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don't look back in anger celtic in the 90s
season 94-95: part 5

(relax, we win this time).

The recovery from the 1994 League Cup final defeat was to be long and slow. McStay himself described his penalty miss as 'the worst moment of my career'. The following Wednesday we played Hibs at Easter Road and the team ran out for the game to find the fans holding up a banner with the message 'You'll Never Walk Alone Paul'. The players seemed to respond - we were a goal up within a minute. But it didn't last. With a cruel inevitability we conceded a penalty with only 10 minutes to go and the game finished 1:1.

The next two league fixtures were also drawn. A two goal advantage was thrown away against Motherwell. We had taken the lead thanks to a Willie Falconer wonder goal - and there's four words you don't see grouped together every day - and that was followed by a Tosh McKinlay cross that was helpfully punted into the net by a hapless 'Well defender. After that Motherwell turned nasty and began kicking the ball towards our goal. The Sieve duly sprang into action and allowed former Celt Tommy Coyne to display his finishing prowess with two excellently taken goals.

Yet, for a four goal thriller the highlight of the game was still the sight of a Motherwell midfielder lining up to take a corner. Having placed the ball he began backing away while at the same time indicating where his corner would shortly be landing with all the pinpoint accuracy you would expect of a Motherwell player about to strike a dead ball. Concentrating on this he forgot to check his step and promptly disappeared backwards over one of the advertising boards. The name of this Chaplin-esque midfielder? One Paul Lambert.

That draw at Fir Park was followed by a hopeless 0:0 against Aberdeen where mild comas were the order of the day for the poor souls who gave up their Boxing Day to watch this lame excuse for a football match.

Between these games we played Liverpool as part of Ian Rush's testimonial. The less said about a shocking 6:0 defeat the better.

New Year's Eve brought a late present from Santa - a league win! Our first since September! Hallelujah! 1994 was bid good riddance along with Falkirk thanks to goals from Grant and Walker. Grant's first half goal proved awkward given that the half-time quiz contained a question about the last time he'd scored.

The next fixture was approached with nothing short of terror. We were back at Ibrox. Not only were we back at the scene of Raithgate, but Rangers were also in the middle of a strong run, already 10 points clear at the top of the league. To make matters worse Celtic were without a number of players. Tosh McKinlay and Peter Grant were both injured and Tony Mowbray had far more serious matters to deal with. Three days previously his wife, Bernadette, had finally lost her five year long battle with cancer. In place of these stalwarts came Stuart Gray at left back, Brian McLaughlin on the left wing and Mike Galloway at right back. Included in the starting line up was Paul Byrne, who had faded almost completely from the first team since the last Old Firm game.

A serious gubbing was on the cards. The main concern was that, for all his capabilities distributing the ball, Brian O'Neil was still far too delicate for a centre half, not really able for the more robust side of that role. The game was something like 20 seconds old when O'Neil ploughed into Durie, nearly knocking him straight into the Govan stand. He had served notice that he was more than prepared to mix it.

This game was important because it was the first Old Firm game picked up live by the satellite TV broadcaster Sky. The whole nation would be watching, so it was doubly important that the Celts produce a performance. But the first 25 minutes did not go well. We just could not get out of our own half. Thanks largely to the outstanding Laudrup we were completely pinned back. Nevertheless, gradually the Hoops worked their way into the game. McLaughlin started to run at McLaren, and we even won a corner. Then the sucker punch was dutifully sucked. McCall knocked an innocuous high ball into the box. Stuart Gray made a feeble attempt to swing his left foot at it only for it to fall to the cloven hoof of Ion Fearguson and they were a goal ahead. It was a shocking goal to lose, and we lost it because Stuart Gray had no idea how to kick a football with his right foot.

The second half was a different story.The players emerged believing in themselves, passing the ball on the ground and running at their opponents with supreme confidence. Phil O'Donnell started making dangerous runs into the box and, most importantly of all, McStay took hold of the midfield. Some people will still try and peddle the myth that McStay was a 'crab', a player who only moved from side to side. These people should be banned from football grounds. One moment in this game perfectly sums up Paul McStay; he ran back to his defence and took the ball. Laudrup ran up in an attempt to win it. McStay feinted to go left and wheeled away to the right. Laudrup, completely wrong footed simply looked to the heavens, and the viewers on Sky heard Martin Tyler call the Maestro 'the Rolls Royce of football'.

Our control of this game was now complete, and our equaliser duly arrived. Rangers' defending had become increasingly desperate. Every player in blue was behind the ball and the only clearance being considered was the wild hack away. Gray collected one of these close to the dugouts on the halfway line. He slipped the ball to Collins who evaded a wild tackle, cut in and crossed to the far side of the box where Paul Byrne caught it perfectly with the outside of his right boot. The ball curled beautifully round the Rangers goalie and in to the far corner of the net. A brief Rangers flurry followed but, that apart, the game was ours. That we didn't win was down to the greed of O'Donnell and Walker; both had chances to play in team mates, both decided to go it alone to no great effect. Infuriating in the extreme.

The draw left us in fourth place and a thumping 17 points behind Rangers.

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1990-91 pt 1
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1990-91 pt 4
1991-92 pt 1
1991-92 pt 2
1991-92 pt 3
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1991-92 pt 5
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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
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