By: Mark Henderson on 20 Dec, 2016 19:53
SPFL Development League
Excelsior Stadium, Airdrie
Wednesday, December 20, 2016
(Hendry 10, Aitchison pen. 14)
EARLY goals from Regan Hendry and Jack Aitchison secured a dominant 2-0 victory for Celtic’s Development Side over their St Johnstone counterparts tonight in Airdrie.
Hendry opened the scoring with a deflected shot after the Bhoys had taken the game to the hosts from the first whistle at the Exclesior Stadium.
Aitchison quickly provided the young Hoops two-goal cushion in the 14th minute from the penalty spot after being brought down by goalkeeper Ben McKenzie in the box.
And although Tommy McIntyre’s side failed to add to their tally, their grip on the three points never looked in doubt as they controlled the remainder of the contest, with goalkeeper Ross Doohan never called into serious action.
Aitchison returned to lead the attack in tonight’s league in one of three changes to the team that defeated Inverness Caley Thistle 1-0 last week.
The striker replaced Calvin Miller in the starting XI as the wide-man stepped up to make his first-team bow. Anthony Ralston and Josh Kerr also came into McIntyre’s team.
In blustery and wet conditions, the young Hoops quickly took the initiative, playing at a high tempo and moving the ball round with purpose.
It didn’t take long for them to threaten the home side’s goal as Aitchison beat the offside trap but he couldn’t generate enough power in his header to loft it over McKenzie.
Hendry was also bright in the opening exchanges and after some positive play from the winger, Mikey Johnston lashed in a 20-yard shot that was straight down the throat of McKenzie.
And it didn’t take long for the young Hoops to profit from their early pressure as Hendry handed them the lead. After a quick interchange of passes near the edge of the box, the 18-year-old took aim and his shot deflected beyond McKenize and into the net.
It only took another four minutes for McIntyre’s side to double their advantage. Connor McManus was the architect, driving forward down the middle and sliding a precise pass through for Aitchison.
The speedy striker was upended by McKenzie as he rounded the keeper and the referee immediately pointed to the spot and booked the Saints shot-stopper. Aitchison took the spot kick himself and made no mistake.
Johnston had also been lively presence for the visitors, drifting in from his ring-wing position and linking up with fellow forwards Luke Donnelly, Hendry and Aitchison, and he came closest to inflicting further punishment.
First, he brought out a smart save from McKenzie from distance and then he showed his speed and skill with two jinking runs into the box and only some last-ditch blocks prevented him from hitting the target.
The one-way traffic continued for the remainder of the half as the Bhoys fashioned several promising positions through some sweeping passages of play, with McKenzie saving from Hill and Aitchison to keep his side in the game.
Celtic resumed where they left off following the restart and Aitchison had an early opportunity to make it 3-0 but he couldn’t keep his shot down from Hill’s cut-back.
Aitchison then turned provider, getting in behind the Perth side’s backline and picking out Johnston in the middle but he was crowded out before he could shoot.
The home side had failed to pose a meaningful threat and when striker George Hunter did get a volley away following a ball in from the right, Josh Kerr was on hand to charge it down.
While the Saints were battling hard to find a route back into the contest, all the clear openings were continuing to fall Celtic’s way.
Substitute Theo Archibald curled a free-kick narrowly wide from 30 yards, before McKenzie made an excellent one-handed save to thwart Ralston after the full-back had fastened onto Kerr’s pass and burst into the box.
And PJ Crossan, on from the bench for Donnelly, had the final effort of a one-sided match, the striker firing over after good work from Archibald down the left as the Bhoys banked a thoroughly-deserved three points.
CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Doohan; Ralston, Ajer, Kerr, McIlduff; Hill, McManus (Archibald 67); Johnston, Donnelly (Crossan 78), Hendry; Aitchison
Not Used: McAdams, Wardrop, Duffy