'Derry Pele' helps Celtic to turn a corner
Motherwell 1 Celtic 2
Having driven their manager and fans round the bend for most of this campaign, Celtic might just have found a spark at Fir Park yesterday.
They emerged from a hazardous venue with a clutch of positives, having fallen behind yet again -- and once more from a corner-kick -- to leapfrog the Steelmen into second place in the SPL table on goal difference, with both teams now 12 points behind Rangers, but with Celtic having a game in hand over both of the others. There was a depressing familiarity for the visiting support, stationed behind Fraser Forster's goal in the first half, when they saw the 'keeper exposed at another of the corners that seem to baffle the Celtic defence so frequently.
Tom Hateley played it short, took the return ball from Nicky Law and planted his cross straight on to the forehead of Michael Higdon, who left Forster stranded.
"To go a goal behind in the manner that we did is something that we've looked at and looked at because it seems to keep happening," said Alan Thompson when the Celtic first-team coach deputised for Neil Lennon -- the manager having stayed away from the post-match analysis, pleading that he was unwell.
However, the evidence of reinforced spirit that was seen in Celtic's 3-1 victory over Rennes on Thursday night came to their aid swiftly when they, too, forced a corner almost immediately after conceding the opener. Kris Commons' delivery was glanced on by Georgios Samaras to Anthony Stokes, who equalised with a raking back-post volley.
Stokes was offered an outstanding chance to double his tally when Stephen Craigan was caught out by a long ball punted from the Celtic half but the Dubliner could not quite master possession and was thwarted by Darren Randolph's alertness as the 'keeper blocked bravely. Lennon's response to the ongoing stalemate was to replace Commons with Gary Hooper and Samaras with Paddy McCourt.
With only 10 minutes left and the Celtic support contemplating the leakage of another two points, the 'Derry Pele' McCourt ghosted past a couple of opponents and spread the ball wide left to Stokes, whose cutback was turned over the line by Hooper almost from below the crossbar.
Motherwell's chance of clawing a point from what remained of the game was immediately extinguished when Tim Clancy was shown a straight red card for kicking Hooper off the ball. (© Daily Telegraph, London)