Hooper Finishes Cup Run
When the post match coverage centres on Forrest being “unplayable” and Hooper being tipped for England a final score of 4:1 doesn’t seem such a bad result.
The thousand plus Rovers fans who travelled west in increasingly wet weather probably managed to get to Celtic Park better than your correspondent. I tried the old trick of following a Rovers bus but made the schoolboy error being ahead of it as it turned off the motorway! However I arrived with my updater colleague and we were able to assist the media with details about the underdogs. Some of the more geographically gifted Rovers support were already taking their places as the weather continued to deteriorate, home fans seemed less keen on show themselves.
The Rovers made one change from the Morton team with Grant Anderson coming in for David Smith. Celtic made six and lined up with wingers Forrest and McGeough supporting Hooper and Watt up a front. According to the post match coverage this is a more attacking Hoops line up than normal, Lennon clearly didn’t want the Rovers to claim another SPL scalp. Prior to kick-off a round of applause was announced to welcome Ronnie Coyle’s family – Jim Clark having penned a great piece about the Rovers great for the program.
Israeli cap Kayal had a go in the first minute from 24 yards but the ball ended up in the empty seats behind the goal as the Rovers fans sang about the poor home support! The Old Firm side were passing the ball about but the Rovers were harrying and forcing mistakes. In the 5th minute Brain Graham got onto a ball into the Celtic box but Zaluska did enough to remove any danger. In the 11th minute the Rovers had their longest period of possession when a short pass was wayward at the halfway line. Scotland international Forrest was onto it in a flash and he switched play to McGeough who headed for the by-line and crossed low. Hooper had the relatively simple task of prodding the ball home from 5 yards out. It showed the Rovers that a small error could easily be punished by the home side, 1:0.
McGeough and Hooper combined 2 minutes later but Dave McGurn pushed the shot away with a strong left hand. As the home side pushed on McGurn saved a free kick and Rogne’s follow-up effort hit the post. Stuart Anderson – who relished time and space in the middle of the park – passed to Graham forward and from a throw a good cross was delivered into the Celtic box. Kayal had another shot then Brian Graham was flagged for offside as Allan Walker overlapped into space. McGurn punched a teasing Mulgrew free kick away then Grant Anderson nipped down the wing but his cross was poor. Watt shot over then some good play saw the Rovers pushing around the Celtic box.
Brian Graham played a one two with Walker whose driven shot from 20 yards hit Rogne and spun slowly across goal and in at the side netting. 1:1 and the Rovers fans erupted. I was happier than when I’d spotted car with a Rovers sticker as we tried to find our way to the ground. Allan however was clearly the happiest man in the ground; he slid towards the main stand on his knees arms aloft – something I think he’d dreamt of doing as a boy. The press area is halfway up the stand but we could hear his shout of celebration after the Rovers players had congratulated him.
In the 32nd minute Kayal should have hit the target when his run was unmarked at a corner. Grant Anderson got forward again and the Rovers won a corner. The ball was played in a second time and Zaluska fluffed his attempt to claim it. The ball went goalward and Spence was just beaten to it as the referee stopped play saving the keepers blushes.
Forrest used his pace well on the far side after getting the ball from the very impressive Ambrose. His cross was knocked home in the six yard box by Hooper. From our position he looked off-side but he’s rather quicker than First Division strikers and wasn’t, 2:1. The Rovers had the next chance when wide man Anderson took his namesake’s pass and teased a defender before his deep cross eluded the sliding Graham. The speedy winger was booked just before the half for pulling back the on form Hooper then McGurn easily coped with McGeough’s shot.
Half time discussion centred on the key difference between the sides being speed of movement. Hamill was caught in possession early by Ambrose who ran on and shot wide. The Rovers won a free kick and maintained pressure culminating in Walkers cross finding Graham seven yards out but he only got a slight contact with his head. It was a great chance.
Watt forced a save low at the front post and then Mensing did well to snuff out a couple of attacks. In the 58th minute Hooper was at it again. Build up from Matthews and Forrest saw him make a good run onto a good ball and topped it off with a great shot low across goal inside the far post. Only 2 minutes later McGurn blocked Kayal’s shot but it squirmed away from him and the following up Hooper beat a defender to the ball putting it away from a yard.
At 4:1 Celtic had the game won but they continued to probe and Graham had an angled shot over before McGeough’s curler hit the post and zipped across goal and away. McGurn pushed Welsh international Matthews’ driven shot over and subs came and went. Smith, Callachan and later Ellis seeing play for the Rovers replacing Spence, Grant Anderson and Malone who’d had treatment. The home side removed Kayal, Watt and Forrest with Ledley, McCourt and Commons joining the fray. The last action saw McGeough’s tame shot from 18 yards calmly saved by McGurn.
The Rovers should take a lot out of the performance against the team who will win the Championship. They were up against the best side they’ve faced for some years and were able to show through play and hard work that they are a good side. Mention must be made of Spence who worked hard and Stuart Anderson who continues to deliver good pass after good pass. Special mention must be made of Captain Allan Walker who should be pleased with his play, leadership and goal if unhappy with the final result.
The crowd of 14,787 even bolstered by the 1,000+ loud Rovers fans was disappointing but the cash generated for the Rovers will be welcome all the same.
Report – John Mainland, Pictures – Eddie Doig
Photographs copyright Eddie doig.
Rovers manager Grant Murray spoke to Davie Hancock after the match
Celtic manager Neil Lennon joined Raith TV to give his thoughts on the cup tie
Raith keeper and Celtic fan David McGurn spoke to Davie after a special night for him