We keep finding ways to lose at Parkhead. This time Hateley failed to convert a penalty in the final fifteen minutes to give us a lead and we were then ruthlessly punished when Hooper scored. The players gave their all and can look to a fortnight’s rest before resuming the fight for a European spot.
We set up with Hateley in midfield ahead of a three at the back. Ojamaa was posted up front with Murphy a few yards behind. Higdon was on the bench as McCall decided that speed rather than height was the key to success.
What happened next?
Celtic were quick out of the blocks and we were hammered for the first fifteen minutes. Samaras gave Kerr a few lessons as he twisted and turned on our right side before delivering crosses that that were not snapped up.
Motherwell launched the first real attack after 11 minutes thanks to a burst from Humphrey down the right. It gave some relief to the defence and reminded our opponents that we would push up when the chance arose.
As the game moved on we were able to hold the ball and, without the easy target of Higdon, the ball was passed fairly efficiently. As the relief of the half time break approached Murphy managed a couple of shots but they were from distance and Forster was untroubled. We had a fright in the last action of the half when Randolph flapped at a high ball following a corner. It fell to Ambrose but, thankfully, from close range he scooped the ball over the bar.
The second period had a familiarity to it as our hosts pinned us back but we came back strongly and with increased confidence, looked to get the ball down either flank. We would burst from defence via Francis-Angol or Humphrey with Ojamaa and Murphy bursting through the centre in support.
Commons tested Randolph with a fierce effort but our wee contingent in the south east corner took heart from our increasingly frequent breakaways. Murphy got into the box and was met with a double challenge. As the away fans shouted for the penalty referee McLean paused then pointed to the spot. This was our chance. Hateley stepped up, Forster delayed and was booked. The kick was taken and the roar from the home crowd rose as the keeper pushed the ball to safety.
Celtic redoubled their efforts and the game was lost when Hooper slipped the ball under Randolph. It was a cruel blow. We resisted fiercely and came so close to winning the game. It would have been a fitting end to Murphy’s stint in claret and amber. After the match the young striker, in an emotional interview, expressed his feelings for the club after an eleven year contribution.
Enjoy the break lads – you’ve earned it.