Friendly, Jock Stein Friendship Cup
Monday 20th July 2009, kick-off 3pm
Cliftonhill Stadium, Coatbridge
Off to Cliftonhill via the train, and I was given the kind offer of a swig of Buckfast from a few bevvied up Celtic fans after I gave them directions to the ground. The match was a friendly affair to mark the relationship between the two clubs due to their former great player, and manager in Celtic's case, Jock Stein. The Wee Rovers ground isn't in the best of conditions, and only one stand is in use these days, the main stand is out-dated with hard wooden seats with next to no leg room. I opted to stand on the terracing in front of the stand, leaning of the freshly painted barrier, painted grey for some reason, fairly certain they were red and yellow before which seemed more appropriate.
Celtic fielded very much a reserve style side with the first team not long back from their Australian tour and preparing for the weekend Wembley Cup games. The Bhoys were managed by Neil Lennon after previous reserve gaffer Willie McStay moved to Ujpest for a management role. Recognisable names is the Celtic line-up were Cillian Sheridan, Paul McGowan and Ryan Conroy, whilst the Wee Rovers were without influential centre-half Todd Lumsden after he picked up a ligament injured in their 6-0 friendly win over Selkirk. Plenty of the Bhoys faithful fans made the short journey on Fair Monday to see their side, the stand was packed, which is a rarity at Cliftonhill. They were in good spirits, some literally, bouncing up and down, singing and waving huge flags, the Wee Rovers fans of course sang their one song repeatedly, AR-ARF-ARFC-OK! Lyrical genius. Tribute songs were also sang about Celtic legend John Hartson who is currently battling against cancer.
Celtic started the brighter with McGowan buzzing about, but it was the Wee Rovers that had the first real chance, a long range effort that had beaten Celts 'keeper Scott Fox but crashed off the crossbar. Rovers goalie Derek Gaston was by far the busier, making several great saves to deny Celtic taking a first-half lead. Half-time brought about the dreaded cheerleaders, I despise this at football games now, it's cringe worthy stuff, although I wouldn't be complaining if they were more my age. That wasn't the only form of entertainment for the interval with a local boys club having a wee beat the 'keeper game, having to run from the half-way line and attempt to score in ten seconds.
The second-half started to become a bit of a borefest and proceedings began to drag on. Out of nowhere Celtic created a clear-cut chance for Sheridan, who slipped and missed from yards out. Sheridan looked to have made amens as he provided an assist for a seemingly well worked goal, but it was flagged for offside. Things continued to peter out towards the closing stages, then three golden chances were created. Either side of Celtic goal bound headers that were both cleared off the line by Rovers defenders, Pollock had a great opportunity to win for the Wee Rovers after a strong run, but unfortunately couldn't apply a finish. So off to penalties for the third match in succession for me, which can be viewed below, apologies about those bloody cheerleaders opting to block more peoples vision by spacing out.
Celtic finally, and I mean finally, triumphed 5-4 in the shoot-out, leaving me three minutes to sprint for the train, I really didn't fancy an extra thirty minutes in Coatbridge. Many positives for the Wee Rovers though who competeted well and didn't seem out their depth, a bumper crowd will also be benefical revenue wise. I doubt the watching Tony Mowbray and Peter Grant will have been overly impressed by any of the Celtic performances.
Next up for the Rovers is a trip to the seaside to play Ayr United in the Challenge Cup, their first competitive outing of the season. Tony Mowbray and his Bhoys will travel down to London to play in the Wembley cup with Al-Ahly, Barcelona and Tottenham Hotspur over the coming weekend. Many photos from the day can be found on Paul Reilly's website, and my YouTube video of the shoot-out here. Another website with video highlights is Randalstown CSC, Down the Wing blogger also attended this fixture, his photo's can be found here.
Result: Albion Rovers 0-0 Celtic XI, Celtic XI won 5-4 on penalties
Albion Rovers: unknown
Celtic XI: Fox, Gallacher, Kurakins, Ferry, Marr, Lafferty, Conroy, Millar, Sheridan, McGowan, McGinn.
Albion Rovers: none
Celtic XI: none