April began more positively, visitors Motherwell disposed of by three goals to nil, McGarvey, McAdam and a Harrow own goal doing the damage. Willie McStay made his debut, replacing McGarvey late on.
The previous midweek, Charlie Nicholas had made his international debut against Switzerland at Hampden, his fantastic goal only adding to the clamour for his signature, a potential transfer scenario now feeling more like ‘to whom’ rather than ‘if’. An unexpected Aberdeen defeat by St Mirren allowed Celts to reclaim top spot, now one point clear of both North-East rivals, with seven games to play.
There was a huge game in midweek, as United travelled south for the first of two visits to Celtic Park. The 35,000 crowd witnessed a titanic struggle, with Celts finally taking the lead through McGarvey on the hour, following an error by the normally-dependable Hegarty.
With twelve minutes remaining, Nicholas sealed the points with a wonderful finish, his 42nd goal of the season no doubt impressing the watching scouts. With Aberdeen tied up on European business, Celtic now had a three-point lead at the top of the table, albeit the Dons now with a game in hand.
Easter Saturday saw Celtic, appropriately enough, travel to Easter Road for another vital match.
Scoring machine Nicholas again came up trumps, opening the scoring early on before repeating the feat in the second half, his double book-ending a brilliant Provan volley.
Whilst Celtic eyes were still very much focused on a first domestic treble since 1969, Aberdeen’s quest for their own version virtually ended the same day at Ibrox, a surprise 2-1 League defeat meaning that their season would now almost certainly depend on success in either the Scottish or European Cup-Winners Cup.
There was a blow for Celtic and a boost for the Dons as the clubs prepared for the following week’s Scottish Cup Semi-final. Already missing suspended captain Danny McGrain, rumours of an injury to star striker Nicholas proved correct as the teams were announced, to groans from the Celtic fans in the 51,000 crowd.
Celts would badly miss the duo in what was a brutal encounter, a match of few chances being decided in two minutes midway through the second half. First McCluskey, clean through on Leighton, contrived to miss the target completely with a wild swipe.
Aberdeen took full advantage of this let-off, striding up the park where Black was allowed to play on after a clear handball, before crossing for unmarked substitute Weir to head past Bonner for the only goal of the game.
There would be no treble for Cesar and his exciting Bhoys, as a season which promised so much began to unravel.
The next two League games then, if anything, assumed even greater importance, involving as they did both Dundee United and Aberdeen.
First up, in midweek, were the Arabs, facing a must-win game from their perspective. And they got off to a great start, in front of a disappointing Parkhead crowd of just 24,000, Hegarty making amends for the error on his previous visit by scoring a fine goal.
Back came Celtic, the restored Nicholas scoring from the spot for No. 44 of the season, after Stark had fouled Burns in the box.
Early in the second half, United regained their lead, again from the spot after an untidy MacLeod challenge on Dodds, Bannon making his usual expert job from twelve yards.
On the hour mark came the decision which should have turned the title in Celtic’s favour, Gough, booked earlier, then seeing red after a tussle with Provan. With fifteen minutes remaining, Burns equalised following great work from McCluskey and at this stage, the Championship was in our own hands.
That all changed with just six minutes remaining. Again, Bannon was involved, this time setting up Milne, who controlled his cross and finished beautifully, to the dismay of the vast majority inside Celtic Park.
There was no time for the licking of wounds, as Celts headed to Pittodrie three days later, for their second meeting in a week. And, sadly for those of a green and white persuasion, the outcome was the same as the Hampden Semi-Final, a scrappy first-half goal from future Celt Mark McGhee proving to be the winner in a tense match.
A third Celtic defeat in a week enabled Dundee United to go top for the first time that season, whilst Cup-Winners Cup finalists Aberdeen now re-emerged as potential title-winners, should they win their two games in hand.
So, it was in the unfamiliar role of chasers that Celtic travelled to Ayrshire the following Saturday, to face Kilmarnock. The first goal came from that most unlikely source, skipper Danny McGrain scoring what would prove to be his final Hoops goal within seven minutes, converting a Nicholas cross.
MacLeod effectively ended the game as a contest ten minutes later, with a beautiful chip over goalkeeper McCulloch for 2-0. The second half was fairly routine, Nicholas getting his customary goal with a neat header before MacLeod, with his second, then Burns made the final score 5-0.
Follow Matt on Twitter @Boola_vogue
Catch up with Matt Corr’s review on Celtic’s 1982-83 season on our home page for the earlier posts on the first half of the season, taking us through to the end of 1982.
For Matt’s account of Celtic in January 1983…‘There were Celtic fans in three sides of Ibrox within a 42,000 crowd,’ Matt Corr…see HERE.
And onto the next month of Celtic action…It’s February 1983 and Alex Ferguson is causing problems for Big Billy….see HERE.
And here’s what happened the next month…March 1983: Ex-Rangers winger Willie Johnston head-butts Davie Provan…see HERE.
Matt’s account of Celtic in season 1982-83 will continue today on The Celtic Star, so check back later for the final instalment.