There was a more direct than normal look to Celtic’s play yesterday, perhaps after our display earlier this season on Rugby Park’s artificial surface. At Kilmarnock, we learned that our normal passing game is best suited to grass. At Livingston, we learned that we need more practice at getting the ball forward early against tight SPFL defences.
Referee Kevin Clancy declined to show Livingston striker Menga a red card for head-butting Ryan Christie, almost certainly because Ryan remained on his feet. There are many unwritten rules in football, one is that if a red card offense is committed, the referee will not produce one unless the victim drops to the ground. Even if this reaction is unnecessary.
That incident aside, the game could have had a different outcome it the ref clamped down on repeat offenses early in the proceedings.
Livingston are defensively better than anyone in the league, apart from Celtic, but they have scored only three goals from open play. This was a concern when they caused so much havoc in the Celtic defence at corner kicks, but it was the throw-ins from Alan Lithgow which were the greatest concern. Lithgow can drop a throw-in into the six yard box, where the first touch from either an attacker or defender creates a bun fight in the most dangerous area of the field.
It cannot be beyond Celtic to develop the combination of strength and technique necessary to replicate this ability.
The squad would have left West Lothian in sombre mood after the broken eye socket injury to Kristoffer Ajer that will keep the defender out until after the winter break. Compensating for this disappointment is getting to the top of the league table for the first time this season after Hearts loss to Kilmarnock on Saturday.