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  • Nesbitt the hat-trick hero as Celtic lift Youth Cup

    Nesbitt the hat-trick hero as Celtic lift Youth Cup

    By: Mark Henderson on 21 May, 2015 21:29

  • Little Big Shot Youth Cup final
    Hampden Park, Glasgow
    Thursday, May 21, 2015

    (Wardrop 21, Nesbitt 27, 72  74, Donnelly 33)

    (Waters o.g. 22 Dykes 90)

    AIDAN Nesbitt hammered in a hat-trick to help Celtic’s Development Side rout Rangers 5-2 at Hampden and lift the SFA Youth Cup for a record 14th time.

    Sam Wardrop had deservedly opened the scoring for the Hoops youngsters in the 21st minute but Calum Waters’ unfortunate own goal immediately restored parity.

    Nesbitt put Stevie Frail’s side back in command with a superb solo effort, before Luke Donnelly continued his remarkable scoring run in the competition to give them a two-goal cushion at the break.

    The winger bagged his brace in the second half, capping off a sweeping passing move that cut the Rangers defence apart.  

    And he completed his treble from the penalty spot with 16 minutes left on the clock after Kieran Tierney had been felled in the box by Craig Halkett.

    Dylan Dykes struck a late consolation at the death for Ian Durran’t side but that couldn’t take the shine of a sensational showing from the young Celts as they completely outclassed the Ibrox side.

    And there were scenes to savour at the final whistle as the players and backroom team celebrated on the pitch before lifting the trophy at the National Stadium.  

    Frail had made two changes from the team that had hammered Hibernian in the semi-final earlier this month.

    Paul McMullan – who has enjoyed a profitable spell on a development loan at Stenhousemuir – returned to the team, starting in the central striking slot, while Jamie Lindsay was restored in the central midfield. Rory Currie and Fiacre Kelleher were the two players to drop out.

    The young Celts carved out the first chance in the fifth minute as Tierney, fresh from making his first start for the top team against St Johnstone, skipped past Ryan Sinnamon on the left and delivered an inviting cross into the box.

    After the ball was flicked on, Nesbitt knocked the ball back inside and captain Connor McManus’s spectacular effort was blocked by Luka Garsparotto.

    It has been a purposeful start from Frail’s side as they moved the ball around at pace and relentlessly pressed their opponents all over the pitch.

    However, they almost went behind when Darren Ramsey’s opportunist strike from distance whistled narrowly over the bar after Sam Wardrop had been dispossessed.

    That boosted Rangers’ belief as they forced several set-pieces. Kevin Mbabu came closest, heading over from Ramsey’s corner. Otherwise, the Bhoys remained resolute.  

    It was from a set-play that the breakthrough arrived – but it came at the other end for the young Hoops.

    After Tierney’s free-kick had been deflected wide, the same player swung the resultant corner into the box. Wardrop managed to flick the cross on and when it ricocheted back into his path he managed to force the ball into the net, despite the best attempts of Jamie Mills on the line.

    Just moments later, though, the young Hoops contrived to gift Rangers a leveller. In a defensive mix-up, Calum Waters attempted to head the ball back to Jordan Hart, but the keeper hadn’t anticipated the pass and he was left stranded as the ball rolled into the unguarded net.

    It didn’t take long for the Bhoys to restore their advantage thanks to a piece of individual brilliance from Nesbitt. Collecting the ball on the right, the winger danced away from Ross McCrorie, Ramsey and Mills before drilling into the far corner from an acute angle.  

    Celtic’s fluidity on the ball and quick interchanges of passing were proving problematic for Ian Durrant’s side and they made it 3-1 with another well-executed goal in the 33rd minute.

    Nesbitt turned provider this time, lofting a cross back from the byline. Donnelly did brilliantly to instantly control the ball and leave his marker for dead in the same movement, before stabbing the ball under Liam Kelly.

    The youths continued to pose the greater threat as half-time approached, with the lively McMullan prominent, though Ramsey did muster a reply for Rangers with a fierce volley from 25 yards that Hart dealt with comfortably.

    Rangers made a double switch at the break in attempt to wrestle back some control of the match, sending on Dykes and Jamie Burrows, but the Bhoys continued to carry the greater menace, mounting some crisp and incisive breakaways.

    Picking up the ball in the final third, Donnelly threaded a ball through for McMullan but Craig Halkett managed to make a last-gasp challenge to take the sting out of the forward’s shot.

    Donnelly showcased his craft and vision again moments later, sliding a tempting low cross across goal which was within inches of being converted by Jamie Lindsay.   

    Another precise pass from Donnelly found McMullan in the box just before the hour mark, with the 19-year-old curling wide of the near post.

    Goal number four eventually arrived in the 72nd minute – and it was worth waiting for. McMullan dummied the ball into Donnelly’s path and he played in Nesbitt, who lashed into the room of the net.

    And two minutes later, the winger completed his hat-trick. Tierney was sent tumbling by Halkett and referee immediately pointed to the spot. Nesbitt stepped up confidently and stroked the ball into the corner.

    McMullan came close with a couple of efforts as Celtic continued to ran amok, before Dykes pulled a goal back for the Ibrox side, bundling in from close range.

    Donnelly and McMullan still had time to try their luck before the final whistle for the dominant Bhoys, and then it was time for captain McManus to raise the trophy aloft to scenes of jubliation.   

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1): Hart; Wardrop (Kelleher 79), O’Connell (McCart 90), Findlay, Waters; Lindsay, McManus; Nesbitt, Donnelly, Tierney (Miller 84); McMullan
    Not Used: McCabe, Hill

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