March 1983: Ex-Rangers winger Willie Johnston head-butts Davie Provan

March began with a trip ‘doon the water’ to Cappielow, Murdo MacLeod with another excellent long-range shot to put Celts two ahead within fifteen minutes against doomed Morton.

Dom Sullivan had opened the scoring five minutes earlier with a deflected effort, his final goal for the club before being freed that summer and joining the Greenock side, where he would spend two seasons then head to Alloa.

An injury-time header from George McCluskey rounded off a good afternoon for the Champions.

The next Saturday brought a much-anticipated Scottish Cup Quarter-final tie, against First Division leaders, Hearts.

The Edinburgh side were co-managed by former Ibrox idols Alex MacDonald and Sandy Jardine, who both played, as did a third ex-Ranger, the aforementioned Willie Johnston. The ‘ex-factor’ added an extra edge, attracting a larger-than-usual crowd of 25,000, including a sizeable Hearts support, who solely occupied the East Terracing for the first time.

There would be no repeat of the 1969 Parkhead hat-trick for Johnston, instead his game was ended by a moment of madness, as he followed through whilst taking a throw-in to head-butt Davie Provan, who collapsed to the ground, the linesman then advising referee Brian McGinlay to administer the nineteenth red card of a volatile career.

Incredibly, Johnston had just returned to the side following a three-match ban for an ordering off in the previous round. Amidst all the madness there was some football played, McLeod, McGarvey and a Nicholas double having Celts home and dry, before player-manager MacDonald replied late on.

The remaining March fixtures would not go so well for the Champions and would be instrumental in the final outcome.

As the media speculation regarding the future of prized-asset Nicholas increased, so the performances on the field seemed to suffer. Future Hoops hero, Albert Kidd, played a different role in the next game at Dens Park, opening the scoring midway through the first half, with Scrimgeour then adding a second ten minutes later.

McGarvey did pull a goal back within two minutes, following great work by Aitken, however, that was as good as would get for Celtic on the day and another critical two points were carelessly shed in the race for the flag.

In midweek, the final Glasgow derby of the season took place at Celtic Park, Nicholas going closest for Celts with a late shot which crashed back off the bar, in an uninspiring goalless draw.

Nevertheless, this point enabled the Bhoys to replace Aberdeen at the summit, courtesy of a marginally- better goal difference, Dundee United tucked a single point behind both with just nine games remaining.

That slender advantage was then lost at the weekend, where it took a late Provan goal to salvage a home draw against St Mirren, Fulton having earlier given the Buddies a shock lead.

Hail Hail!

Matt Corr

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.

Matt’s account of Celtic in season 1982-83 will continue today on The Celtic Star, so check back later for the next instalment. Two more to go!

About Author

Having retired from his day job Matt Corr can usually be found working as a Tour Guide at Celtic Park, or if there is a Marathon on anywhere in the world from as far away as Tokyo or New York, Matt will be running for the Celtic Foundation. On a European away-day, he's there writing his Diary for The Celtic Star and he's currently completing his first Celtic book with another two planned.

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