For all of our dominance yesterday, you have to think there is room for considerable improvement. Passing in the first half was frequently poor, shooting throughout the game was invariably off target, and when we managed to keep it down and between the sticks, the keeper was able to read the shot. Gilks played well, but the truth is we flattered him.
Moussa Dembele grabbed all the headlines with his back-heel-flick-nutmeg-winning-goal, but I spent much of the game debating whether it was time he was rested. Against Newco last month, he held the ball up and linked play, while finding and exploiting space. Yesterday his linking was poor and he seldom found space.
The incisiveness we enjoyed watching as recently as the outing against Manchester City, was missing against Gladback on Wednesday and at Hampden yesterday.
There were also enormous positives. Jozo Simunovic and Erik Sviatchenko were absolutely critical on Celtic’s grip on the game. Their positioning – when we were in possession – kept the ball flowing. They both gave us playmaker performances, and they didn’t miss a beat defensively either.
Again, just as on Wednesday, it didn’t work for Nir Bitton. When we play out from central defence like this the deep-lying playmaker role is crucial. He need to create space for us to move the ball forward, while he becomes an auxiliary defender as our full backs are so high up the field.
Stuart Armstrong came on and played higher up-field than Bitton and managed to put the squeeze on Newco.
The game reminded me of the League Cup semi-final two years ago, when Celtic subjugated an impotent Newco without scoring the volume of goals their superiority deserved. There was a chasm between the teams, which makes my belief that Celtic can play a lot better all the more interesting. Conversely I suspect that was a high water mark for Mark Warburton’s team.
The portents are good that he believes that game was a sign of progress.
As for Craig Thomson, that was self-evidently not good enough.