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  • Delight as Development Side seal championship

    Delight as Development Side seal championship

    By: Mark Henderson on 04 Apr, 2016 20:58

  • SPFL Development League
    Monday, April 4, 2016
    Cappielow Park, Greenock

    (Archibald 79, Thomson 90 + 2)


    CELTIC’S Development Side were crowned champions with seven games left in the season after late goals from Theo Archibald and Joe Thomson saw them prevail in a fiercely-fought contest against St Johnstone at Cappielow

    An absorbing encounter looked to be ending in stalemate, which would have put the young Hoops’ title celebrations on hold, until Archibald rifled a first-time shot into the net following Aidan McIlduff’s cross from the left.

    As the Saints committed more men forward for a leveller in stoppage time, Thomson raced clear and calmly slotted the ball past goalkeeper Ben McKenzie, sparking joyous scenes at the final whistle on the pitch and in the home dressing room.

    It was a well-deserved success for Tommy McIntyre, the backroom staff and all the young players who have yet to taste defeat in the league campaign, a remarkable record and testament to their determination to reclaim the title after finishing runners-up last season.

    McIntyre kept faith with the same youthful team that overcame Inverness Caley Thistle, naming an unchanged line-up, but with a slight switch in tactics as the young Hoops lined up in a 4-3-3 formation, with a forward triumvirate of Innes Murray, Calvin Miller and Theo Archibald.

    The Bhoys started the match with ferocious intensity, with Archibald having a shot blocked inside the opening 60 seconds after being supplied on the left by Regan Hendry.

    Moving the ball around with pace and purpose, the hosts fashioned the first meaningful chance in the ninth minute as right-back Dan Higgins picked out the run of Mark Hill into the box. The midfielder took aim but McKenzie was equal to his angled shot, pushing the ball to safety.

    It has been all Celtic in the opening stages but the Perth side were presented with a golden opportunity to take the lead in the 16th minute. A defence-splitting pass sent George Hunter scampering clear but Ross Doohan came to the hosts’ rescue, the keeper blocking the striker’s shot with his legs.

    The young Celts responded with an incisive breakaway, with Regan Hendry leading the charge, but a last-ditch tackle from a Saints defender prevented Miller from reaching Murray’s low centre.

    Both teams were offering absolute commitment to the cause, serving up a compelling encounter for those in attendance in Greenock.

    The home side threatened midway through the half when an inviting cross from Archibald found Hendry in the middle but the midfielder was unable to get the ball under control.

    It was more of an even contest now and Aidan McIlduff had to make a vital block to deflect Hunter’s shot past the post, while Doohan demonstrated his aerial aptitude, making several commanding catches from set-piece situations.  

    But it was the Bhoys who crafted the more promising positions as half-time approached. Murray’s deft volley back into mix looked to be falling for Miller until centre-half Jason Kerr got his head on the ball.  

    Miller took matters into his own hands moments before half-time, intercepting an errant pass deep in his own half and breaking at speed towards the opposition area. However, Archibald was crowded out before he could profit.

    The away side enjoyed a productive period early in the second half and Doohan had to make a smart stop at his near post from Paul Simpson’s snap-shot.

    Gradually, helped by the promptings of Thomson and Mark Hill in midfield, the young Celts began to reassert themselves on proceedings.

    A purposeful burst from Hill gave Miller a sight of goal but the ball was just behind the forward and he was unable to generate sufficient power to trouble McKenzie.

    Murray also curled a shot wide of the far post after being fed by Dan Higgins just beyond the hour-mark as the match remained evenly-poised.

    As the visitors continued to rack up the corner count, the Celtic rearguard were having to defend resolutely, with Doohan alert to make another save from Hunter’s header.

    The young shot-stopper was producing an assured performance between the sticks and he made another confident catch from Neil Marlynuik’s free-kick.

    With just over 10 minutes left on the clock, the Hoops youngsters’ perseverance was rewarded. After a prolonged spell of pressure, McIlduff’s low cross was only partially cleared by the Saints defence and Archibald was on hand to sweep the ball home.

    Miller almost added to their tally with a curling shot before Hunter provided a scare as the clock ticked down when he headed a corner off the bar.

    But Thomson ensured the Bhoys would finish with a flourish with a composed finish, the perfect prelude to the post-match title celebrations.

    CELTIC (4-3-3): Doohan; Higgins, Kelleher, McCart, McIlduff; Hill, Thomson, Hendry; Murray (Lafferty 66), Miller, Archibald
    Not Used: Hazard, Kidd, Kerr

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