Gary Breen prompted a row with some scathing observations on Shane Duffy’s loan move to Celtic. Strip away the nonsense over international prospects and Virgil van Dijk picking up bad habits in the SPFL and the former Ireland defender made an astute prediction.
At this rate Shane Duffy really *might* finish his season in Glasgow with a goal tally in double figures.
The Irishman’s second goal in two games pulled Celtic out of a hole of their own making in Paisley. A headed winner from James Forrest nine minutes before half-time turned around a game which started in calamitous fashion.
Shane Duffy scored for the second game in a row as Celtic beat St Mirren 2-1 on Wednesday
James Forrest netted the winner as the reigning Scottish champions came from behind to win
ST MIRREN (4-4-2): Zlamal 8;Tait 7, Shaughnessy 7,Foley 6 (Durmus 89 1), Fraser 7; McGrath 7,Connolly 5 (McAllister 63 3), Erhahon 5,McCarthy 5;Morias (Obika 80 1), Erwin 7
Subs not used: Sheron, Obika, MacPherson, Urminsky, Jamieson
Booked: Fraser, Tait
CELTIC (3-5-2): Barkas 6;Ajer 6, Duffy 7, Elhamed 4;Brown 7,McGregor 6,Christie 8, Taylor 5,Forrest 6 (Frimpong 80 2); Klimala 4 (Ajeti 66), Edouard 4 (Ntcham 80 2)
Subs not used: Bain, Jullien, Bitton, Soro, Turnbull, Elyounnoussi
Referee: John Beaton
Star Man: Ryan Christie
St Mirren have endured a rotten old week of it. The Buddies entered this game with low expectations for good reason; 21 league meetings against Celtic had come and gone since a 4-0 victory in March 2010 cost Tony Mowbray his job.
The outcome of an angry war of words over goalkeepers and coronavirus this week was the arrival of Zdenek Zlamal from Hearts on an emergency loan.
Last night a hasty, rushed move proved an unexpected blessing when the emergency loan from Hearts denied Odsonne Edouard from the penalty spot 15 minutes from time to keep the outcome of the game in doubt right up until the final whistle.
The regret for Jim Goodwin was the failure to hang on to a lead carved early in the opening minutes of the game allied to the failure of referee John Beaton to award Saints a penalty for a strong handball claim against Duffy in the first half.
The Irishman stole the headlines for the right reasons in the end, but his defending for Lee Erwin’s first St Mirren goal was nothing to write home about.
Jamie McGrath fizzed one in towards the head of Joe Shaughnessy and the defender did better than the Celtic back three to flick towards the back post where Erwin was unmarked – the former Motherwell man bundling the ball over the line from three yards.
Odsonne Edouard had a penalty saved which could have stretched Celtic’s winning margin
Emergency goalkeeper Zdenek Zlamal was equal to Edouard’s penalty and had a good game
‘Shane was disappointed with the goal we conceded but his reaction was great,’ acknowledged Neil Lennon. ‘That’s two in two for him. If you put the ball in a good area for him and he will go and attack it. It’s a fantastic ability that he’s got.’
Few saw that coming. Least of all a Celtic side who took time to steady themselves before turning things around before half-time when James Forrest scored a rare header.
‘The second goal is something we’ve talked about and worked on where we cross it a little earlier rather than keep working it. Ryan has flipped it in on the angle and it’s as brilliantly guided header by James. He’s a player who goes under the radar but he’s scored so many important goals for us and he’s done it again tonight.’
Celtic never quite managed to put the game beyond St Mirren and that was partly down to a lazy Edouard spot kick saved by Zlamal, an unexpected hero of the hour. With a new formation Celtic continue to look mildly unconvincing at times.
Yet games like these away from home on a hiding to nothing will settle the destination of the title and they got there in the end – the architect in chief of the comeback the excellent Ryan Christie.
St Mirren took a third minute lead when Lee Erwin struck from a corner for the home side
It was a difficult start to the game for Neil Lennon (above)’s side whose line-up was questioned
The Scotland midfielder had a terrific game, pulling his team up by their lime green collars and back into the game with assists for both goals.
It was his free-kick from the far touchline which invited Duffy to attack the ball in a crowded area. As in Dingwall on Saturday he barely needed the invitation, stooping to head the equaliser into the net past Zlamal.
In an empty stadium Celtic’s sigh of relief was easier to make out. The passing became more crisp and slick.
The best move of the half looked liable to end in Edouard sweeping the champions into the lead after a superb piece of work again by Christie in 35 minutes.
Celtic’s midfielder was everywhere and his second assist of the night wouldn’t take long. A minute later he swung a pacey dangerous left foot cross into the area to pick out the unlikely head of James Forrest. The ball planted high in the net, St Mirren’s promising start had been turned on its head by half-time.
The second half threatened to be a long, draining business. Forrest was inches away from adding a third goal when he swept a Greg Taylor centre inches wide of the post. Edouard’s thumping free kick from 20 yards got up and down with pace and was pushed round the post gratefully by Zlamal.
Yet with half an hour to play Saints were still just the one goal behind. They were still in the game and, when Ajer gave the ball away in midfield they threatened to hit Celtic on the break – an Erwin strike just clearing the junction of post and crossbar.
Handed a rare start the game passed Patryk Klimala by. The arrival of Albian Ajeti for the last 25 minutes came moments after Goodwin threw on winger Kyle McAllister in the hope of stretching Celtic on the flanks. The next goal – whoever it came for – would be critical.
Celtic managed to steer themselves to victory to keep pressure on Rangers at the top
Celtic should have claimed it when they won a penalty with 15 minutes to play, Jamie McGrath pulling down Christie on the byeline. Edouard had scored three penalties in his last three games, but this was the kind of night which had the amateur body language experts freeze framing the video.
Engaging in a game of slow, stuttering brinksmanship with Zlamal the loan keeper got down low to save a poor spot kick. St Mirren were still in with a shout, Edouard replaced by Olivier Ntcham with 10 minutes to play after a poor night by his standards
The same couldn’t be said of Zlamal, an injury time stop from Christie denying the midfielder the goal his performance deserved.
Dismissing talk of mile anxiety in those final minutes Lennon said: ‘I was just more vexed that we hadn’t put the game away.
‘We missed a penalty and to be fair to Odsonne that’s the first one he has missed really.
‘There might be a bit of a queue for the next one, but that would have given us a two goal cushion which we probably deserved overall.’