THREE POINTS…BUT UNCONVINCING?

I had suggested last week that it would be a surprise if Celtic did not win comfortably against the team propping up the table, Inverness Caledonian Thistle. However, while Celtic did pick up another three points in the chase for the SPL title on Saturday, it seemed to be through a performance well short of what the fans expected.

Due to a family function, I could not attend the match and was also under orders from SWMBO not to disappear from the event to catch up on the football programmes on radio and TV. So, it was with some surprise that I later discovered the score. However, there might be some very commonsense reasons for the poorish quality of the performance.

Players, managers and coaches are only human and during this last week, the ones at Celtic Park have all been under the cosh regarding the result against Rangers. There was a recovery of sorts against Ross County in midweek but it will take a few more polished performances before the team can find its confidence once again.

There is also the problem of the defensive set-up. There have been few successful sides in the history of football that did not have a strong backline. Unfortunately, for one reason or another, Neil has had to chop and change his defence, an area where the players involved need to develop a close understanding. This can only come with constant practice on the training ground and playing the same guys in the same positions on a regular basis on match –days. If injury strikes, as it has done at Parkhead, then combinations have to put out that have little playing time together.

When we consider the stats from Saturday’s match, it is quite clear that Celtic were in control of the proceedings. They had 59% of the play to Caley’s 41%. It looks like one of the problems, then, was the implementation of that possession, as it only resulted in two goals. At East End Park, with a similar ratio of Rangers 59%, Dunfermline 41%, the Light Blues scored four!

That considerably difference in the figures for possession usually only occurs in matches involving Celtic or Rangers against other opposition. And the stats can sometimes be be quite confusing. For instance, at Fir Park, it was Motherwell 54%, Aberdeen 46%, with Motherwell winning 1-0; down in Paisley, St Mirren had 48% of the play to Kilmarnock’s 52%, yet the Buddies won 3-0. And at Easter Road, while Hibs had only 40% possession, they fought back to draw 3-3 with Dundee United.

At Parkhead, the performance might not have totally pleased the watching 47,000 plus but three points is what Celtic must aim for in every match and they got that on Saturday. For a side which was comprehensively beaten in a local derby only a week ago, to win twice in succession during the following seven days shows a great deal of character.

NB You will be wondering what the acronym SWMBO and I will be surprised if you do not have one in your own house…..She Who Must Be Obeyed!

Jim Craig

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