When it came to vital encounters during the 9-in-a-row season, few heading to Celtic Park for a midweek winter encounter with Hamilton Accies would have thought for a moment that this routine fixture –on paper at least – would result in such high drama.
The Celtic Star match report on 4 December 2019 read: ‘Celtic 2 Hamilton 1 – A Scott Brown Won The League Moment.’
With regard to Celtic’s march towards the record equalling 9-in-row league title that headline turned out to be rather prophetic.
This wasn’t one of those games that you look back on as being an entertaining match, yet when it came to pivotal moments, that evening at Celtic Park in freezing cold conditions was just as important as the blitzing 4-0 victory at Pittodrie or the 2-0 win at Ibrox.
The week prior to this encounter, Scott Brown was hosting an ‘Evening with Broony’ at Glasgow’s Hydro. A few days later the captain took centre stage, back in far more familiar a setting.
Celtic started well and after 12 minutes it looked like it would be a straightforward three points for Celtic. After Lewis Morgan hit a shot from a Callum McGregor assist, Luke Southwood in the Hamilton goal spilled the shot Ryan Christie was on hand to put the ball high into the net.
Hamilton however responded well, remained disciplined and even started to cause Celtic a good few concerns.
Lewis Smith in particular was a brilliant performer in the middle of the park, a player who really caught the eye all season. Mikel Miller put Celtic on warning when he should have scored just before half-time. It was a let off and a lacklustre Celtic were a little fortunate to go in level at the break. That said Celtic were struggling to put a good 90 minutes together fairly regularly at that point in the season and you assumed the pedestrian first half pace would be replaced with a bit more tempo in the second half, once Neil Lennon had a word.
News had filtered through that ‘the’ Rangers having taken a decisive 2-0 lead at Pittodrie had been pegged back to 2-1 at half-time. There was then hope Aberdeen could kick on in the second half, but more that Celtic could simply see this game to bed by scoring what would surely be a decisive second goal.
It looked like that would be the case when McGregor had a shot deflected over the bar straight from kick off, yet Hamilton immediately responded and again it was the impressive Lewis Smith who came to the fore when he dragged a good opportunity past the post.
News then came thorough that a Considine goal, three minutes into the second half had put Aberdeen level at Pittodrie. Now that second goal could be more important than ever.
If the rise in temperature inside Celtic Park was meant to lift the players, they instead seemed to have an attack of nerves. Throughout the second half Celtic dropped deeper and deeper and Hamilton looked like they believed they could hurt Celtic.
Miller crossed a free kick that Sam Stubbs – son of Alan – headed goalward and Fraser Forster did well to dive to his left and get his save off. This was getting twitchy now.
Celtic at last woke up and Lewis Morgan and Ryan Christie both had chances before substitute Leigh Griffiths lifted the crowd and his teammates with a great run and shot that was cleared off the Accies line by Scott McMann.
Then just as you thought Celtic might just hang on, 20,000 Celtic fans headed for the exit as Accies levelled in the final seconds of normal time when Ogkmpoe fired past Forster. You could just imagine the relief and celebrations amongst ‘the’ Rangers fans at Pittodrie who must have thought they’d got out of jail following Aberdeen’s comeback in the Granite City.
What happened next therefore made for one of the very most important moments in Celtic’s season and had the added benefit of sending the Rangers travelling support to despair. It’s a long road back from Pittodrie, especially when you’ve thrown away a two goal lead and your rivals score an injury time winner. That it’s Scott Brown that scores decisive goal would only have added to the tantrums being thrown on the staunch supporters buses heading south that night.
Leigh Griffith was again involved as the crowd roared Celtic on for one last effort. As Leigh laid the ball off to Mikey Johnston the winger drove at the Accies defence but was blocked, yet he showed great resilience to get the ball back and his captain drove forward to take the pass on.
Scott Brown forced himself into the area, he was pushed wide of goal onto his left foot and as Southwood came out to close the angle, Broony forced the ball into the net for a 96th minute winner. Cue delirium in the East End and despondency at Pittodrie.
The previous season Scott Brown won the league at Rugby Park, a week prior he was on stage at the Hydro, that evening he was in the spotlight again sending Celtic hearts soaring and ‘the’ Rangers plummeting to their shoes.
As The Celtic Star headline read: ‘Celtic 2 Hamilton 1 – A Scott Brown Won The League Moment.’
Turns out, it was just that!