Celtic booked their place in fifth round of the Scottish Cup with a 3-0 away win over Stranraer. This was a composed performance which in truth could have had a far greater scoreline for the Hoops.
Part of that was down to 18-year-old Max Currie playing in-goal for Stranraer for only his second start and third competitive appearance for the club. He pulled off some magnificent saves at Stair Park which saved his team from a drubbing.
A gulf between teams is often evident by what you can spend on players and wages. Stranraer were plucky though and even started the better team.
The opening moments of the game saw them come at Celtic. Eventually though the Hoops would get a foothold in the match and would not let up.
In terms of performance, this was one of Celtic’s best of the season. Yes, this isn’t a Scottish Premiership side or even European opponent but the attitude of Ronny Deila’s players was correct.
That’s been a rarely seen thing this season. So what was different and what’s changed?
Well aside from playing a Scottish League One club, Carlton Cole started the match though not as a sole striker. He partnered Leigh Griffiths who was himself returning to the starting line up.
I was surprised to see a 4-4-2 formation as much as anyone. As I said in my previous blog though, it suits some games and you need to be able to adapt.
Despite resembling a collapsing building at times, Cole put himself about. He may be at that stage of his career where he doesn’t have the legs, pace or sharpness but his presence was certainly felt.
I miss having a player like that as an option even if not a regular. For that reason I welcomed his inclusion on Sunday and he was to be rewarded as well.
However, it was the effervescent Leigh Griffiths who would draw first blood. A nicely weighted diagonal pass from Callum McGregor found Celtic’s leading scorer who netted a perfect finish.
Then came Carlton Cole’s goal. A cross from Nir Bitton found Cole at the back post to head home from very close range.
Throughout the game there were countless chances for Celtic. As I said, if it were not for the heroics of Max Currie, it could have been far more punishing for Stranraer.
Griffiths was denied and missed further opportunities. The same goes for Cole, Kris Commons, Stefan Johansen and Scott Allan.
In fact it was Allan that turned provider for the third goal. He slipped through a ball to the marauding Griffiths to complete the win.
Celtic should take a lot of positives out of this game. It was their best performance for a long time, regardless of the level of opponent.
There were a couple of moments Celtic got lucky with. One was an apparent handball by Efe Ambrose in his own box and the other a Leigh Griffiths reaction to a challenge.
Ambrose got lucky but depending on retrospective action, Griffiths might not be. His reaction to a Stranraer player’s challenge was caught on camera but as yet, I’ve read nothing about it other than Twitter retweets.
Sadly, the match was blighted before it even kicked off thanks to some morons. Several flares were let off prior to kick off by some travelling Celtic supporters.
I don’t know what motivates you to throw anything onto the field of play to be honest. There is one thing I do know though and that is by doing this you drag down the name of the club and the reputation of the supporters.
Whoever you are, whatever your objective is, it isn’t smart/cool/clever/funny/safe etc. You need to learn some social skills and pay attention to the game or just get lost for good.