Joe Hart and Alistair Johnston reflect on Celtic’s 1-0 win over Ross County

Joe Hart and Alistair Johnston reacted to Celtic 1-0 win over Ross County on Saturday afternoon that restored Celtic’s five points advantage at the top of the league, looking down on theRangers.

The Canadian international probably couldn’t have imagined just how crucial his first minute freakish goal – his first of the season – would turn out to be. And there was further irony yesterday afternoon when the Celtic FC Women, now managed by Swedish Head Coach Elena Sadiku, conceded inside a minute to Glasgow City with an equally bizarre goal and again that was the only goal of the match as the Ghirls fell further behind theRangers in the SWPL1.

Neither Celtic side performed well at the weekend so at least the mens team can take comfort from the victory, and we may end up come May when we’re standing outside the front door at Celtic Park listening to Brendan, recalling Alistair Johnston’s crucial goal in a 1-0 win. Rather like the late Liel Abada goal on this day in 2022 which won the three points against Dundee Utd and set us up for theRangers under the lights in that never to be forgotten February evening when Celtic hit the front on the league and have never been dislodged ever since.

Back in June last year, on his first day back at Celtic Park, Brendan Rodgers, standing on the Celtic Way, just outside the front door at Paradise, had this message for the Celtic support:

“For those who are with me and always have been, let’s enjoy the journey. For those who I need to convince, I will see you here in May,” Brendan Rodgers

“We’d obviously have liked to score more goals and played with a bit more fluidity, but it wasn’t to be. But ultimately, on a day where we weren’t over-satisfied, we still got the three points,” Joe Hart said after the game on Saturday, as reported by Scottish Sun. “Obviously I can feel it on the park and I’ve been part of many emotional situations, but as players we just keep our focus and keep playing. We keep calm, we’re a team who stick together. Sometimes it’s just not meant to be.

“Nobody’s getting on one another’s back, everyone knows each other’s intentions. Life’s not perfect, football’s not perfect, but we’re putting ourselves in the best position. Ultimately it’s half a compliment for everyone to be so frustrated when we have won. Everyone’s trying to do the right thing,” Hart pointed out.

Alastair Johnston celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Cinch Scottish Premiership match between Celtic and Ross County at Celtic Park on January 27, 2024.  (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Matt O’Riley started the conversation about the state of the pitch at Celtic Park after his Man of the Match performance against Buckie Thistle in the Fourth round of the Scottish Cup last weekend, describing it as “not the best”. The Celtic manager picked up on that on Saturday, clearly frustrated at the state of the playing surface as he quoted specific examples in the game where the state of the pitch hindered the Celtic performance.

And Alistair Johnston agreed. “It’s patchy,” he said. “That’s a nice way to describe it. I’m not exactly sure, I’m not an expert on agriculture or landscaping. But I think it’s difficult not getting a ton of sunlight given how big Celtic Park is.

Alastair Johnston celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Cinch Scottish Premiership match between Celtic and Ross County at Celtic Park on January 27, 2024. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

“The away team coming see it’s difficult and it probably doesn’t play to our favour with how we play. But both teams play on it and we’ve all grown up playing on much worse. It’s flat, that’s all we can ask for. When you come out of winter it’ll be green again I’m hoping,” the Canadian said.

Johnston wanted to know just how fast his goal was, but he’d probably accept that it was no goal of the season contender! “I need to see the time on the clock again,” AJ said. “It felt quick. I’ll take that. It wasn’t pretty but none of mine ever will be. So getting one was nice as was getting the quick start which could have kickstarted a better result.

“But a clean sheet at home after scoring in the first minute, you can’t ask for more than that.”

Alastair Johnston celebrates during the Cinch Scottish Premiership match between Celtic and Ross County at Celtic Park on January 27, 2024. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Not too sure than too many of the Celtic supporters watching at the weekend agreed with that assessment by regardless, Johnston is certain that Celtic will improve as they find their stride after the short winter break.

“I thought Ross County did a really good job with their organisation,” Alistair Johnston noted. “The keeper made good saves and they made it difficult with their pressure on the ball. They rallied and kept pressing. Not every team does that and their level of fitness and organisation kept them in the game and they made it very difficult for us till the end.

“We’re just focused on getting into our rhythm. We know if we start playing football the results will come. Coming out of the break we’re finding our feet again and getting that rhythm.

“That’s when the top teams kick into gear and we want to look back and say no matter what happens we went through a purple patch playing our football. If we play the way we want to then we can get three points every match so it’s in our hands.”

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About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor David Faulds has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email

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