Maddening Appointments

The final game of 2017, and the final game before our winter shutdown, sees us face our fourth Glasgow derby of the season.

It’s only ten days since the last one, when Partick Thistle were the visitors to Celtic Park just a few days after the end of our unbeaten run. A 2-0 win for Celtic was the result, and that has since been followed up by a 3-0 win at home to Aberdeen and a 2-0 win away to Dundee.

Three games, three wins, three clean sheets.

The other two derbies came much earlier in the season. The first match against Partick Thistle was a narrow 1-0 win at Firhill in August, while our first game against today’s opposition came in September and saw us win 2-0 at Ibrox.

Three derbies, three wins, three clean sheets.

Of course, that win in September came against Pedro Caixinha’s men. Poor Pedro has long since departed the scene and once again Graeme Murty has stepped up to take charge of the first team.

This isn’t the first time we’ve faced a Graeme Murty side though.

When Mark Warburton departed the scene in suspicious circumstances… actually, that reminds me, has anyone explained how a resignation that was never tendered was accepted?

No?

Anyway, when Warburton left, Murty took charge for a number of games until Caixinha was appointed. The last of those was at Celtic Park, where the visitors managed to be one of just four teams last season to take points from Celtic.

One of two that had a helping hand from the officials.

Celtic weren’t exactly at their best that day, but had still taken the lead through Stuart Armstrong. Unfortunately, we let the visitors back in and Clint Hill was able to follow in a rebound after Craig Gordon’s initial save from Emerson Hyndman.

But just as it seemed we might drop two points, at the other end Hill attempted a tackle inside the penalty area at chest height on Leigh Griffiths, unsurprisingly getting none of the ball and conceded a clear penalty.

Well, he would have, except referee Bobby Madden saw fit to give absolutely nothing.

With that, plus some of the woeful challenges that the visitors were allowed to get away with, Madden did as much to ensure Celtic dropped points that day as anything the men in blue could muster.

Oh, good news everyone. Bobby Madden is the referee again today. Hopefully we aren’t disappointed in our level of performance like we were that day then.

That was actually our last game against today’s opposition at Celtic Park. Since then we’ve won 2-0 at Hampden in the Scottish Cup semi final, won 5-1 at Ibrox, and of course as mentioned earlier won 2-0 at Ibrox earlier this season.

So with Murty in charge until the end of the season and Madden once again taking charge of a game between us and our blue city rivals, there’s a bit of a feeling of deja vu here.

Murty is, of course, not the first choice to be in charge at this point. Earlier this month, Derek McInnes knocked back the chance to even bother travelling to Ibrox for talks about taking over. That was just after Aberdeen had been beaten home and away of course.

Not that the constant speculation from every man, woman and child with a prior job at Ibrox in the media had affected Aberdeen in any way, oh no.

That had moved our opponents into second place in the Premiership table, but they’ve since dropped back to third again. While they did managed to win at home to Ross County and away to Hibernian after the double over Aberdeen, they lost at home to St Johnstone and away to Kilmarnock before bouncing back in midweek with a 2-0 win over Motherwell.

While Murty may have had some mixed results in his two temporary spells in charge, the 1-1 draw means he’s actually their most successful manager against us. Only Mark Warburton has managed a similar result over 90 minutes, in the Scottish Cup semi final two seasons ago where they would still be level after extra time and would eventually eliminate us on penalties.

Every other time we’ve faced them, we’ve won. That’s four league wins including two 5-1 victories, two League Cup wins, and one Scottish Cup win.

As has also been pointed out in several circles, both Mark Warburton and Pedro Caixinha lost their second game against Celtic 5-1. It’s 45/1 at McBookie that Graeme Murty suffers that same fate.

I’m not entirely convinced Celtic are capable of hammering anyone right now though. Aberdeen’s self-destructiveness aside, teams are doing a pretty good job of keeping us out and I’m not sure today’s game will be any different.

Murty’s last game at Celtic Park was very much a case of them working hard and doing what they could to earn the equaliser that eventually came. Until the deflected opener, Aberdeen showed they could work hard and give as good as they got, while clearly Hearts managed to show just how well it works if you also take your chances when they come. Hibernian also showed that working right to the end can get you rewards, just as Murty’s team did back in March.

But then again, I didn’t expect us to win 5-1 last season either.

Either time we did it.

However the game goes today, hopefully Celtic come out with another three points and don’t give anyone a sniff of any title race when we come back at the end of January.

Krys (Twitter @krys1888)

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