PAUL JOHN DYKES:
The dreadful home support was matched only by the state of the McDiarmid Park pitch, which cut up badly down Celtic’s left in the first-half.
Whether or not the poor surface set the tone for Greg Taylor’s overall performance is another matter for debate, but the former Killie man’s offensive threat was virtually nullified by St Johnstone’s quietly effective winger, Drey Wright.
Taylor huffed and puffed until he was finally hooked for the often condemned Jonny Hayes, as Neil Lennon went all out for the winner. When it arrived five minutes after Hayes’ arrival, it was the best player on the quagmire of a pitch who scored it.
Ryan Christie deserved the glory after the shift he put in this afternoon. His work-rate is unparalleled by anyone in the Scottish game, and his absence from the side against Copenhagen was a huge blow to Celtic’s Europa League aspirations.
The free-kick whipped in by Christie had been won after James Forrest was scythed to the mud by former Celt, Jamie McCart. I instantly wondered if such a disparaging choice of words would be used by the home side’s Tweeter to describe the challenge, in the same way that they took a cheap dig at Scott Brown during our last visit to Perth in January…
That jibe was contemptuous, as was the size of the St Johnstone home support today, as Celtic moved into the ‘this could really happen’ territory of a quadruple treble.
If this remarkable achievement does materialise, then it will be largely down to days like today – terrible conditions, a Euro hangover, an incompetent official, and a few players far from their best… the perfect storm. But Neil Lennon’s men ground out the result and kept the fire burning.
Much maligned following his team selection and tactics against Copenhagen on Thursday night, Neil Lennon deserves huge credit for the personnel changes he made in the second-half of this banana skin fixture – Tom Rogic linked up superbly well at times and is finding form when Celtic need him most; meanwhile Ryan Christie was pushed upfront to climactic effect.Listen to the latest episode of the award-winning A Celtic State of Mind with ACE CITY RACERS
Celtic’s game management was very good today. Our focus had to be on a clean sheet after uncharacteristically losing three goals in midweek, and that objective was met.
The McDiarmid Park pitch was in poor condition and not suitable for our blend of football, and the officials failed to punish to sendings-off for the home side, but Neil Lennon’s men got the job done and we are into another semi-final.
We are now potentially two games away from an unthinkable quadruple treble…
A scrappy game, but if we lift the trophy in May, absolutely no-one will care.
Not quite the reaction we were looking for after Thursday night and there’s a few players who could be doing with upping their game – Edouard, Forrest, Ajer, Taylor – to help with the run-in.
Back to league business on Wednesday and an extremely important tie against Livingston. Let’s get this hoodoo off our backs and get the 9 wrapped up before we face Aberdeen at Hampden in April.
It’s fair to say that we scored in what I would call ‘first goal the winner’ time. We also scored when St Johnstone had made us look nervous.
We had got a bit desperate by trying to force the issue after a second-half of missed chances and domination. We lost on Thursday trying to force the issue. Did today have that feel? No, but today did have a hangover feel, no matter what happened elsewhere in the last 24 hours. A sense of danger with the wind, rain and a park that was part swimming pool, part mud and part grass.
We did play some decent stuff on it. We did create some fantastic chances and we did deserve to win.
Before the game, the general consensus was we just wanted to be in the semi-final and how we got there didn’t really matter. We got that.
No complaints and no regrets.
🍀 A CELTIC STATE OF MIND
⭐️ Man of the Match
🏆 St Johnstone 0 Celtic 1
1️⃣ Ryan Christie
2️⃣ Nir Bitton
3️⃣ Christopher Jullien