If You Know The History: 30th March: Leith Athletic 5 Celtic 6

30th March Leith Athletic 5 Celtic 6

With only three matches left in the 18-game league campaign, Celtic travelled to the east on this day in 1895 to meet Leith Athletic.

Leith had been founded in 1887 and had been elected to take the place of Glasgow club Cowlairs in Division One in 1891. In the ensuing seasons, they had finished 4th, 6th and 9th; and in that season of 1894/95, they were again in second bottom spot, flirting with the prospect of relegation. They had been scoring just over a goal a game while losing well over two goals per game, so the omens were not good for the Leith players as they ran out to face the team just behind Hearts at the top of the table.

Celtic too were anything like a settled side that season and on that Saturday afternoon in Leith, injuries had again prompted some inexperienced players to be given a chance. In goal, former Benburb junior man John O’Brien was making his debut; at fullback were Jerry Reynolds and Tom Dunbar; Willie Maley, James Kelly and Charlie McEleney made up the half-back line; and the forward line read James Davidson, Johnny Madden, John Ferguson ( another debutant), John Divers and Willie Ferguson.

The Leith Athletic players certainly rose to the challenge and scored five, with goalkeeper O’Brien – in his only first-team outing for Celtic – culpable for three of them. Unfortunately for them, Celtic also rose to the occasion and knocked in six, with all the forwards scoring, James Davidson getting two. At half-time, it was 4-4; shortly into the second half, Celtic made it 6-4 before Leith pulled one back in the last minute.

The final score of 6-5 remains one of the highest-scoring matches for both sides in Celtic’s history and was particularly memorable for centre-forward John Ferguson, as it was the only time he pulled on a first-team jersey.

Jim Craig


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