Yesterday’s draw after an intense period of games may have been predictable, and predicted elsewhere, but not for the reasons it happened. This was a high-tempo performance from Celtic, who created as many chances as they have in weeks, but they faced a typically robust Highland defence, and whereas shots hit the post and went in last weekend, this time three shots rebounded off the frame of the goal.
Them’s the breaks.
After running amok the previous week Moussa Dembele must have wondered what was going on. He didn’t get a yard of space all afternoon as the Inverness defenders stuck to him like glue throughout.
There have been suggestions that Kieran Tierney needed a rest, After a stunning first season and intense opening to the new season, Kieran was one of several overwhelmed at the Camp Nou. His showing in the Highlands put paid to that notion. We got the first goal from a Kieran cross, the player then forced Fon Williams into the best of his miraculous saves, and struck the crossbar with another thunderous shot.
After two low-key (if eventful) games against Lincoln Red Imps, eight of Celtic’s next 10 games were incredibly intense occasions, culminating in the drubbing at the Camp Nou. The latter half of last week was the first time since the players trooped of that field in Gibraltar that there wasn’t a crunch game looming.
It was also the first time this season a first team mainstay was rested (Kolo Toure was left out of the squad). The evidence was there that the players put the work into the game, but as the final minutes approached, with Inverness still in touch, you sensed the Celtic tank was empty.
Brendan Rodgers will take a look over Alloa’s impressive form this season and wonder if he should rest more on Wednesday. He should. We need to show trust to those on the fringe of the squad, and rest those who have league and Champions League games coming up in the following week.
I see some comment that extending a player’s ban for a shouting match to four weeks looks like constructive dismissal. It looks a bit like that, but there’s another interpretation for Joey Barton’s extended leave. Three weeks from now Newco may well have another manager, making any disagreement he had with Warburton moot.
Warburton is new to top flight football and has never dealt with a character like Barton before. Nor has anyone on the Newco board. They are all feeling their way in the business of football. That’s hard enough when you’re winning games but you’ve no chance when performances are evidently not good enough.
From a personal perspective I hope they patch up their differences and both stick around for a long time.
If Warburton fails to deliver in the coming weeks, keep your eye on Barry Ferguson. He has Clyde second top of League Two having lost only one game this season, and has enough credit in the tank to buy Newco time to settle into the top flight. He also has the big time experience to handle a player like Barton.