I must admit to having been a little apprehensive before this match. I was reading the Dundee Courier online (yes, that’s a thing) and according to the Dundee camp we were in for a rough night.
Dundee ‘can go to Glasgow and cause Celtic problems’ when they are ‘on it’ according to Neill McCann. I quickly searched for the league table and realised that Dundee have been ‘on it’ exactly eight times this season. In fact, sitting tenth, they appear to have been under it for much of the campaign.
In the same interview, McCann spoke about how he likes to ensure that the players don’t let their head rule their heart during a game — an interesting concept. He also spoke about the way his players ‘work’. Soon he will be speaking in an Irish accent and calling people ‘beautiful human beings.’
Roarie Deacon (a Dundee player) backed up his ‘gaffer’ by insisting that Dundee will go to play football and attack. And Mark O’Hara (another Dundee player) mentioned that McCann had shown them their earlier 1-0 defeat at Celtic Park as inspiration and motivation, an effort to ensure that the Dundee players take the game to us.
It was all a bit of a worry.
Dundee had lost only 1-0 to us (four days before we played Bayern in the Champions League) – that’s true. What if… what if this time… god forbid… what if this time they took the game to us… AGAIN?!
I turned on Celtic TV and tried to relax. They took the game to us the last time and we only had 55% possession and 19 shots at goal. Maybe getting your players to play with their hearts and not their heads is the future. Maybe McCann is a managerial legend in the making. Maybe the next time we play top seeds away from home in the Champions League we should call on McCann so that he can ‘work’ with the players.
Might as well just turn the game off before it starts! No banality from a monotone Simon Donnelly for me tonight. Celtic TV cancelled.
But wait. Tom Rogic starts. If anyone can undo the mastermind that’s Neil McCann then maybe, just maybe, it’s Tomas.
As the game started and we began to carve open the Dundee defence at will my nerves faded. A wonderfully incisive one-two between Dembele and Forrest sent the former through on goal, but the Dundee goalie showed that he was up for saving shots as well as an EBT recipient saves paying taxes.
It was a frenetic start and Celtic looked like they wanted to make an early mark. McCann was at least true to his word: in an early counter attack Dundee committed six players forward, but thankfully at least five of them were not very good at football.
Highlight of the game so far: Murdo MacLeod talking about ‘the faraway top corner’. After a scrappy spell where the ball wouldn’t sit for either team Forrest stretched his legs and forced a chance, but his powerful nearaway post shot was deflected for a corner by the Dundee goalie. The resulting corner was met by Sinclair, but he couldn’t direct his header on target.
Forrest was again involved in a near thing when he scooped an effort over the bar from about 14 yards following a nice cutback from Lustig. It was a sloppy finish and it defined Celtic’s first half – misplaced passes, bad bounces and touches that just didn’t come off.
In reality Dundee are better than 10th. They have some decent SPFL players and it’s pretty clear that if they had appointed a real football manager instead of Neil McCann, they would be further up the league.
The half-time whistle blew just after Dundee bizarrely hit the post following a Boyata challenge in the box. Celtic were poor. Or maybe Dundee were on their game.
The second half began with much more energy from Celtic. The ball was zipped around and there was neat interplay between Forrest and Rogic, but Forrest seemed intent on scoring a long ranger with his left foot and it just wasn’t happening for him. Armstrong, Sinclair and Dembele had half-chances, but to no avail. There was, however, a feeling that Celtic were on the verge of a breakthrough.
Around the 60th minute Rogic rolled the ball through to Sinclair, but it just got stuck in his feet and he was unable to generate any real strength in his shot. Rogic then tried to do it himself, but his shot found the side netting. It was a wave of green and white and Dundee were moving deeper and deeper into their own half. Dundee had abandoned all attempts to take the game to Celtic and were simply holding on with ten men in and around their box.
A few moments later Brendan opted for the Football Manager 2018 move of a triple substitution. It was bold, and if real life were to replicate video games in any way, Celtic were about to get two players injured and play the rest of the game with 9 men.
Bad decision making and sloppiness came back into Celtic’s play as the disturbance of the triple substitution perhaps halted momentum. It was highly frustrating, especially for those that had written a mocking introduction about Dundee.
The game fizzled out. I think most fans expected Celtic to kick on after going out of Europe, but the season has been peppered with moments of hesitation. Indeed, we have not won more than three consecutive league matches all season. Just when it looks like we are about to up the gears and hand out some good beatings while playing attractive football there is a speed bump. The last time Celtic scored more than three goals in a league match was at the beginning of December. Our football, at times, seems lethargic and predictable.
I am rarely one to second guess the decision making of a manager that is highly respected and works with the players all week, but the subs essentially killed the game. The head of steam that was building at the beginning of the second half completely dissipated and players that could perhaps unlock a tight defence were either removed from the park or left on the bench.
Celtic are making a bit of a meal of finishing off this title race. In brighter news, Rulebook McCann’s team hasn’t scored against us all season.
Today’s player ratings will be in the form of Hip-Hop stars from the last 30 years:
Gordon – Riff Raff
Lustig – Riff Raff
McGregor – Riff Raff
Hendry – Riff Raff
Boyata – Riff Raff
Armstrong – Riff Raff
Brown – Riff Raff
Rogic – Slick Rick
Sinclair – Riff Raff
Forrest – Riff Raff
Dembele – Riff Raff
Griffiths – Riff Raff
Ntcham – Riff Raff
Edouard – Riff Raff