CELTIC reached the final of the Glasgow Cup last night after a dramatic and controversial 4-3 win over Queens Park at Lennoxtown.
The young hoops had won 3-1 earlier in the group at Lesser Hampden but a 4-1 win over Sevco by the Spiders had served notice that they meant business with an away win last night taking them into the final.
With five minutes left to play Queen’s were leading 2-1 and on course for the final before a bizarre series of events
85 min: Substitute Max Potter heads in a free kick to level the scores at 2-2
86 min: Celtic’s celebrations die down as Queen’s go 3-2 in front
88 min: Drama as referee Chris Gentles points to the penalty spot with Michael Johnston netting from 12 yards out, a Queens Park player is sent off for protesting before the restart.
90 min More drama as Gentles again points to the spot, the Queens Park keeper is sent off for his protests before Johnston scores to put Celtic 4-3 up.
I’ve been watching Celtic for a good few years but never ever seen such poor refereeing go in their favour, there was no glow of satisfaction from the outcome.
We’ve all got our special memories of pulling off an unexpected result when all seemed lost, Donati scoring against Donetsk, McGarvey’s header in the 85 cup final, Stubbs equalising against Sir Walter’s 10-in-a-row squad, Vennegoor of Hesselink’s last gasp header and dozens more.
In 2011 James Keatings scored a stoppage time equaliser away to St Johnstone after a horror ref had wrongly sent off Tony Watt and Stephen O’Donnell- it was a point taken against all the odds before a Murray Park win paved the way to the u-19 title.
Last night’s result was something different. It was like watching a match where Dougie McDonald allows your centre half to boot lumps out of opponents then sends off the other team’s captain.
It was like knowing your team would get a penalty or opponent sent off if the going gets tough, it didn’t feel right with referee Gentles performing like the rawest of recruits from the Willie Collum School of Refereeing.
For 85 minutes it had been a great contest with Queens Park playing with confidence and purpose while Celtic appeared nervy and edgy.
Jack Aitchison could have put Celtic in front in the 12th minute but after holding off two defenders he shot across the keeper and wide of goal from 15 yards out.
Just past the half hour mark Celtic took the lead after Aitchison won possession just inside the Queen’s half. Keiran Campbell raced onto Aitchison’s pass down the right with his cross into the penalty box met by Broque Watson at the back post who netted from 8 yards out.
Undeterred Queen’s were back on level terms three minutes later when Aidan McAdams’ clearance from a corner fell to Lee Connolly who shot home from 15 yards out.
Ten minutes into the second half the visitors went in front when Jordan Pender netted after finding himself unmarked from a corner.
At this stage a third goal for Queens Park looked more likely than a Celtic equaliser although the introduction of Kyle Barr and Kerr McInroy changed the shape of Michael O’Halloran’s side with Campbell pushed into the centre to link up with Aitchison.
With five minutes left to play Potter headed what seemed like a dramatic equaliser but unfortunately it was the performance of referee Gentles that will be remembered from the match.
It would be easy to turn Gentles into the scapegoat, the real question should be what sort of system produces referees so out of touch with the game. Sadly the answer is the same system that will be sending Collum to France in the summer.
CELTIC: McAdams: Bowers, Welsh, Duffy (Potter 31), Church; Campbell, Bell (Barr 82), Johnston, McLaughlin, Watson (McInroy 63), Aitchison