So, after the exhilaration of making the top six in dramatic circumstances, would we be able to improve on last years total of one point post-split? Read on!
Perhaps predictably we came out a bit flat in the next game. Aberdeen scored the only goal in a dire game at Fir Park in a contender for what could have been the worst game of the season. We barely mustered a chance and Aberdeen did not play with the desire of a side that could still make Europe. The absence of McDonald through injury showed just how little threat we had without him and it is not nice to imagine him being out for a long time next season. Hearts had another chance at beating us and failed yet again. We secured a good point at Tynecastle although Foran did hit the outside of the post with a penalty. Remarkably this the fifth penalty we’d won against them in as many games!
Hibs and a massive away support came to Fir Park knowing they could virtually clinch UEFA Cup football in the next match. Again, the visitors looked very edgy and it was no surprise when we took the lead. Gordon Marshall was defying his critics once more and produced an amazing save to touch a screamer of a volley onto the post. Craigan – becoming prolific – scored his second of the game and we looked to be cruising. However, Hibs have had a sign over us this season and they were about to pick up another undeserved – and vital – point. They thumped in a great free kick and then stole an equaliser in injury time, on a break away when we’d been denied a good penalty claim! Oh well, at least we had nothing major to play for. Rangers took us apart for fun at Ibrox on our last away trip of the year and everyone will be delighted to see the back of them for a few months. For whatever reason we just did not cope with them at all this season. Five games, five losses; for 5 against 18. Ouch. Surely we cannot fail to improve this next time!
Craigan found the net yet again!
With the last game on the horizon, we found ourselves taking part in the match which could decide the outcome of the league title. Rangers needed to win at Easter Road to have any chance whilst a win for Celtic at Fir Park would guarantee green and white ribbons on the trophy. When Sutton put them one up before the break the visitors were in party mode – although the smile was wiped of the face of several of their fans who were ejected from the wrong stands at Fir Park. Novo scored for Rangers early in the second half but with Celtic in total control at Fir Park it looked irrelevant. Celtic were missing chance after chance and the longer the game went on the more it looked like they could regret them. Celtic then gave up on trying for the decisive second and began to sit deeper and deeper…we weren’t threatening but they were beginning to let us hit shots from distance. A risky policy when one good strike could cost them the title. With three minutes to go it looked like things were done and dusted. Then Gerry Britton managed to lay the ball off for yet another long shot. Foran mis-hit it onto the chest of McDonald and Skippy performed a magnificent half turn and hook shot to drill the ball into the top corner. The Motherwell fans erupted and Celtic needed to score to get their title. They pushed forward and, naturally, left themselves exposed on the break. McDonald was released down the right and selfishly ignored several players well positioned in the middle. Not to worry! He cut in and hit a glorious deflection over Douglas and into the far corner. Celtic fans poured out of all four Fir Park stands whilst the home side began partying.
The new strip started well!
So we eventually ended up deciding the title but more importantly these three points meant we finished with a higher total than last season. Butcher had kept the side improving – this time sixth place with 48 points and a lost cup final. Let’s hope he keeps things going in the right direction next year!