Saturday 7 December 2019

Goal machine Keane keeps Bhoys dreaming

Celtic 3
St Johnstone 0

Roddy Forsyth

Here's a scenario that has quietly suggested itself to one or two people within Celtic Park.

Celtic visit St Mirren on Wednesday night and encounter a Paisley side drained by their unaccustomed appearance in yesterday's Co-operative Insurance Cup final. Tony Mowbray's side win and the gap between them and Rangers is cut to seven points.

Rangers, meanwhile, are embroiled in a tough Scottish Cup quarter-final replay against Dundee United at Tannadice and, win or lose, Walter Smith's players have to summon their energies for another hazardous fixture on the road, the lunchtime kick-off against Hearts at Tynecastle on Saturday.

Hearts, moreover, are buoyed by their victory over Hibernian in the Edinburgh derby and ready for battle after seven days of rest, during which time Rangers must negotiate two demanding contests. The physical and mental drain takes its toll, Rangers lose in Edinburgh and later the same day Celtic beat Kilmarnock at home, as they usually do.

The gap between the Old Firm sides narrows to four points and Rangers are suddenly aware of Celtic's hot breath on their necks. True, Rangers have a couple of games in hand, but their midweek fixture list is becoming congested.

They have to negotiate three such games, two of which are away to St Johnstone and Dundee United, stretching into the middle of April, while Celtic have only one Tuesday date -- at home to Motherwell -- to interfere with their rest and recuperation.

Put like that, Celtic's previously frail title hopes look somewhat less fragile, n'est-ce pas?

Well, even allowing for the large amount of ifs and buts, that's the equation that will fuel Mowbray's squad this week and they can even add a little lubricant to the mix with the thought that, at the rate he's finding the net -- nine goals in as many games and a total of six in three consecutive fixtures -- Robbie Keane is making tracks towards establishing himself as the club's top scorer.

He notched a 67th minute penalty on Saturday after Josh Thompson had opened the scoring on 16 minutes. Georgios Samaras completed the scoring in the 87th. (©Daily Telegraph, London)

Meanwhile, nine-man Rangers won the Scottish League Cup for a record 26th time by beating St Mirren 1-0 at Hampden Park courtrsy of a Kenny Miller header after 84 minutes.

Kevin Thomson was sent off for a dangerous tackle on 53 minutes and Danny Wilson followed his team-mate down the tunnel for a professional foul with 19 minutes of normal time remaining.

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