CELTIC assistant manager Johan Mjallby has blamed assistant referee Dougie Potter for the Scottish champions’ failure to make it third time lucky in Dingwall yesterday.
The SPL champions had to settle for a 1-1 draw, having already had a similar share of the spoils and then a 3-2 defeat to Ross County in their previous two visits.
Mjallby, fulfilling post-match media duties instead of Neil Lennon, who was completing a three-match touchline suspension, was dismayed by the errant offside flag which denied Tony Watt a goal which would have put Celtic 2-1 in front on the stroke of half-time.
“I have seen it again on television and it clearly wasn’t offside,” said Mjallby. “It is up to the linesman to see it. It shouldn’t happen. It would have been nice to go in at half-time with a lead.”
Anthony Stokes’ sixth goal of the season had given Celtic a fourth-minute lead before Iain Vigurs netted a spectacular equaliser for Ross County four minutes before the interval.
“It was more annoying to concede the late goal in the first half because we were playing well,” added Mjallby. “We lost a goal out of nothing although, overall, we defended much better and kept our shape. Ross County make it hard for you here and you can see why they are where they are in the league.”
Mjallby also cited the poor playing surface in Dingwall as a mitigating factor in the level of Celtic’s performance on a day when they made eight changes to the side which lost at Motherwell the previous Sunday as another group of first-team players were given a holiday in the build-up to the Scottish Cup final against Hibs at Hampden on 26 May. “It is hard to play football on that pitch,” said Mjallby. “It was dreadful. We had to go a bit more direct and that didn’t suit us, although a draw was a fair result.
“It is not acceptable to have a pitch like this and it shouldn’t be this way. It is hard for me to put the blame on anyone but it is not good for the players. It is bobbly and there is no grass but it was quite soft and it was not dangerous.”
Ross County manager Derek Adams was left to concede that his club’s hopes of playing in Europe next season for the first time now appear remote. They are four points behind third-placed Inverness Caledonian Thistle and three adrift of fourth-placed St Johnstone with two rounds of fixtures remaining.
“It looks like we will need to win both of our last two games,” said Adams. “We have to hope Inverness don’t win against Dundee United next Saturday, then we have to beat Motherwell on the Sunday. We also have to hope St Johnstone lose at Celtic. Then, if we beat Inverness on the last day, we’ll be in Europe. It’s easy, eh?
“Listen, I’ve told the players they have to take a reality check. Today, they are disappointed at only drawing 1-1 with the champions. We are fifth in the SPL, six points ahead of Dundee United. We are happy with our season.”
Adams, meanwhile, added his voice to the chorus of controversy which has surrounded this year’s PFA Scotland awards. Manager of the Year last season, he was unhappy that he was not asked to last night’s dinner and also that none of his players were included in the Team of the Year.
“I do think I maybe should have had an invite to go this year, as I won it last year, but that didn’t come for whatever reason,” said Adams. “I’m not going to grumble but I think some of our players could have [had recognition], particularly our defenders. We have 14 clean sheets in the SPL, which is the best in the league alongside Celtic.”