THERE were mixed emotions for Celtic in the first two games in March as they negotiated a Scottish Cup semi-final place after facing a stubborn St Johnstone in Perth while they dropped two points in a last-gasp 2-2 stalemate with jinx side Livingston in West Lothian.
The month was only a day old when Neil Lennon took the holders to face Tommy Wright’s team at McDiarmid Park, a venue where they had scored three goals in a whirlwind 22-minute first-half period in the Premiership in January.
Unfortunately, there was to be no goal spree on this occasion and it took a free-kick from Ryan Christie nine minutes from time to settle the tie. There was confusion over the crucial strike with Christopher Jullien looking as though he got a final touch, but the sporting Frenchman admitted the goal should be credited to his team-mate.
HOOPY DAZE…Christopher Jullien, Callum McGregor and Scott Brown lead the celebrations in Perth at full-time.
There was a hint of justice about the winner, too, following an outrageous late assault by Saints central defender Jamie McCart on James Forrest that brought about the resultant free-kick. The player found referee Bobby Madden in a lenient mood as he merely flashed a yellow card.
Three days later, the Hoops were on their travels again when they took on Gary Holt’s Livi at the ground where they had suffered their only away league reverse of the campaign in October. The memory of a sloppy display looked about to be obliterated when Callum McGregor rifled in a 16th-minute effort, but a rare boob by Fraser Forster presented the home side with an ill-deserved leveller. The keeper mishandled a long throw-in from the left by Kieran Brown and Jon Guthrie snapped onto the loose ball to knock it into the gaping net.
A minute after the interval, Forster was being invited to fish the ball out of his net for a second time when, amazingly, Livi took the lead with a goal from Scott Robinson. It remained that way until stoppage-time when Odsonne Edouard set up Tom Rogic for the equaliser for the result that kept the champions 13 points ahead at the top of the table with only nine games still scheduled.
As ever, CQN‘s award-winning snappers were there to capture the action. Here is the pick of the pics.
OOPS…an unusual image of Odsonne Edouard after the striker blazed off target with the Saints defence in disarray.
HIGH AND MIGHTY…Saints keeper Zander Clark holds a crossball as Scott Brown and Christopher Jullien menace the Perth back lot.
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS…Ryan Christie sees a shot blocked with Scott Tanser and Jamie McCart challenging while Tom Rogic looks on.
SO CLOSE…Christopher Jullien pokes the ball goalwards, but Zander Clark is alive to the danger.
UP AND AT ‘EM…Christopher Jullien towers above Stevie May to head clear.
GROUNDED…Christopher Jullien looks puzzled as another chance is lost.
YELLOW PERIL…James Forrest is flattened after a robust challenge by Jamie McCart who is immediately booked by referee Bobby Madden.
TOUCH AND GO…Chistopher Jullien gets in front of the Saints defence as Ryan Christie’s free-kick is delivered into the penalty box.
ALL YOURS…Christopher Jullien is quick to point to Ryan Christie to give him the credit for the winner.
JOY BHOY…Ryan Christie races to celebrate with the Hoops support.
WALLOP…Callum McGregor crashes in a ferocious right-foot drive to open the scoring against Livingston.
TWO FOR THE ROAD…Callum McGregor races away in joy with Kristoffer Ajer about to join in.
CLASH…Fraser Forster attempts to hold a high ball under the close attention of Livi defender Jon Guthrie.
THE LEVELLER…Guthrie flicks the ball goalwards with Forster out of position and Nir Bitton failing to intercept.
PRESSURE’S ON…Scott Robinson slams Livi into the lead at the start of the second-half.
CONCERNED…Neil Lennon watches the drama unfold in West Lothian.
HOLD ON…Odsonne Edouard is pulled back by Kieran Brown.
UP IN THE AIR…Scott Brown defies gravity as he attempts to inspire the champions.
NO WAY THROUGH…Ryan Christie sees a shot blocked.
POINT TAKEN…Tom Rogic turns away after slotting in the late equaliser.
PENALTY? Leigh Griffiths is sent crashing by Kieran Brown in the fading moments, but referee Kevin Clancy waves play on.
TOMORROW: The Final Curtain – Griff strikes hat-trick.