Going For 63

After getting back to winning ways against Hamilton last Friday night, it’s Ross County at home next on our ongoing quest to beat our own unbeaten Scottish record.

I can’t find anywhere that tells you what the unbeaten domestic record is outside of Scotland. All I can find is Steaua Bucharest’s 104 game unbeaten league run and our own 62 game unbeaten run in all competitions. Those 62 games all came in the league, long before European football was even a concept.

And to be honest, I reckon it’s 64 as there were two Glasgow Cup ties in that period too. That was a major trophy at the time, especially as the Scottish Cup was suspended due to the First World War, but it always gets ignored on this run so I’ll just ignore it for now too.

As long as Ross County don’t pull off an unlikely victory at Celtic Park, we’ll reach 55. To then go on and match our 62, we need to knock Dundee out of the League Cup, then not lose at Ibrox or at home to Hibernian and Dundee. After that we’d need to win the League Cup semi final before not losing at Pittodrie or at home to Kilmarnock.

Do all of that, and we can break the record away to St Johnstone at the start of November.

That’s assuming the Motherwell away game currently scheduled for League Cup semi final weekend isn’t rearranged, as it would need to be if we’ve beaten Dundee, and that is a fairly safe assumption as there’s no room for it with the Champions League matches!

Clearly there are some tricky matches in there, including two League Cup ties as well as away trips to the teams that finished second, third and finally fourth last season.

The only gap in the fixtures is when the next international break comes around, which isn’t a break for the players given the number of internationalists we have playing. The Scots, particularly, have two tricky matches in October they’ll be hoping to win and will no doubt play a large part in given recent Scotland games.

That’s a very tough schedule, and plenty of likely slip ups along the way. But we’ve done it before. Back in December last year we had nine games, won all eight of the domestic ones and drew the Champions League game. Can we do something similar again? It’s always possible, but we’ll have to wait and see.

But enough looking forward, we have to take care of Ross County or all of this is irrelevant!

Sitting three points ahead of the bottom three teams in the league, it’s been a tough start for Ross County. After winning their opening day fixture away to Dundee, they then had four defeats. A narrow 2-1 defeat at home to Aberdeen was followed up by a quick double against Motherwell in both the League Cup at home and League at Fir Park.

And then there was the Scott Fox horror show.

Alfredo Morelos had already given his side the lead in Dingwall, but when Fox apparently forgot he’d just taken the ball off him, Morelos got up off the ground and easily dispossessed him to score a second. County bounced back well in the second half, pulling one goal back through Thomas Mikkelsen and having a few other chances as well, but the game was killed off in the final minute when Eduardo Herrera got a third for the visitors.

Since then, Fox was dropped for the game where County battered Partick Thistle but couldn’t get anything more than a 1-1 draw thanks to a late Alex Schalk penalty. And this time it was actually a penalty, there was contact and everything!

I refer, of course, to the last time we played Ross County.

With the league already won, Celtic took the lead in Dingwall through a long range Kieran Tierney effort. Former Celtic youth player Michael Gardyne levelled the game with a header at the start of the second half, but when Patrick Roberts scored Celtic’s second with twelve minutes to play, many would have assumed Celtic would see out the game for yet another victory.

Many, that is, except for referee Don Robertson. When Schalk went down in the vicinity of Erik Sviatchenko, Robertson incredibly pointed to the spot. A clearer dive you’re unlikely to see as there was no challenge and clear daylight between the two players, but Schalk couldn’t believe his luck and calmly slotted away the equaliser. Just to compound this, a frustrated Scott Brown was sent off for a rash challenge that was later reduced to a yellow card.

Remember, this was a game where we’d already clinched the league and were probably not going to lose either. So that just goes to show the character of this Celtic side that always want to win.

Ross County were a bit of a tricky prospect all of last season. The 4-0 win on our other trip to Dingwall came thanks to a very early opener and then three late goals thanks mainly to the substitutes in a game where the hosts missed some terrific chances to equalise. The 2-0 win at Celtic Park as part of that busy December came from two late first half goals, one of which was a long range Sviatchenko effort catching out poor Scott Fox.

Remarkably, last season’s Premiership top goal scorer, Liam Boyce, never scored against Celtic last season. He’s since moved down south, and so far Ross County look like they could do with him to put the ball in the net. Despite that, they’ve still got the threat of Schalk who seems to like a goal against us – perhaps mostly famously in that semi final that saw them go on to lift the League Cup.

But there’s always that former player curse too. Ross County may be starting to bring through players who helped them win the development league last season, but in Scott Fox, Marcus Fraser, Michael Gardyne and Jim O’Brien they have plenty of players who were once in our youth academy. They also have Jamie Lindsay who is currently in our youth academy, but as he’s on loan he won’t face his parent club.

After Tuesday night’s disappointment, a home game is as good a place as any to bounce back. Hopefully Celtic put in a performance to lift the spirits and quickly get us back to winning ways. We’ve a lot of important and tricky games coming up after all.

Krys (Twitter @krys1888)

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