Celtic’s trip to Ibrox is no longer happening this weekend and it’s something that leaves fans disappointed. Particularly as worse could yet follow. Yet there have been times before when a match abandonment has been cause for celebration at Celtic Park.
The latest connotation of fog affecting Celtic is the 2014 Europa League group stage match against Astra Giurgiu. On that occasion the tv cameras could scarcely follow the ball, whilst the Celtic support, housed at one side of the pitch, couldn’t see any of the action either.
The club are not strangers to playing in foggy conditions and counted on a reduction in visibility to save them from defeat against Hibernian in the mid-70s. Glasgow was buried beneath a blanket of mist for two days prior to 18th October 1975, yet the game at Celtic Park went ahead. The Hoops would have been glad to play, considering that they were unbeaten in their last ten matches in all competitions. Sean Fallon had really got his Celtic side on song, after initially struggling when he took over the reigns from Jock Stein, who sat out the season due to a serious car crash in early July.
Ten minutes into the match, Celtic probably wished that the game was in fact called off. A Pat Stanton inspired Hibs team dominated proceedings and were making things difficult for the Bhoys. The dominance of the Edinburgh side was reflected on the scoreboard in the 26th minute, when Des Bremner put the visitors in front after capitalising on a poor back pass by Johannes Edvaldsson. The Hibernian attacker couldn’t believe his luck as the ball fell at his feet; he rounded Peter Latchford and slotted into an empty net.
Thick fog quickly descended, prompting fans at either end of the stadium to chant to one another, so as to inform fellow supporters of the unfolding action. One need not imagine the polite nature in which the Jungle described a missed opportunity to supporters housed at the opposite end of the stand.
Play continued and the visitor’s lead was deservedly doubled by Joe Harper in the 76th minute. The goal was reportedly an absolute peach, which silenced Celtic Park. Along with the silence, increasing mist fell across the stadium. Fans began to wonder, ‘could the conditions save Celtic at this late stage?’ To their shame, some frustrated supporters in the Jungle took the opportunity to force things in the Hoops’ favour. Unbeknown to the referee (Bobby Davidson), behind the thickening layers of fog, several Celtic fans had leapt the barrier and entered the field of play. Davidson was preparing for the restart when he looked to his horror as faint silhouettes revealed themselves in his peripheral vision. The police immediately pursued the pitch invaders, whilst Sean Fallon also left his dugout to assist in clearing the field.
Alarm bells were ringing in the mind of the referee, but play did eventually continue. A further nine minutes elapsed without Celtic posing any threat to the Hibernian defence. It was looking like two points dropped for the Hoops, which would put a dent in their quest for the title. Although, Rangers would remain level on 11 points due to their 2-1 loss v Motherwell at Fir Park that day, victory would send Hibernian top with 12 points.
In the 85th minute, the unthinkable happened. Bobby Davidson put the whistle to his mouth and abandoned the match due to the worsening fog. The Celtic support cheered the great escape as if they had scored a last-minute winner. By contrast, the incensed Hibees’ winger, Alex Edwards, headed to the Jungle as a matter of priority. When faced with the vociferous Celtic support, he presented them with a less than warmly received V-sign gesture!
In the wake of the abandonment, Hibs launched a protest, demanding that the Scottish League Management Committee convene a meeting to discuss the issue. Their wish was granted a day later, on October 19th 1975, when Hibs directors voiced their complaints to the Scottish football authorities. The Capital club’s Chairman, Tom Hart, is noted as saying: “We are most concerned about the invasion of the field after we scored our second goal. We feel that our players and the referee were intimidated at a time when the game was running away from Celtic.” The Hibernian delegation went on to demand that the points be awarded their club’s way. However, it wasn’t to be. The view taken by the Scottish League was that awarding the points would be an entirely presumptuous position to take, as Celtic could theoretically have equalised in the short time that remained.
Few could have complained in the Celtic camp if the points were taken, though they were certainly not going to decline the opportunity to replay the match at Celtic Park seven weeks later. The replay took place on Wednesday 10th December. By this time, Celtic were joint top of the table with Motherwell on 20 points, and two points in front of third placed Hibernian. It comes as no surprise that Hibernian were out to reclaim the points taken in October, particularly as victory would move them into pole position. The Hibees’ started fast, forcing Peter Latchford to make a number of saves in the Celtic goal. Twice Latchford denied Pat Stanton, before clutching a Des Bremner header, which was bound for the top corner. However, the shot-stopper was eventually beaten in the 45th minute, when Ian Munro chipped a pass out wide to Arthur Duncan. The winger caught the Celtic keeper by surprise when he shot from the by-line, but Parkhead breathed a collective sigh of relief as the linesman correctly raised his flag to signal for offside.
Celtic dusted themselves down during the break and Fallon’s men returned to the field a different proposition. On the stroke of 60 minutes, Harry Hood played a driven pass into the feet of Dixie Deans at the edge of the box. Just when it appeared that the forward would be tackled, he stabbed a low shot passed Jim McArthur in the Hibernian net. The majority of the 33,000 crowd were sent into delirium.
Celtic’s joy was short lived, as in the 72nd minute, Tom Callaghan clashed with Alex Edwards, resulting in a Hibernian free kick. Eric Schaedlar looped the set play into the penalty area and Latchford came to claim the ball. Unfortunately, Edvaldsson in the Celtic defence, ignored the call of his keeper and thrust his head into the mix. A goalmouth scramble followed, with Joe Harper getting the telling touch to equalise. The balance of play was very even thereafter, and the two teams remained locked at 1-1. The point was enough to put Celtic clear at the top of the table, overtaking Motherwell by the most-slender of margins. They could thank their lucky stars, or perhaps the foggy dew for that.
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