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don't look back in anger celtic in the 90s
season 90-91: part 4

Such had been Celtic's poor league form during season 90-91 the Scottish Cup was generally looked on by supporters as our passport to Europe. But hopes that a corner had been turned following the back to back victories against Rangers turned out to be false.

The cup semi-final against Motherwell was another fixture moved for live satellite transmission and the omens were not good. Motherwell had caused Celtic problems all season. In the four Premier League matches between the sides Celtic had won only one and had lost two. Indeed Motherwell had come to Parkhead only the previous week and won 2:1, Tom Boyd even managing a goal!

The semi-final was a poor show with neither side creating much. Boyd and McCart, both ex-Celtic Boys Club, had the Motherwell defence well marshalled, while ex-Gers Cooper and Ferguson were a constant threat. But it did seem for a while as if luck was on our side. With the last kick of the ball Ferguson struck a fierce shot from the edge of the box that flew past Bonner but came back off the inside of the post. Hearts skipped a beat all round the stadium. No sooner had the ball rebounded safely into play than the referee blew for full-time.

The conventional wisdom is that you only get one shot at the Old Firm in a cup tie. The following Wednesday saw this myth well and truly exploded.

The replay had started well enough with the Hoops taking an early lead through Rogan, but an equaliser was conceded almost immediately afterwards. Paul Elliott soon restored Celtic's advantage before it all started to go horribly wrong. In midfield McStay was playing out of his skin, but he was the only one who was playing. The rest seemed to be labouring under the misapprehension that Motherwell were simply going to capitulate meekly. They didn't.

Having equalised they began to dominate the match and with 15 minutes to go took the lead through a spectacular shot from distance by O'Neil. Things became frantic then, with McStay carving open the Motherwell defence time and again only to see his forwards shoot tamely wide or fail to control his passes. In a move motivated by desperation Elliott joined the attack but it was to no avail. In the dying minutes Ferguson hit an identical shot to the one that had rattled the post in the first half. This one came in that extra inch and the game was over.

Two years in a row Celtic had eliminated Rangers from the Scottish Cup yet had failed to lift the trophy. On the face of it this particular defeat was unthinkable, but the strength of this Motherwell team can be gauged by the fact that Rangers went to Fir Park on the second last day of the season needing a win to guarantee them the championship. Motherwell soundly trounced them by 3:0.

To make matters worse in the final weeks of what had already been a dismal season it looked as if Celtic would fail to qualify for Europe in consecutive seasons for the first time in the club's history. On the last day of the season the team had to beat St. Johnstone at McDiarmid Park, where they had lost the previous December (2:3), and hope that Dundee United lost to Dunfermline.

It was clear enough. Celtic just had to win. Death or glory stuff. Surely the players would rise to the occasion.

They did, to the extent that Celtic were a goal down after 20 seconds. St. Johnstone kicked off, the ball was played down the wing then promptly crossed for Roddy Grant to volley home. Coronation Street on Wednesday nights here we come.

Happily St. Johnstone had little to play for. They were out of the race for a Euro spot and in no danger of relegation. Consequently they relaxed enough to allow Celtic back into the game. Charlie Nicholas equalised after 20 minutes to make the score 1:1 at half-time. Hope was alive, even if sprits were low due to events unfolding at Ibrox.

The defeat at Motherwell had allowed Aberdeen to overtake Rangers at the top of the table. The final league game of the season saw Aberdeen visit Dante's 6th Circle. Many Celts became temporary Dons for the day, some youngsters from the Royston area even daubing "Come on you reds" in red paint on a wall running alongside the M8. Due to injury Aberdeen were forced to field their inexperienced reserve goalkeeper Michael Watt. Rangers decided to exploit this situation such that Watt required smelling salts after five minutes of the game as a result of some close attention from Hateley. Rangers were soon on their way to a 2:0 victory and the Premier League title.

Meanwhile, back at McDiarmid Park the Celtic players were contriving to make life difficult for themselves again as soon into the second half they were 2:1 down and heading for the comfy chairs on Wednesday nights.

Parity was restored again courtesy of a thundering Mike Galloway shot that nearly ripped the net out of its moorings. This was only Galloway's fourth start of the season and while he hadn't exactly been a star the previous season his wholehearted approach had certainly been missed.

The winner in this game made a little piece of history. It was a penalty, Celtic's first since the shoot out in the previous season's Cup Final. We were a mere 15 minutes away from going a whole season without a spot kick. Confusion broke out when it was given. Nobody could work out why the referee had suddenly blown his whistle and pointed to the large white spot in the middle of the area after Coyne had been brought down. We had all resigned ourselves to the apparent new rule that fouling Celtic players anywhere near the goal was perfectly legal. Somebody produced the Association Foot ball rule book and the matter was cleared up. Penalty kick.

Coyne sent the goalie the wrong way to make it 3:2. All we needed now was a Dunfermline goal. They were involved in a desperately bad game at East End Park. It was injury time and the score was 0:0. Dundee United, renowned for their defensive mettle, surely wouldn't give anything away so close to the final whistle. The game was so far into injury time that some Celtic fans actually heard the winning goal on the radio while sitting in their supporters coaches waiting to return home to Glasgow.

Davie Moyes, an ex-Celt, had headed a last gasp goal for the Pars allowing his old club to leapfrog United and grab a European place. On the coaches the cry was "Driver... take this bus to Europe!"

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1990-91 pt 1
1990-91 pt 2
1990-91 pt 3
1990-91 pt 4
1991-92 pt 1
1991-92 pt 2
1991-92 pt 3
1991-92 pt 4
1991-92 pt 5
1991-92 pt 6
1992-93 pt 1
1992-93 pt 2
1992-93 pt 3
1993-94 pt 1
1993-94 pt 2
1993-94 pt 3
1993-94 pt 4
1993-94 pt 5
1993-94 pt 6
1993-94 pt 7
1993-94 pt 8