback in the 2-2 draw with Hibernian.
Kilmarnock's Jordan Jones' unstoppable strike sparked a comeback in the 2-2 draw with Hibernian.
Jones scores wonder goal for Kilmarnock
Kilmarnock's Jordan Jones' unstoppable strike sparked a comeback in the 2-2 draw with Hibernian.
Hibernian manager Neil Lennon lost his temper after he was sent to the stands during the draw with Kilmarnock.
Hibs boss Lennon totally loses it with referee
Hibernian manager Neil Lennon lost his temper after he was sent to the stands during the draw with Kilmarnock.
Hibernian manager Neil Lennon lost his temper after he was sent to the stands during the draw with Kilmarnock.
Hibs boss Lennon totally loses it with referee
Hibernian manager Neil Lennon lost his temper after he was sent to the stands during the draw with Kilmarnock.
Hibernian manager Neil Lennon lost his temper after he was sent to the stands during the draw with Kilmarnock.
Hibs boss Lennon totally loses it with referee
Hibernian manager Neil Lennon lost his temper after he was sent to the stands during the draw with Kilmarnock.
Despite Celtic’s advance on a second successive domestic treble, Scottish football is getting more competitive at its top level, according to Graeme Murty. The Rangers manager made his case after Saturday’s 2-0 win at home to Heart of Midlothian, which saw his side move to within six points of Celtic ahead of the leaders’ meeting with Aberdeen at Pittodrie on Sunday. Although Celtic have faltered during this campaign, those sides closest to them in the table have previously been unable to close the gap because of their own stumbles. Murty, though, cited the fact that the champions’ points advantage is significantly less than half of what it was a year ago. He said: “Their nearest rivals are closer than for a long time and getting closer to the league that we all want it to be. So, regardless of what Celtic do, our job is to push ourselves further and improve and make sure that, come the end of the season, we’re still talking about title races and challenges at the top of the table and in the Scottish Cup. “We want to be right at the top of the table and involved in every competition we compete in. I’m sure Derek McInnes is saying that at Aberdeen, Neil Lennon is saying that at Hibs and Craig Levein is saying that at Hearts. We want to be closer to what Celtic have done over the last period and, whilst being respectful to them, we want to make sure the season isn’t over by March. “We’re closer but we’re not where we need to be. We’re still improving, we’re still gelling and getting the group tighter and quicker with the ball and more cohesive in all departments.” Alfredo Morales, Rangers’ Colombian striker, stated last week that his aim was to move to an English club, a declaration which Murty declared laudable. “Yes. We want ambitious players here – players that are hungry to get to that next level,” he said. “We have just signed contracts with Josh Windass and James Tavernier, who are ambitious, still hungry to go and play at the highest level, but they understand that this place, this environment, gives them a fantastic platform. “We play in front of masses and masses of people at home. Our fans travel in their thousands away and we get fantastic coverage in the media, so there are not many places in Britain which get better coverage than we get and if Alfredo wants to go to England, he’s got things he has to do here that will bring that closer to being a reality for him. “He wants to be on the pitch scoring goals and I think that his last few performances have shown that he’s a real asset to the team. He’s shown good enthusiasm, good quality and that predatory instinct that we love. “At the moment, fatigue hasn’t become an issue. What we do have is a really, really good squad that means that, if we get the opportunity, or we need to, we can freshen things up. “As I keep on reiterating, though, this group has not finished growing yet. You’ve seen it just at the very, very start of its journey and we have to continue that growth. “There will be setbacks along the way. There will be knockbacks. We just have to understand what we are building. We are closer than we have been recently. But close doesn’t appease people. We want to be in front.” Rangers scored late in each half, taking the lead just before the break from Jamie Murphy and securing their three points two minutes before full- time when Russell Martin netted his first for the club with a tap-in. Elsewhere, Hibernian stunned Kilmarnock at Rugby Park with a first-minute strike by Florian Kamberi and a header by Ryan Porteous and by the interval the visitors could claim that they were unfortunate not to have doubled their advantage. Kilmarnock, though, responded with a swift double on their own account, first with a Jordan Jones shot and then with a penalty kick by Kris Boyd, in a match which finished 2-2. At the other end of the table, Ross County remained bottom when they lost 2-0 to St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park, where Murray Davidson netted a double and a poor day for the Staggies deteriorated when Craig Curran was sent off in the closing stages. Partick Thistle dropped into the relegation play-off place when their habit of conceding last-gasp goals materialised again with David Templeton’s injury time winner in a 2-1 defeat at Hamilton, who leapfrogged the Jags into 10th spot. Accies are now two points behind Dundee, whose fans were noisily unhappy at losing to Motherwell at Dens Park, where Craig Tanner scored the only goal.
Scottish football is getting more competitive at the top, insists Rangers manager Graeme Murty
Despite Celtic’s advance on a second successive domestic treble, Scottish football is getting more competitive at its top level, according to Graeme Murty. The Rangers manager made his case after Saturday’s 2-0 win at home to Heart of Midlothian, which saw his side move to within six points of Celtic ahead of the leaders’ meeting with Aberdeen at Pittodrie on Sunday. Although Celtic have faltered during this campaign, those sides closest to them in the table have previously been unable to close the gap because of their own stumbles. Murty, though, cited the fact that the champions’ points advantage is significantly less than half of what it was a year ago. He said: “Their nearest rivals are closer than for a long time and getting closer to the league that we all want it to be. So, regardless of what Celtic do, our job is to push ourselves further and improve and make sure that, come the end of the season, we’re still talking about title races and challenges at the top of the table and in the Scottish Cup. “We want to be right at the top of the table and involved in every competition we compete in. I’m sure Derek McInnes is saying that at Aberdeen, Neil Lennon is saying that at Hibs and Craig Levein is saying that at Hearts. We want to be closer to what Celtic have done over the last period and, whilst being respectful to them, we want to make sure the season isn’t over by March. “We’re closer but we’re not where we need to be. We’re still improving, we’re still gelling and getting the group tighter and quicker with the ball and more cohesive in all departments.” Alfredo Morales, Rangers’ Colombian striker, stated last week that his aim was to move to an English club, a declaration which Murty declared laudable. “Yes. We want ambitious players here – players that are hungry to get to that next level,” he said. “We have just signed contracts with Josh Windass and James Tavernier, who are ambitious, still hungry to go and play at the highest level, but they understand that this place, this environment, gives them a fantastic platform. “We play in front of masses and masses of people at home. Our fans travel in their thousands away and we get fantastic coverage in the media, so there are not many places in Britain which get better coverage than we get and if Alfredo wants to go to England, he’s got things he has to do here that will bring that closer to being a reality for him. “He wants to be on the pitch scoring goals and I think that his last few performances have shown that he’s a real asset to the team. He’s shown good enthusiasm, good quality and that predatory instinct that we love. “At the moment, fatigue hasn’t become an issue. What we do have is a really, really good squad that means that, if we get the opportunity, or we need to, we can freshen things up. “As I keep on reiterating, though, this group has not finished growing yet. You’ve seen it just at the very, very start of its journey and we have to continue that growth. “There will be setbacks along the way. There will be knockbacks. We just have to understand what we are building. We are closer than we have been recently. But close doesn’t appease people. We want to be in front.” Rangers scored late in each half, taking the lead just before the break from Jamie Murphy and securing their three points two minutes before full- time when Russell Martin netted his first for the club with a tap-in. Elsewhere, Hibernian stunned Kilmarnock at Rugby Park with a first-minute strike by Florian Kamberi and a header by Ryan Porteous and by the interval the visitors could claim that they were unfortunate not to have doubled their advantage. Kilmarnock, though, responded with a swift double on their own account, first with a Jordan Jones shot and then with a penalty kick by Kris Boyd, in a match which finished 2-2. At the other end of the table, Ross County remained bottom when they lost 2-0 to St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park, where Murray Davidson netted a double and a poor day for the Staggies deteriorated when Craig Curran was sent off in the closing stages. Partick Thistle dropped into the relegation play-off place when their habit of conceding last-gasp goals materialised again with David Templeton’s injury time winner in a 2-1 defeat at Hamilton, who leapfrogged the Jags into 10th spot. Accies are now two points behind Dundee, whose fans were noisily unhappy at losing to Motherwell at Dens Park, where Craig Tanner scored the only goal.
Russia occupies a curious status in Celtic’s chronicles, a trend that will be extended if Brendan Rodgers steers the Hoops past Zenit St Petersburg to a place in Friday’s draw for the last 16 of the Europa League. Despite the country’s reputation for inhospitable receptions to foreign interlopers, Celtic have found their recent visits to be productive. Tony Mowbray, whose record in Glasgow was nondescript, nevertheless became the first manager to follow a home defeat in Europe with a victory away over the same opposition when his players lost 1-0 to Dynamo at Celtic Park in the 2009 Champions League qualifiers but advanced with a 2-0 win in the Russian capital. In October 2012, Neil Lennon supervised Celtic’s first away success in the Champions League group stage when they beat Spartak 3-2. Now Rodgers has the opportunity to accomplish a feat that seemed distinctly unlikely only a couple of weeks ago, when Celtic stumbled to defeat at Kilmarnock. Qualification for European football after Christmas was merited because of a 3-0 Champions League group stage victory over Anderlecht in Belgium, in which Celtic’s tactical and physical superiority set them on course for third place in their section, behind Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich. The presence of the French and German superpowers was responsible for Celtic conceding 18 goals, more than any other side at that stage of the tournament. Zenit, by contrast, scored 17 to enter the Europa League knockout stage as the competition’s most prolific contenders. Callum McGregor scores Celtic's winner in the 1-0 home leg defeat of Zenit Credit: Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith Moreover, Roberto Mancini’s side never failed to score during their group matches, but Celtic’s well-known frailty in central defence – plus a dispiriting injury roster – could not be exploited in the first leg at Parkhead by a Zenit side ring rusty after a winter break that saw them in action for the first time since early December. Rodgers also deserves credit for shuffling his pack to effect, having seemingly consigned Callum McGregor to the fringes of the squad, only to allot him a starting place in the first instalment of this tie, to be rewarded when the midfielder scored the goal which separates the sides. Tom Rogic who, like McGregor, can play either off the striker or in the midfield holding role, resumed business against St Johnstone last weekend but one would imagine that Rodgers, who is canny when it comes to withholding or advancing players, is likely to give McGregor the opportunity to supplement his contribution to the tie and keep Rogic back as required for either a defensive final half hour or to inject potency up front in the closing stages. Although he had inserted careful caveats when he spoke about Celtic’s prospects before the first leg in Glasgow, Rodgers did not leave himself open to an indictment of false modesty ahead of the return. “We played a perfect game really in how the players defended and attacked,” he said. Roberto Mancini says his Zenit side won't change their approach Credit: Christopher Lee - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images "Of course, we would have liked to have had one or two more goals but the concentration and our quality in our game was at a very high level. We know that over the course of the two legs we need to replicate that but the players are ready. “They showed last week they can play. If they play with that aggression, quality and intensity, then it gives us a great opportunity. Our belief has always been there. At the beginning of the first leg, I was being a realist as everyone would probably expect Zenit to go through, but what we showed in the first leg is that we're going to make it very difficult for them and going to make it really competitive. “They will be expected to go through over the two legs, so my mindset hasn't changed, but what we showed in the first leg is that if we play with our quality and to the top of our level then we can match any team.” Mancini was equally bullish. All the players are ready and we don't change a lot,” he said. “We always play well at home in the Europa League “When you play the group stage, it's different to when you play two games. I'm confident we'll play a good game, concentrate without pressure.” The temperature in St Petersburg is predicted to fall to -13C by kickoff in the Krestovsky Stadium, but the roof will be closed. In any case, if Celtic score even one goal, the chances are that their travelling fans will come home basking in the prospect of a spring flowering.
Celtic head to happy hunting ground hoping to replicate Parkhead perfection
Russia occupies a curious status in Celtic’s chronicles, a trend that will be extended if Brendan Rodgers steers the Hoops past Zenit St Petersburg to a place in Friday’s draw for the last 16 of the Europa League. Despite the country’s reputation for inhospitable receptions to foreign interlopers, Celtic have found their recent visits to be productive. Tony Mowbray, whose record in Glasgow was nondescript, nevertheless became the first manager to follow a home defeat in Europe with a victory away over the same opposition when his players lost 1-0 to Dynamo at Celtic Park in the 2009 Champions League qualifiers but advanced with a 2-0 win in the Russian capital. In October 2012, Neil Lennon supervised Celtic’s first away success in the Champions League group stage when they beat Spartak 3-2. Now Rodgers has the opportunity to accomplish a feat that seemed distinctly unlikely only a couple of weeks ago, when Celtic stumbled to defeat at Kilmarnock. Qualification for European football after Christmas was merited because of a 3-0 Champions League group stage victory over Anderlecht in Belgium, in which Celtic’s tactical and physical superiority set them on course for third place in their section, behind Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich. The presence of the French and German superpowers was responsible for Celtic conceding 18 goals, more than any other side at that stage of the tournament. Zenit, by contrast, scored 17 to enter the Europa League knockout stage as the competition’s most prolific contenders. Callum McGregor scores Celtic's winner in the 1-0 home leg defeat of Zenit Credit: Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith Moreover, Roberto Mancini’s side never failed to score during their group matches, but Celtic’s well-known frailty in central defence – plus a dispiriting injury roster – could not be exploited in the first leg at Parkhead by a Zenit side ring rusty after a winter break that saw them in action for the first time since early December. Rodgers also deserves credit for shuffling his pack to effect, having seemingly consigned Callum McGregor to the fringes of the squad, only to allot him a starting place in the first instalment of this tie, to be rewarded when the midfielder scored the goal which separates the sides. Tom Rogic who, like McGregor, can play either off the striker or in the midfield holding role, resumed business against St Johnstone last weekend but one would imagine that Rodgers, who is canny when it comes to withholding or advancing players, is likely to give McGregor the opportunity to supplement his contribution to the tie and keep Rogic back as required for either a defensive final half hour or to inject potency up front in the closing stages. Although he had inserted careful caveats when he spoke about Celtic’s prospects before the first leg in Glasgow, Rodgers did not leave himself open to an indictment of false modesty ahead of the return. “We played a perfect game really in how the players defended and attacked,” he said. Roberto Mancini says his Zenit side won't change their approach Credit: Christopher Lee - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images "Of course, we would have liked to have had one or two more goals but the concentration and our quality in our game was at a very high level. We know that over the course of the two legs we need to replicate that but the players are ready. “They showed last week they can play. If they play with that aggression, quality and intensity, then it gives us a great opportunity. Our belief has always been there. At the beginning of the first leg, I was being a realist as everyone would probably expect Zenit to go through, but what we showed in the first leg is that we're going to make it very difficult for them and going to make it really competitive. “They will be expected to go through over the two legs, so my mindset hasn't changed, but what we showed in the first leg is that if we play with our quality and to the top of our level then we can match any team.” Mancini was equally bullish. All the players are ready and we don't change a lot,” he said. “We always play well at home in the Europa League “When you play the group stage, it's different to when you play two games. I'm confident we'll play a good game, concentrate without pressure.” The temperature in St Petersburg is predicted to fall to -13C by kickoff in the Krestovsky Stadium, but the roof will be closed. In any case, if Celtic score even one goal, the chances are that their travelling fans will come home basking in the prospect of a spring flowering.
Russia occupies a curious status in Celtic’s chronicles, a trend that will be extended if Brendan Rodgers steers the Hoops past Zenit St Petersburg to a place in Friday’s draw for the last 16 of the Europa League. Despite the country’s reputation for inhospitable receptions to foreign interlopers, Celtic have found their recent visits to be productive. Tony Mowbray, whose record in Glasgow was nondescript, nevertheless became the first manager to follow a home defeat in Europe with a victory away over the same opposition when his players lost 1-0 to Dynamo at Celtic Park in the 2009 Champions League qualifiers but advanced with a 2-0 win in the Russian capital. In October 2012, Neil Lennon supervised Celtic’s first away success in the Champions League group stage when they beat Spartak 3-2. Now Rodgers has the opportunity to accomplish a feat that seemed distinctly unlikely only a couple of weeks ago, when Celtic stumbled to defeat at Kilmarnock. Qualification for European football after Christmas was merited because of a 3-0 Champions League group stage victory over Anderlecht in Belgium, in which Celtic’s tactical and physical superiority set them on course for third place in their section, behind Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich. The presence of the French and German superpowers was responsible for Celtic conceding 18 goals, more than any other side at that stage of the tournament. Zenit, by contrast, scored 17 to enter the Europa League knockout stage as the competition’s most prolific contenders. Callum McGregor scores Celtic's winner in the 1-0 home leg defeat of Zenit Credit: Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith Moreover, Roberto Mancini’s side never failed to score during their group matches, but Celtic’s well-known frailty in central defence – plus a dispiriting injury roster – could not be exploited in the first leg at Parkhead by a Zenit side ring rusty after a winter break that saw them in action for the first time since early December. Rodgers also deserves credit for shuffling his pack to effect, having seemingly consigned Callum McGregor to the fringes of the squad, only to allot him a starting place in the first instalment of this tie, to be rewarded when the midfielder scored the goal which separates the sides. Tom Rogic who, like McGregor, can play either off the striker or in the midfield holding role, resumed business against St Johnstone last weekend but one would imagine that Rodgers, who is canny when it comes to withholding or advancing players, is likely to give McGregor the opportunity to supplement his contribution to the tie and keep Rogic back as required for either a defensive final half hour or to inject potency up front in the closing stages. Although he had inserted careful caveats when he spoke about Celtic’s prospects before the first leg in Glasgow, Rodgers did not leave himself open to an indictment of false modesty ahead of the return. “We played a perfect game really in how the players defended and attacked,” he said. Roberto Mancini says his Zenit side won't change their approach Credit: Christopher Lee - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images "Of course, we would have liked to have had one or two more goals but the concentration and our quality in our game was at a very high level. We know that over the course of the two legs we need to replicate that but the players are ready. “They showed last week they can play. If they play with that aggression, quality and intensity, then it gives us a great opportunity. Our belief has always been there. At the beginning of the first leg, I was being a realist as everyone would probably expect Zenit to go through, but what we showed in the first leg is that we're going to make it very difficult for them and going to make it really competitive. “They will be expected to go through over the two legs, so my mindset hasn't changed, but what we showed in the first leg is that if we play with our quality and to the top of our level then we can match any team.” Mancini was equally bullish. All the players are ready and we don't change a lot,” he said. “We always play well at home in the Europa League “When you play the group stage, it's different to when you play two games. I'm confident we'll play a good game, concentrate without pressure.” The temperature in St Petersburg is predicted to fall to -13C by kickoff in the Krestovsky Stadium, but the roof will be closed. In any case, if Celtic score even one goal, the chances are that their travelling fans will come home basking in the prospect of a spring flowering.
Celtic head to happy hunting ground hoping to replicate Parkhead perfection
Russia occupies a curious status in Celtic’s chronicles, a trend that will be extended if Brendan Rodgers steers the Hoops past Zenit St Petersburg to a place in Friday’s draw for the last 16 of the Europa League. Despite the country’s reputation for inhospitable receptions to foreign interlopers, Celtic have found their recent visits to be productive. Tony Mowbray, whose record in Glasgow was nondescript, nevertheless became the first manager to follow a home defeat in Europe with a victory away over the same opposition when his players lost 1-0 to Dynamo at Celtic Park in the 2009 Champions League qualifiers but advanced with a 2-0 win in the Russian capital. In October 2012, Neil Lennon supervised Celtic’s first away success in the Champions League group stage when they beat Spartak 3-2. Now Rodgers has the opportunity to accomplish a feat that seemed distinctly unlikely only a couple of weeks ago, when Celtic stumbled to defeat at Kilmarnock. Qualification for European football after Christmas was merited because of a 3-0 Champions League group stage victory over Anderlecht in Belgium, in which Celtic’s tactical and physical superiority set them on course for third place in their section, behind Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich. The presence of the French and German superpowers was responsible for Celtic conceding 18 goals, more than any other side at that stage of the tournament. Zenit, by contrast, scored 17 to enter the Europa League knockout stage as the competition’s most prolific contenders. Callum McGregor scores Celtic's winner in the 1-0 home leg defeat of Zenit Credit: Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith Moreover, Roberto Mancini’s side never failed to score during their group matches, but Celtic’s well-known frailty in central defence – plus a dispiriting injury roster – could not be exploited in the first leg at Parkhead by a Zenit side ring rusty after a winter break that saw them in action for the first time since early December. Rodgers also deserves credit for shuffling his pack to effect, having seemingly consigned Callum McGregor to the fringes of the squad, only to allot him a starting place in the first instalment of this tie, to be rewarded when the midfielder scored the goal which separates the sides. Tom Rogic who, like McGregor, can play either off the striker or in the midfield holding role, resumed business against St Johnstone last weekend but one would imagine that Rodgers, who is canny when it comes to withholding or advancing players, is likely to give McGregor the opportunity to supplement his contribution to the tie and keep Rogic back as required for either a defensive final half hour or to inject potency up front in the closing stages. Although he had inserted careful caveats when he spoke about Celtic’s prospects before the first leg in Glasgow, Rodgers did not leave himself open to an indictment of false modesty ahead of the return. “We played a perfect game really in how the players defended and attacked,” he said. Roberto Mancini says his Zenit side won't change their approach Credit: Christopher Lee - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images "Of course, we would have liked to have had one or two more goals but the concentration and our quality in our game was at a very high level. We know that over the course of the two legs we need to replicate that but the players are ready. “They showed last week they can play. If they play with that aggression, quality and intensity, then it gives us a great opportunity. Our belief has always been there. At the beginning of the first leg, I was being a realist as everyone would probably expect Zenit to go through, but what we showed in the first leg is that we're going to make it very difficult for them and going to make it really competitive. “They will be expected to go through over the two legs, so my mindset hasn't changed, but what we showed in the first leg is that if we play with our quality and to the top of our level then we can match any team.” Mancini was equally bullish. All the players are ready and we don't change a lot,” he said. “We always play well at home in the Europa League “When you play the group stage, it's different to when you play two games. I'm confident we'll play a good game, concentrate without pressure.” The temperature in St Petersburg is predicted to fall to -13C by kickoff in the Krestovsky Stadium, but the roof will be closed. In any case, if Celtic score even one goal, the chances are that their travelling fans will come home basking in the prospect of a spring flowering.
Russia occupies a curious status in Celtic’s chronicles, a trend that will be extended if Brendan Rodgers steers the Hoops past Zenit St Petersburg to a place in Friday’s draw for the last 16 of the Europa League. Despite the country’s reputation for inhospitable receptions to foreign interlopers, Celtic have found their recent visits to be productive. Tony Mowbray, whose record in Glasgow was nondescript, nevertheless became the first manager to follow a home defeat in Europe with a victory away over the same opposition when his players lost 1-0 to Dynamo at Celtic Park in the 2009 Champions League qualifiers but advanced with a 2-0 win in the Russian capital. In October 2012, Neil Lennon supervised Celtic’s first away success in the Champions League group stage when they beat Spartak 3-2. Now Rodgers has the opportunity to accomplish a feat that seemed distinctly unlikely only a couple of weeks ago, when Celtic stumbled to defeat at Kilmarnock. Qualification for European football after Christmas was merited because of a 3-0 Champions League group stage victory over Anderlecht in Belgium, in which Celtic’s tactical and physical superiority set them on course for third place in their section, behind Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich. The presence of the French and German superpowers was responsible for Celtic conceding 18 goals, more than any other side at that stage of the tournament. Zenit, by contrast, scored 17 to enter the Europa League knockout stage as the competition’s most prolific contenders. Callum McGregor scores Celtic's winner in the 1-0 home leg defeat of Zenit Credit: Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith Moreover, Roberto Mancini’s side never failed to score during their group matches, but Celtic’s well-known frailty in central defence – plus a dispiriting injury roster – could not be exploited in the first leg at Parkhead by a Zenit side ring rusty after a winter break that saw them in action for the first time since early December. Rodgers also deserves credit for shuffling his pack to effect, having seemingly consigned Callum McGregor to the fringes of the squad, only to allot him a starting place in the first instalment of this tie, to be rewarded when the midfielder scored the goal which separates the sides. Tom Rogic who, like McGregor, can play either off the striker or in the midfield holding role, resumed business against St Johnstone last weekend but one would imagine that Rodgers, who is canny when it comes to withholding or advancing players, is likely to give McGregor the opportunity to supplement his contribution to the tie and keep Rogic back as required for either a defensive final half hour or to inject potency up front in the closing stages. Although he had inserted careful caveats when he spoke about Celtic’s prospects before the first leg in Glasgow, Rodgers did not leave himself open to an indictment of false modesty ahead of the return. “We played a perfect game really in how the players defended and attacked,” he said. Roberto Mancini says his Zenit side won't change their approach Credit: Christopher Lee - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images "Of course, we would have liked to have had one or two more goals but the concentration and our quality in our game was at a very high level. We know that over the course of the two legs we need to replicate that but the players are ready. “They showed last week they can play. If they play with that aggression, quality and intensity, then it gives us a great opportunity. Our belief has always been there. At the beginning of the first leg, I was being a realist as everyone would probably expect Zenit to go through, but what we showed in the first leg is that we're going to make it very difficult for them and going to make it really competitive. “They will be expected to go through over the two legs, so my mindset hasn't changed, but what we showed in the first leg is that if we play with our quality and to the top of our level then we can match any team.” Mancini was equally bullish. All the players are ready and we don't change a lot,” he said. “We always play well at home in the Europa League “When you play the group stage, it's different to when you play two games. I'm confident we'll play a good game, concentrate without pressure.” The temperature in St Petersburg is predicted to fall to -13C by kickoff in the Krestovsky Stadium, but the roof will be closed. In any case, if Celtic score even one goal, the chances are that their travelling fans will come home basking in the prospect of a spring flowering.
Celtic head to happy hunting ground hoping to replicate Parkhead perfection
Russia occupies a curious status in Celtic’s chronicles, a trend that will be extended if Brendan Rodgers steers the Hoops past Zenit St Petersburg to a place in Friday’s draw for the last 16 of the Europa League. Despite the country’s reputation for inhospitable receptions to foreign interlopers, Celtic have found their recent visits to be productive. Tony Mowbray, whose record in Glasgow was nondescript, nevertheless became the first manager to follow a home defeat in Europe with a victory away over the same opposition when his players lost 1-0 to Dynamo at Celtic Park in the 2009 Champions League qualifiers but advanced with a 2-0 win in the Russian capital. In October 2012, Neil Lennon supervised Celtic’s first away success in the Champions League group stage when they beat Spartak 3-2. Now Rodgers has the opportunity to accomplish a feat that seemed distinctly unlikely only a couple of weeks ago, when Celtic stumbled to defeat at Kilmarnock. Qualification for European football after Christmas was merited because of a 3-0 Champions League group stage victory over Anderlecht in Belgium, in which Celtic’s tactical and physical superiority set them on course for third place in their section, behind Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich. The presence of the French and German superpowers was responsible for Celtic conceding 18 goals, more than any other side at that stage of the tournament. Zenit, by contrast, scored 17 to enter the Europa League knockout stage as the competition’s most prolific contenders. Callum McGregor scores Celtic's winner in the 1-0 home leg defeat of Zenit Credit: Action Images via Reuters/Lee Smith Moreover, Roberto Mancini’s side never failed to score during their group matches, but Celtic’s well-known frailty in central defence – plus a dispiriting injury roster – could not be exploited in the first leg at Parkhead by a Zenit side ring rusty after a winter break that saw them in action for the first time since early December. Rodgers also deserves credit for shuffling his pack to effect, having seemingly consigned Callum McGregor to the fringes of the squad, only to allot him a starting place in the first instalment of this tie, to be rewarded when the midfielder scored the goal which separates the sides. Tom Rogic who, like McGregor, can play either off the striker or in the midfield holding role, resumed business against St Johnstone last weekend but one would imagine that Rodgers, who is canny when it comes to withholding or advancing players, is likely to give McGregor the opportunity to supplement his contribution to the tie and keep Rogic back as required for either a defensive final half hour or to inject potency up front in the closing stages. Although he had inserted careful caveats when he spoke about Celtic’s prospects before the first leg in Glasgow, Rodgers did not leave himself open to an indictment of false modesty ahead of the return. “We played a perfect game really in how the players defended and attacked,” he said. Roberto Mancini says his Zenit side won't change their approach Credit: Christopher Lee - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images "Of course, we would have liked to have had one or two more goals but the concentration and our quality in our game was at a very high level. We know that over the course of the two legs we need to replicate that but the players are ready. “They showed last week they can play. If they play with that aggression, quality and intensity, then it gives us a great opportunity. Our belief has always been there. At the beginning of the first leg, I was being a realist as everyone would probably expect Zenit to go through, but what we showed in the first leg is that we're going to make it very difficult for them and going to make it really competitive. “They will be expected to go through over the two legs, so my mindset hasn't changed, but what we showed in the first leg is that if we play with our quality and to the top of our level then we can match any team.” Mancini was equally bullish. All the players are ready and we don't change a lot,” he said. “We always play well at home in the Europa League “When you play the group stage, it's different to when you play two games. I'm confident we'll play a good game, concentrate without pressure.” The temperature in St Petersburg is predicted to fall to -13C by kickoff in the Krestovsky Stadium, but the roof will be closed. In any case, if Celtic score even one goal, the chances are that their travelling fans will come home basking in the prospect of a spring flowering.
In contrast to last season’s inexorable progress to a clean sweep of the domestic honours, Celtic have had to break step during this campaign and did so again in a game which saw St Johnstone – not for the first time in recent seasons under Tommy Wright – leave the east end of Glasgow with reward to show for their efforts. The outcome of a goalless contest was, nevertheless, a reminder that championships can be acquired in diverse fashions. Celtic shed two points yet found themselves better off than they had been before the weekend because, yet again, the nearest contenders were unable to muster the victories that would have put at least a nominal degree of pressure on them. When Celtic lost at Kilmarnock at the start of the month Rangers lost at home to Hibernian. On Saturday, Aberdeen had the opportunity to move to within five points of the leaders, a prospect which evaporated when they were deservedly beaten 2-0 by Hibs at Easter Road. The upshot is that Celtic, despite failing to score at home in a league fixture for only the second time under Brendan Rodgers, are now nine points clear of Rangers, who overtook Aberdeen on goal difference with their 5-3 win at Hamilton. If Celtic are not invincible in Scotland, as they were last season, their horizons have expanded to include the possibility of Europa League football in the last 16 of the competition next month. History has demonstrated that expeditions to Russia are notoriously hazardous but Rodgers exercised the opportunity to harbour his resources ahead of Thursday’s return leg meeting with Zenit in St Petersburg, where Celtic will attempt to capitalise on the 1-0 lead posted at home in the first instalment. Celtic made no fewer than seven changes from the Europa League match, with only Dorus de Vries, Kris Ajer, Callum McGregor and Eboue Kouassi retained for the visit of a St Johnstone side coming off the back of three successive defeats. McGregor and Kouassi, though, were switched from advanced midfield positions to fill the holding roles usually taken by Olivier Ntcham and Scott Brown. Tom Rogic was back in action Credit: PA The use of squad players was notable at full-back, where Cristiam Gamboa and Calvin Miller were summoned from the fringes of the squad. One particularly heartening inclusion was that of Tom Rogic, back on his familiar beat behind the front three for the first time since the 1-0 home defeat by Anderlecht in the Champions League, after which he sustained a disruptive knee injury. The Australian looked entirely comfortable during an opening spell of almost complete Celtic dominance when, for 10 minutes, Saints could scarcely get a touch on the ball. For all their command of possession, though, the Hoops managed only a single attempt on target, when Ajer met a free kick from the right with a header that was parried by Alan Mannus and nodded clear by Steve Anderson. To the audible frustration of the home support, the visitors began to break out of the quarantine zone around their own penalty area and fashioned a series of alarms at the other end of the field. This switch was signalled by a cross from David Wotherspoon headed narrowly over by Blair Alston, followed immediately by a free kick touched by Wotherspoon to Richard Foster, whose drive from the edge of the box swept just high of the crossbar. St Johnstone came close on two more occasions, with another Wotherspoon delivery that squirmed narrowly past the post and then an Alston delivery pitched fractionally too high. The second half simply extended the pattern of the first and, as the proceedings wore on, Rodgers attempted to break the deadlock from the bench in the form of Kieran Tierney, James Forrest and Moussa Dembele. St Johnstone’s response was to replace George Williams with Matty Willock and the on-loan Manchester United midfielder might have put his team in front when he burrowed behind the Hoops defence had he chosen to shoot rather than cut back to Steven MacLean. As it was, while Celtic conserved their energy for Zenit, Saints departed with an unanticipated bonus in their battle to clear the relegation zone.
Celtic 0 St Johnstone 0: Brendan Rodgers keeps Europa League in mind as much-changed side go nine points clear
In contrast to last season’s inexorable progress to a clean sweep of the domestic honours, Celtic have had to break step during this campaign and did so again in a game which saw St Johnstone – not for the first time in recent seasons under Tommy Wright – leave the east end of Glasgow with reward to show for their efforts. The outcome of a goalless contest was, nevertheless, a reminder that championships can be acquired in diverse fashions. Celtic shed two points yet found themselves better off than they had been before the weekend because, yet again, the nearest contenders were unable to muster the victories that would have put at least a nominal degree of pressure on them. When Celtic lost at Kilmarnock at the start of the month Rangers lost at home to Hibernian. On Saturday, Aberdeen had the opportunity to move to within five points of the leaders, a prospect which evaporated when they were deservedly beaten 2-0 by Hibs at Easter Road. The upshot is that Celtic, despite failing to score at home in a league fixture for only the second time under Brendan Rodgers, are now nine points clear of Rangers, who overtook Aberdeen on goal difference with their 5-3 win at Hamilton. If Celtic are not invincible in Scotland, as they were last season, their horizons have expanded to include the possibility of Europa League football in the last 16 of the competition next month. History has demonstrated that expeditions to Russia are notoriously hazardous but Rodgers exercised the opportunity to harbour his resources ahead of Thursday’s return leg meeting with Zenit in St Petersburg, where Celtic will attempt to capitalise on the 1-0 lead posted at home in the first instalment. Celtic made no fewer than seven changes from the Europa League match, with only Dorus de Vries, Kris Ajer, Callum McGregor and Eboue Kouassi retained for the visit of a St Johnstone side coming off the back of three successive defeats. McGregor and Kouassi, though, were switched from advanced midfield positions to fill the holding roles usually taken by Olivier Ntcham and Scott Brown. Tom Rogic was back in action Credit: PA The use of squad players was notable at full-back, where Cristiam Gamboa and Calvin Miller were summoned from the fringes of the squad. One particularly heartening inclusion was that of Tom Rogic, back on his familiar beat behind the front three for the first time since the 1-0 home defeat by Anderlecht in the Champions League, after which he sustained a disruptive knee injury. The Australian looked entirely comfortable during an opening spell of almost complete Celtic dominance when, for 10 minutes, Saints could scarcely get a touch on the ball. For all their command of possession, though, the Hoops managed only a single attempt on target, when Ajer met a free kick from the right with a header that was parried by Alan Mannus and nodded clear by Steve Anderson. To the audible frustration of the home support, the visitors began to break out of the quarantine zone around their own penalty area and fashioned a series of alarms at the other end of the field. This switch was signalled by a cross from David Wotherspoon headed narrowly over by Blair Alston, followed immediately by a free kick touched by Wotherspoon to Richard Foster, whose drive from the edge of the box swept just high of the crossbar. St Johnstone came close on two more occasions, with another Wotherspoon delivery that squirmed narrowly past the post and then an Alston delivery pitched fractionally too high. The second half simply extended the pattern of the first and, as the proceedings wore on, Rodgers attempted to break the deadlock from the bench in the form of Kieran Tierney, James Forrest and Moussa Dembele. St Johnstone’s response was to replace George Williams with Matty Willock and the on-loan Manchester United midfielder might have put his team in front when he burrowed behind the Hoops defence had he chosen to shoot rather than cut back to Steven MacLean. As it was, while Celtic conserved their energy for Zenit, Saints departed with an unanticipated bonus in their battle to clear the relegation zone.

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