St Mirren 0-0 Celtic: Olivier Ntcham sees red as champions are held

Five games into the new league season St Mirren begun to bear the look of the haunted. The fresh glow of promotion was gone and three points on the opening day against Dundee had begun to feel like a cruel mirage.
The final four games of the Alan Stubbs era resembled a death march. The Paisley side shipped 12 goals, scoring one. Against a Celtic side gunning for Hearts at the top of the SPFL Premiership no one gave them an earthly here.
It's amazing what a new manager can do in a few days. Oran Kearney called his countryman Brendan Rodgers for advice on the St Mirren job when the chance first came up to cross the Irish Sea over the summer. 
A night of abject frustration for the 10-man champions left Celtic's manager sorry he offered the encouragement.
'St Mirren have just brought in a new manager so were always going to make it difficult for us,' admitted the Parkhead boss
Difficult proved an understatement. St Mirren were worth their point here, possibly more. By their own high standards Celtic were underwhelming
The offside flag denied Leigh Griffiths a dramatic finale three minutes into injury time. Yet the organisation, spirit and defensive discipline missing in the final weeks of the ill fated, short lived Stubbs reign were all present and correct for the home side. 
After weeks of gloomy resignation St Mirren supporters has forgotten how it felt to leave a football ground with a spring in their step.
The champions were already under the cosh, outplayed, when they were reduced to ten men after 36 minutes.
The standard of refereeing in Scottish football remains an open sore. And a yellow card shown to Celtic captain Scott Brown here showed why.
Despite Brendan Rodgers' criticism of the officials many within St Mirren Park felt Celtic could have no real argument over Olivier Ntcham's second yellow for a sliding challenge on Stephen McGinn after 36 minutes.

MATCH FACTS AND LEAGUE TABLE 
St Mirren : Samson, Paul McGinn, Ferdinand (MacPherson 73), Baird, Hodson, Stephen McGinn, Flynn, Magennis, Smith (Coulson 78), Edwards, Mullen (Willock 87)
Subs not used : Jones, Kirkpatrick, Erhahon, Muir
Booked : Edwards 
Celtic : Gordon, Ajer, Benkovic (Griffiths 60), Boyata, Forrest, Brown, Ntcham, Tierney, McGregor, Rogic, Edouard (Christie 87)
Subs not used : Mulumbu, Sinclair, Lustig, Bain, Johnston
Booked : Rogic, Brown
Sent off : Ntcham 
Referee : Andrew Dallas
The Frenchman could have gone even sooner. He might have been booked for the handball which saw Craig Gordon foil Cammy Smith's thumping free kick after two minutes. 
He avoided a caution once again when he clattered into the back of Cammy Smith in the St Mirren half. Referee Andrew Dallas finally reached for his card for persistent fouling in 24 minutes.
And while Brendan Rodgers disagreed the official had no real option but to produce a red when Ntcham was late into a challenge on a tumbling Stephen McGinn on the sideline. 
Playing like a man *trying* to get hooked, the £4.5million signing from Manchester City deserved all he got.
'After Olivier went off it didn't change too much,' added Rodgers. 'If anything we dominated even more after that moment. But the story was we couldn't quite get the goal.'
For that fact alone St Mirren deserve all the credit going.
Oran Kearney left the security of a teaching career to take his first steps in full-time management in Paisley. Right from the whistle his new charges were almost unrecognisable from the disjointed outfit of recent weeks.
Ryan Edwards clattered into Kieran Tierney after a minute and 14 seconds and Celtic immediately knew they were in a game. 
Thumped 4-1 by Hearts in the last outing for Stubbs the home side dominated the first half, getting in Celtic faces, swarming and biting into tackles and making a serious pest of themselves.
Kearney's first big change was to name a new, if well-known, face to his starting eleven.
At 33, Anton Ferdinand played his last game for Southend United against MK Dons on April 21, all of five months ago. Pitched straight in against £9million striker Odsonne Edouard the inclusion of Rio's younger brother was clearly a gamble. 
A signal of intent from a manager who also bombed Stubbs signings Jeff King and Cole Kpekawa from his match squad. And left Hayden Coulson, Matty WIllock and Alfie Jones on the bench until the latter stages.
Saints were seeking their first win over Celtic since the League Cup semi-final in 2013. A first visit to Paisley for Brendan Rodgers this was an uncomfortable night even before Ntcham's act of folly.
Croatian defender Filip Benkovic debuted on the left of the back three and Celtic looked uneasy from the moment Tierney incensed the home support by tumbling to the deck holding his face in front of the dug-outs, Ryan Edwards protesting his innocence as Dallas produced his first yellow card of the night. It wouldn't be his last.
If there's a regret for St Mirren it was the failure to claim an advantage in a first half they dominated.
An unmarked Ryan Flynn should have headed Lee Hodson's pinpoint cross into the net from 12 yards in 14 minutes, cuing the ball over the bar.
Former Rangers defender Hodson had a go of his own after 31 minutes, controlling on his chest before firing a fizzing right foot shot past the base of Craig Gordon's right hand post.
As an attacking outfit Celtic were sporadic and off colour until the last half hour.
Their best chance of the first half came a minute before Ntcham went off.
Callum McGregor's corner was headed back across goal by Kristoffer Ajer at the back post, Belgian Dedryck Boyata nodding the ball towards goal before Ryan Flynn cleared the ball off the line.
Something had to change after the break. Usually 10-men settle for what they have; they park the bus. 
Yet the introduction of striker Leigh Griffiths for defender Filip Benkovic in 59 minute was a bold move by Rodgers, a manager convinced his team could still win the game.
The first act from Griffiths was to thump a corner deep towards the back post where it dropped kindly for Ajer at the back post. Not for the first time black and white shirts threw themselves in the path of a speeding bullet.
Yet the longer the game went the harder it became to tell who actually had the extra man.
Griffiths thumped a low Forrest centre high over the bar with his poorer right foot with 20 minutes to play. You began to feel then this was St Mirren's night.
The visitors failed to penetrate the home team until five minutes from the end when the soace finally opened up for Callum McGregor. 
A tame sidefoot into the arms of a falling Craig Samson seemed to sum up a passive performance.
Griffiths finally forced the ball into the net three minutes injury time and the offside flag was both right and no more than St Mirren deserved. On the streets of Paisley the introduction of a new manager suddenly brings the promise of a fresh start
Comment

No comments found