Motherwell Buses

Motherwell games are like buses. You wait ages for one and then three come along at once.

With the League Cup secure in the Celtic trophy cabinet for a second successive season, we now return our focus to the league campaign and the quest for a seventh title in a row. All of this on the backdrop of Brendan Rodgers being the first Celtic manager to win his first four trophies in a row, and the first to win four in a row since Jock Stein.

By my reckoning, if we only focus on the three major domestic honours, then Jock Stein actually did five trophies in a row on two separate occasions. The all conquering 1966/67 season was followed up by the League Cup and league championship of 1967/68. The quest for a back to back treble was ended very quickly after a 2-0 home defeat to Dunfermline Athletic.

Stein came agonisingly close to that back to back treble just two years later, but having won the lot in 1968/69, and with the League Cup and league championship already in the bag in 1969/70, disappointment was to follow in the Scottish Cup final when Aberdeen ran out 3-1 winners. I’m pretty sure that’s the final that Stein often spoke about where he suggested referee Bobby Davidson made certain we wouldn’t be getting our hands on the trophy.

That Scottish Cup final is as close as any team has come to back-to-back domestic trebles, although it should be noted that Craig Brewster had a hand in ensuring that in the Scottish Cup final of 1994. Incidentally, that stopped Rangers run of winning consecutive trophies at the Scottish record of seven – a league and Scottish Cup double in 1991/92, a domestic treble in 1992/93, and a league and League Cup double in 1993/94.

So there’s a record I wouldn’t mind Celtic taking. If we want it, we’ll need to ensure we win the league and the Scottish Cup this season, as well as a third consecutive League Cup this time next year. A long way off then I’m sure you’ll agree.

The Scottish Cup will come round after the winter break with a home tie against Brechin City, so other than trying to ensure safe passage to the Europa League round of 32 next midweek, all eyes are on the run of league fixtures.

Starting at Fir Park – the scene of the biggest threat to unbeaten domestic run that now stands at 65 games.

We’ve been over this story many times already. Motherwell were 2-0 up at half time courtesy of a Louis Moult double. Callum McGregor got the ball rolling early in the second half, but it took until the 70th minute for Patrick Roberts to level the game. That lasted a whole minute before Lionel Ainsworth put Motherwell back in front before quickly being pegged back again another minute later thanks to Stuart Armstrong’s equaliser. Then, just as you wondered if we were going to drop points for only the second time that season, up popped Tom Rogic to fire in the winner in the 90th minute.

As Motherwell finished in the bottom six last season, we only had one visit to Fir Park. They had to come to Celtic Park on three separate occasions, but to be honest I’m not going to mention them today as I have to save something for Saturday’s blog!

Seriously, no one thinks of us bloggers when they schedule these matches! How am I meant to write about the same team three blogs in a row?!

So what can we expect at Fir Park this time around? Well, I’d imagine it will be a tough reception after the events of Sunday. Especially if you’re Scott Sinclair.

Scott has been vilified across the board for going down too easily to both win a penalty and getting Cedric Kipre sent off in the process. Yes, poor Cedric Kipre, the hard done by soul who dared to give Sinclair just a little tug as the Celtic man had got in behind him on his blind side.

Poor Cedric Kipre who has ensured that Moussa Dembele won’t play in this game and is a doubt for both Saturday’s match and next week’s crucial home Champions League tie against Anderlecht. All thanks to that early high challenge that Craig Thomson somehow failed to spot as a foul never mind give the warranted red card.

We have the laziest compliance officer in SFA history at the moment. Not only have they decided that Sinclair didn’t dive – which is more than can be said for large parts of even the Celtic support – but Kipre’s injury causing challenge on Dembele is going unpunished too.

To be honest, when Anthony Stokes can get away with putting people in headlocks at Ibrox, I’m not sure this Compliance Officer even has Sportscene on series link.

Kipre’s straight red in the League Cup final means he’ll miss the next League Cup fixture for Motherwell and not the next game, and so he’s free to appear for Motherwell in tonight’s game. Hopefully Leigh Griffiths, Odsonne Edouard or whichever Celtic players he happens to be up against tonight are afforded more protection than Dembele got.

And as for Sinclair… well, when he was denied a penalty for Efe Ambrose pulling him back at 2-2 in the home league match against Hibernian a few weeks ago and so many neutral onlookers suggested he might have got the penalty had he gone down, it’s hard to criticise him for anything. Kipre did pull him back, regardless of how soft it was.

When you know Scottish referees are terrible, of course you do what you can to illustrate a foul. It shouldn’t be necessary, but until our referees improve I find it hard to criticise the behaviour of Scott Sinclair.

I’d still rather he just stuck the ball straight in the net though.

Motherwell will no doubt use the outrage of the last few days in their teamtalk. They’ll look back at Sunday’s game and think of what could have been. What if Craig Gordon hadn’t got his arm to Moult’s header? What if Sinclair had been booked for diving instead of being awarded a penalty? What if one of those Moult free kicks had gone in? What if they hadn’t given James Forrest all that time and space to pick his spot for the opening goal? What if my granny had testicles?

They’ll be disappointed, but they’ll know that in the first half they didn’t give Celtic much. I’d imagine their game plan this time round won’t be all that different from Sunday. They’ll just hope they get a bit more luck.

On the other hand, we’ll see how we took control of the game in the second half and we’ll look to build on that. For all it was far easier when they were down to ten men, we did look more threatening even before that.

With our nearest challengers off to Ibrox tonight as well, a place where they’ve only won once in 26 years and that was at the end of last season, a win tonight might offer us a chance to stretch our lead still further at the top of the table. Or at least a win tonight will stop an Aberdeen team who have played a game more than us drawing level on points again.

Either way, we don’t want to be giving the other teams any hope. Especially not a Motherwell side we have to face again on Saturday.

Kryst (Twitter @krys1888)

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