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  • Johnston strike seals Jock Stein Friendship Cup win for Celtic

    Johnston strike seals Jock Stein Friendship Cup win for Celtic

    By: Martin Dalziel on 09 Aug, 2016 21:20

  • Jock Stein Friendship Cup
    Exsel Group Stadium (Cliftonhill), Coatbridge
    Tuesday August 8, 2016

    (Johnston 73)


    MIKEY Johnston’s clinical second-half finish helped Celtic lift the Jock Stein Friendship Cup as they overcame Albion Rovers 1-0 at the Exsel Group Stadium.

    Despite controlling most of the play in either half, Tommy McIntyre’s young Hoops side were kept at bay by Derek Young’s League One outfit in the annual friendly match until substitute Johnston found his mark with a cracking right-footed shot from inside the box with just over 15 minutes left.

    The young attacker was set up well by Mark Hill’s driving run from deep and the victory allows the Celts to head into Tuesday’s Irn Bru Cup second round match against Cowdenbeath in good form following last week’s 5-1 thrashing of Annan Athletic in the opening round of the competition.

    Tommy McIntyre put out a much changed squad from the one that swept aside Annan in the youths’ last outing last week with only Sam Wardrop, Aidan McIlduff and Calvin Miller retaining places in the team.

    The game was a good opportunity for the Academy Coach to test out his new look side following the departure of key players Aidan Nesbitt and Joe Thomson on loan in the preceding days and he drafted in a host of fresh faces for the clash with Rovers in Coatbridge.

    After dominating the opening 20 minutes, Celtic began to make their possession count with the lively Miller supplying a string of crosses from the left and Luke Donnelly and PJ Crossan having shots blocked in the box.

    The match was an important step for Donnelly on his return to full fitness following a long period on the sidelines and there were flashes of his trademark quick feet and close control in the opening 45 minutes, but not enough to bring a clear cut chance.

    The Bhoys were also comfortable at the back in the first-half with the pairing of Dan Higgins and Josh Kerr in central defence limiting Rovers to just one real chance through Ross Stewart’s wayward effort from 12 yards.

    After a fairly dominant first-half from Celtic, the home fans were given something to cheer about at the interval when Albion Rovers club secretary Paul Reilly had his head shaved at pitchside to raise money for Beatson Cancer Charity in honour of his wife Elspeth, who died from the condition in early 2015.

    Derek Young made four changes for the restart, including his keeper, and the League One side came out battling but it was Celtic’s Theodore Archibald who went closest to opening the scoring, fizzing a shot just over the bar from 30 yards 10 minutes into the second-half.

    The Bhoys made a triple swap after the hour mark, introducing Regan Hendry, Johnston and Brandon Payne for Donnelly, Inness Murray and Archibald. The trio did their best to inject some much needed verve into the play, with Rovers content to sit back and play on the break, and their endeavour finally paid off when Johnston broke the deadlock with a cracking finish on 73 minutes.

    With Rovers caught up the pitch on a rare attack, Hill broke forward for Celtic and surged through the home side’s midfield before shifting his feet on the edge of the area to free Johnston, who took a touch to steady himself before rocketing past Alan Reid in the Albion goal.

    The home side rallied and went close to equalising through Ross Gilmour, who curled a left-footed shot off the bar before Conor Hazard made his first save of the match with just two minutes remaining to deny Gary Fisher from distance.

    The Celts held out until full-time, however, and will now look to continue their momentum in Tuesday’s Irn Bru Cup clash against Cowdenbeath.

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Hazard; Wardrop, Kerr, Higgins, McIlduff; Murray (Hendry 62), Hill; Archibald (Johnston 62), Donnelly (Payne 62), Miller; Crossan

    Not used: McAdams, Watson, Duffy

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