Game Changer

Last night Celtic were going about their business at New Douglas Park when disaster struck. No, it wasn’t a slippy pitch, just an honest mistake.

Pitch-gate made way for referee-gate on Friday night in Lanarkshire. Craig Thomson, Scotland’s cream of inept officials, reduced Celtic to 10 men with a few minutes remaining of the first half.

It was a game changer and a bitter blow for Celtic. Even with a 1-0 lead courtesy of a Leigh Griffiths penalty, Hamilton were handed a lifeline before Celtic inflicted any more damage on them.

Ronny Deila hooked Kris Commons and replaced him with a more versatile Charlie Mulgrew who filled in at centre back. It was the right move and despite the one man disadvantage, enabled Celtic to keep at the home side intermittently even if they did have to surrender their 80/20 possession.

Hamilton had their own agenda though and plundered Celtic after a slip up by captain Scott Brown. His error set up a passage of play that allowed Eamonn Brophy in to level the match on 73 minutes.

The timing was bad for Celtic as the chance to pull one back became bleaker. Already down to 10 men, the Hoops earned a penalty only to see it saved by former Celtic prospect Michael McGovern.

The key talking point though was the refereeing decisions. A lack of yellow cards on the Hamilton players perhaps allowed them to carry on regardless when they should have been disciplined earlier in the match.

Dedryck Boyata’s red card was top of the pile though. After a moment of Celtic sloppiness, Hamilton were let in and Boyata was forced into making a risky tackle on Carlton Morris.

Now my first instinct was “this could go either way” because it looked as though the ball was moved. The referee, Craig Thomson, would have had a better view than the live footage I had just watched.

Having sent Boyata off I was very keen to see the replay. Based upon that replay it wasn’t a red for me.

I don’t have the rule book to hand but Boyata got the ball and the Hamilton player goes over next. It was a risky tackle because if he didn’t get the ball, he may have got the player or the player was getting away but he didn’t go through him to get the touch he needed.

For Thomson, he has to be 100% certain that Boyata made the foul and I don’t think he was because their was not absolutely no certainty about the challenge in my initial view. He didn’t have the benefit of the TV replay as I did which only made my on-the-fence view a no foul scenario but Thomson did have a closer live view so how he has arrived at that decision is beyond me.

Ronny Deila didn’t go down the road of criticising the referee last night. His view was that Boyata should have stayed on his feet and whilst that is generally true in defending, I can’t agree with Ronny’s take that Boyata was deservedly sent off.

So that ruined the game for Celtic. Aiming for 3 points quickly became I’ll take 1 point.

You never know how a game would have played if you’d kept all 11 players on the park. What I would say though is that some of our players once more were not playing at their best.

Scott Brown looked well off the pace last night as did Kris Commons. Stefan Johansen I don’t even need to comment on such is his overall form this season.

Scott Allan was very active and Gary Mackay-Steven was decent early on. The former wore himself out though and the latter faded as the game went on.

The defence did its job for the most part. Despite a misjudgement by Logan Bailly, he also had a reasonable game.

Griffiths was lively as usual and should have scored more though. The penalty miss I wasn’t surprised at all but there were other chances for him.

I thought both penalties last night were soft and have seen them waved away on many an occasion. The first one I didn’t really see as a penalty until I saw the replay so I was surprised Craig Thomson saw it at all.

The second penalty was the one that bothers me the most. I can’t remember how many times I have seen defenders manhandle the opposition in their own box at set pieces and the referee takes no action but to warn both players and then give a free kick to the defending team if the incident persists.

To get a penalty for the holding on Mikael Lustig was a surprise. Kind of like that surprise you get when a referee gives a decision against a player for a foul throw – rare!

Craig Thomson is not alone though. He comes from a long line of inconsistent refereeing in Scotland.

What used to be rife with funny handshakes, masonry, winks and lodge meetings is now just a club of incompetent individuals. I’m not putting bad refereeing as the soul issue for last nights result.

Celtic have themselves to blame as well. For not being ruthless and taking your chances against a team who have less than half the points they do in the Scottish Premiership.

Yes the red card was a poor decisions and a gamer changer though not for the first time this season. This is when Celtic have to take their chances and step up and make it count.

Leigh Griffiths stated that he should be blamed for not scoring more last night. That’s mighty big of him to do that and I respect what he himself has done to improve his career as a footballer at Celtic but this is a team game and whilst he might put his hand up, I don’t think many of his team mates did much to help him last night at all.

It’s a disappointing result but certainly not the last time we’ll see points dropped this season. Aberdeen will look to close the gap today at home to St Johnstone.

A win for the Dons would put them 5 points behind Celtic with the same amount of games played. That would leave 11 games left to play and 33 points at stake for each title challenger.

Aberdeen have already achieved what they failed to do last season and that is taking points off Celtic. Like Celtic though, they are also vulnerable.

They’ve lost two more games than Celtic have so far this season and also have a poorer goal difference. The title race remains a title race and there is everything to play for.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

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