ST JOHNSTONE manager Tommy Wright laid the blame for his team’s 3-0 defeat by Celtic firmly at the door of referee John Beaton last night.
As the Scottish champions made a winning start to the defence of their title, Wright claimed Beaton blundered crucially with two penalty calls.
With Celtic leading 1-0 through an Anthony Stokes goal, St Johnstone had a spot-kick appeal turned down when their captain Dave Mackay went down under Virgil van Dijk’s challenge in the 68th minute.
Seven minutes later, Beaton awarded Celtic a penalty when substitute Derk Boerrigter appeared to tumble late following minimal contact from Mackay who was shown a straight red card. Nir Biton converted from 12 yards, before Callum McGregor wrapped up the points for Celtic six minutes from time.
Wright is convinced Beaton got both decisions wrong and that St Johnstone intend to appeal Mackay’s dismissal.
“I think there are enough grounds for appeal there,” said a grim-faced Wright. “If there was contact [on Boerrigter], it was minimal and the contact didn’t make him go down, because he didn’t go down immediately after the contact. That’s clear for everybody to see.
“He actually collapses his right leg, which is the further leg away from Dave Mackay. But there we are. Dave Mackay’s opinion is the same as mine. There was contact on him [for St Johnstone’s penalty claim]. You see it again on TV and Van Dijk leaves his leg out. There is contact. It’s the wrong decision but it is not going to change.
“We showed character to get back in the game and then another decision goes, we feel, against us and we are out of the game. We were down to ten men and Celtic have had fair slices of luck recently and I feel they’ve had a fair slice of luck again tonight.”
Celtic manager Ronny Deila was unruffled by the controversy and insists he will never become embroiled in criticism of officials. “I haven’t seen the incidents again,” said Deila. “But every time you ask me this question during the season I’m going to say the same thing. That is if it goes against us, I hope it will be even stevens over 38 games, and the same the other way.
“I will not go to the ref and say ‘this is wrong’. They are trying their best. Sometimes they will make mistakes and sometimes they will do good things.”
Deila was more concerned with his team’s performance, one he admitted was still some way short of the standards to which he aspires.
“I didn’t see the breakthrough coming in the first half,” he added. “In the second half, we started to up the intensity and pressure, we got more movement. But we need to work on the fitness, pattern, position – everything – and improve.
“I’m not unbelievably happy because I don’t think we performed our best. But we are on our way. Tonight was not perfect but the second half was a step in the right direction. But I know it is going to be very good in a few months.”
l Kilmarnock are close to signing former Liverpool striker Michael Ngoo, who had a spell on loan at Hearts in 2013. Kilmarnock manager Allan Johnston said: “We’re hoping to get that sorted. He’d add a different dimension to the team.”