ON A day when high winds, slashing rain and a sodden pitch seemed certain to keep the skills of football at bay, Celtic and Motherwell produced one of the finest games of the season.
Celtic 2, Motherwell 3
The Scotsman, 13 January 1975
Motherwell, with excellent running by Willie Pettigrew and Bobby Graham, exploited an uncertain Celtic defence in a game which may well prove to be a watershed in the champions’ pursuit of their tenth successive league championship.
From the start it was Celtic who made and spurned the chances with Paul Wilson producing the football magic and some fine crosses from the left. Motherwell, however, scored first with Graham breaking on the left and crossing to Pettigrew who shot home from 18 yards.
A penalty seemed certain when Wilson was pulled down inside the box after 20 minutes. However, the referee waved play on and Motherwell went two up when Pettigrew sent Graham into the clear to flip the ball past the advancing Hunter.
Motherwell clearly pinpointed Celtic’s defensive weakness with both McNeill and McCluskey lacking in pace and vision and young Roddy McDonald seeming hesitant.
Dalglish, playing deep, was put under pressure by his own team. It was to him that Celtic turned to take balls away from the defence, spread the play, and then race on to make chances in front of goal. It paid off in 28 minutes when he turned the ball into a crowded penalty area and Hood hooked it past Rennie. But it was wrong to place so much on the shoulders of one man, for though it was Dalglish again in 57 minutes who laid on the equaliser for Hood after some fine work on the left, the player had a tired and listless second half.
Motherwell eventually took control in midfield with neat ball work and intelligent passing, and 13 minutes from time Pettigrew, again taking a pass from Graham, sent MacDonald and McNeill the wrong way to crack home the winner
Celtic: Hunter, McGrain, McCluskey, Murray, McNeill, MacDonald, Hood, Glavin, Deans, Dalglish, Wilson.
Motherwell: Rennie, W Watson, Wark, R Watson, McLaren, Goodwin, McIlwraith, Pettigrew, Graham, Taylor, Goldthorpe.
Referee: J Gordon.
Celtic 0, Motherwell 2
The Scotsman, 17 November 1975
THERE is a gratuitous piece of advice available for those who would survive against the so efficient and so professional Motherwell. It is to score first against them.
Once they have a goal and can afford to play safe at the back, as they did against Celtic on Saturday, then there is very little hope of breaking through. Celtic have seldom attacked so persistently without having something to show for it.
Motherwell, it could be said, have become the Leeds United of Scotland. There is the same strength and fitness, the same absorbing professionalism, the same blending of skill and realism. They are no “fancy dans” and neither are they obsessed with defence. They do what has to be done and they do it well.
The impression given on Saturday was that often given by Leeds United, that they are better when defending a lead. Then their strength and organisation are most evident and no team are better equipped for hitting on the break. Pettigrew and Graham are at their best when the other defence is thinned. They do not fiddle with the counter-punch.
The result on Saturday swung on a magnificent save by Rennie when Lynch struck a shot as perfectly as any player could be expected to do. On any other Saturday that must have been a goal and then it would have been a different ball game with Motherwell having to chase a goal.
When Rennie saved that shot one’s thoughts turned to the Celtic match at Ayr on Wednesday night when they scored seven goals. They did not play particularly well that night and could have lost a goal or two before they scored but everything came for them. They had the reaction on Saturday when nothing came for them. The luck evens itself out over the season.
This is not to detract from Motherwell but just to explain how another day they will not score two goals from three chances. The significant point about them, however, is that as presently composed they are a match for anyone and especially in Scotland and that if they can survive the ravages of injuries then they could win the Premier League.
There was much sound effectiveness in the Motherwell defence and if at times elegance was sacrificed for effectiveness, that is proper for we remember other days when it was the other way round and Motherwell won nothing but friends.
Despite the abundant skills of Dalglish and Edvaldsson there was much wrong with the Celtic team and, strangely, in the middle of the defence. McDonald, after a promising start to replacing McNeill, now seems in need of a rest. He is developing bad habits.
When Motherwell’s second goal was scored he had allowed himself to be drawn to midfield by Graham and then challenged him so loosely when he had the ball that he was allowed to make space and in leisurely manner send away the magnificent pass which made the goal. Celtic are so short of class in midfield that a leak in the defence cannot be handled. The most improved man in the team on Saturday was by far Andy Lynch, who joined Celtic as a left winger from Hearts.
He was a very good left-back, sound in his defensive duties and laden with skill and determination when he charged forward.
On such a grey day of continuous rain a crowd of 33,000 was surprising. Indeed, the name Motherwell on the bill now ensures a good contest and the public is beginning to appreciate this and that cannot be bad.
Celtic: Latchford, McGrain, McCluskey, McDonald, Lynch, McNamara, Dalglish, Edvaldsson, Callaghan, Wilson, Deans.
Motherwell: Rennie, Millar, McVie, Stevens, Wark, McIlwraith, Watson, McLaren, Taylor, Pettigrew, Graham.
Referee: R Valentine.