I suppose the performance at Kilmarnock could be summed up in two different ways. It might have been one of those occasions when the players showed real spirit and passion to pull back a three-goal deficit; on the other hand, the whole team might be heavily criticised for going three-down in the first place! As is often the case in these situations, probably both theories have an element of truth in them.
Unfortunately, due to a blip in the system, the article I penned last week to preview the clash down at Rugby Park was not published. My final paragraph read as follows;-
Kilmarnock’s manager, Kenny Shiels, is a believer in the passing game and seems to be insistent that it all starts at the back. That is fine and good but I always take a quick intake of breath when I see defenders passing across the field 30 yards or so from their own goal. If this happens on Saturday, then our guys must go for a pressing game and pick off these passes, before using the possession gained to best use. Celtic need the points and I see no reason why we should not get them!
Now, when I wrote that, I was assuming that Celtic would, as is normally the case in domestic games, take control of the play from the first whistle. No matter how much belief is imparted by the various managers, players who run out to face either Celtic or Rangers know that the odds are against them and their initial response – not always the advice from their boss – is to take to the barricades and try to keep a clean sheet for as long as possible. On Saturday, though, the Killie players broke the mould and came at their visitors, with some success!
One sometimes wondered if those involved in the Celtic defence had only been introduced to each other only five minutes before the match? The midfield was not much better, although players in that area of the team are not helped in their play when a disaster zone is in operation behind them and they have decisions to make. When the gate is wide open, they feel their first task is to help out there, rather than attempting forward runs. Whatever the reason, it was fairly shambolic!; frankly, by half-time, it could have more than 0-3!
Neil Lennon must have felt like giving his players a real going-over at half-time but I would have been surprised if he did. Cajoling and encouraging works much better in the long run. Certainly, the side in the second half looked a vastly different one from the first period and fully deserved to take the draw. However, the manager is still, halfway through October, in the difficult position of being unsure just what is his best eleven and he must now expect more from a few who are under-performing for one reason or another.
The two points dropped could have been a crucial blow to Celtic’s league title chances but fortunately, Rangers failed to capitalise on their much superior figure of possession against St Mirren and also picked up a single point from their match. Now, while Rangers have a mid-week friendly against Liverpool at Ibrox, Celtic must head for France and another Europa League tie against Rennes.