Michael Johnston was the star of the show as Celtic’s u-17 side kicked off their league campaign with a 4-0 win over Kilmarnock at Rugby Park.
The midfielder showed all his attacking skills scoring the second goal and setting up the third for Jack Aitchison after Lewis Bell had opened the scoring. Super sub Daniel McAllister completed the scoring two minutes after replacing Broque Watson.
Johnston scored for Celtic’s development side against towards the end of last season and had a dominating influence in the sunshine of Rugby Park.
With his close control and dribbling ability he was always looking to push forward. The only flaw in his performance was a tendency to hold onto the ball when a pass may be more productive but his assist for Aitchison’s goal showed that it is an area of his game that he is working on.
After last week’s Loch Lomond Tournament triumph there were two new faces in the starting XI today with Conor Hazard in goals and Brandon Payne partnering Bell in the holding midfield roles.
The back four was along familiar lines with Shaun Bowyer at right-back, Wallace Duffy and Robbie Deas in the centre of defence with Daniel Church at left-back. Aitchison played to Johnston’s right with Watson on the left supporting Ciaran Diver.
During the first half there wasn’t much to separate the sides with Hazard called on to make a couple of impressive saves.
Two minutes from the break Celtic took the lead, Watson’s pass into the penalty box was cleared to the edge of the box where Bell met it sweetly to drive a shot low into the net.
Ten minutes into the second half Christian Antoniazzi replaced Diver with Aitchison moving into the central striking position.
Kilmarnock were still in the match until Johnston doubled Celtic’s lead in the 67th minute, creating space 20 yards from goal then driving a low shot across the Killie keeper into the net at the far post.
Ten minutes later Johnston was the creator, shrugging aside a few challenges to slide the ball through to Aitchison who shot across the keeper to net from 15 yards out.
With six minutes left to play McAllister completed the scoring. A heavy challenge left Antoniazzi flattened on the edge of the penalty box but as the ball broke goalwards McAllister’s showed a good eye for goal to net from close range.
Over in Dublin today Celtic’s u-15 side lifted the Hibernian Cup, bearing Sunderland in the final after accounting for Nottingham Forest and Norwich City in the group phase.
Celtic kick off their Development League campaign tomorrow night. Stevie Frail’s side play Partick Thistle at Cappielow with a 7pm kick off.
CELTIC: Hazard; Bowyers, Deas, Duffy, Church; Bell, Payne (McAllister 68); Aitchison, Johnston, Watson (McAllister 84); Diver (Antoniazzi)
SCORERS: Bell, Johnston, Aitchison, McAllister