It is often said that Leagues are won, not by sparkling football, but by ability to “grind out results” at difficult venues. There was never a better example of that truism than there was at Dingwall today. Summing things up, it was a terrible performance with some players totally out of touch, some appalling finishing (but some genuinely bad luck as well when we hit the woodwork!), a penalty that was really embarrassing (imagine what we would have said if it had been given to Rangers!), and the game only enlivened by a great strike from Alexandro Bernabei. It would have been awful to win a game 1-0 and the goal coming from that penalty kick! That rule really has to be changed!
It often happens that Celtic play very badly after an International break. This is, to a point, understandable, because such breaks are unsettling with players coming back from all over the world, having played in different conditions under different managers. This does not entirely excuse today’s lacklustre performance of some of our players, but there is also the excuse that we are up against a desperate team with a good Manager who were fighting for their lives. On this occasion Ross County looked good enough to avoid the drop – but what was up with the pitch? So many players seemed to simply fall down.
Our best players, I felt were Cameron Carter-Vickers and Greg Taylor, until he was injured. The midfield was poor – Callum McGregor has had better games, Matt O’Riley was singularly ineffective especially in the first half, and although this was our first chance to have a real good look at Iwata, the best we can say is “the jury is still out”. Up front, Kyogu missed a dreadful chance after good work from Maeda, and why was he wearing gloves in the first half? I know it is cold in the Highlands, but it is also April 2! Again, it has to be said that he has had better games.
There are at least three positives to take from this game. One is that we are one step closer to the title, another is that Saturday will be a totally different game after Ange had had a chance to work with everyone again, and the third is that, bad though we undeniably played, we still won. That is often the sign of a good team – that they can play badly and still win.
I like Malky MacKay and I hope Ross County can stay up. As for that other Manager currently on the way out of Leicester, one can possibly feel a little sympathy, but we still recall that banner at Tynecastle four years ago which talked about exchanging immortality for mediocrity. He won the FA Cup once, and that is an achievement; but he could have won an awful lot more if he had stayed where he was.
And so to Saturday. Let the war of words commence! No head-butting, now!