Ross County 1-2 Celtic extras: spare the guillotine over travelling fans’ pitch invasion, referee Muir’s two wrongs, and the irresistible rise of Ralston

There was no doubting what will claim the attention following Celtic’s late, late show for their 2-1 win at Dingwall.

Celtic fans spill on to the pitch after Anthony Ralston's goal makes it 2-1 in dramatic circumstances at Dingwall. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)
Celtic fans spill on to the pitch after Anthony Ralston's goal makes it 2-1 in dramatic circumstances at Dingwall. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

Man of the match

It was a night when the spirit shown placed players from both sides in the frame for being stand-out performers. Australian Ashley Maynard-Brewer, Ross County’s on-loan Charlton goalkeeper, seemed sure to defy his fellow countryman Ange Postecoglou in the Celtic dug-out. Two superb stops late on appeared set to provide reward for the courageous defending from so many home colours.

However, his contribution was eclipsed by Anthony Ralston after the Celtic right-back struck seven minutes into added time, and only seconds before the final whistle, for a team that simply refused to accept dropping two vital points. He hung and twisted in the air to thump in the winning header…and in the process added another chapter to his irresistible redemption story. He did so on an evening when he had earlier also produced a stunning block tackle to thwart Dominic Samuel. The combo of putting his body on the line and producing quality has proved transformative to his club and international status in the past five months. The 23-year-old is becoming a magnet for big moments and a genuine leader in Postecoglou’s set-up.

Turning point

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Uhm, erm, now what could that possibly have been in a contest flipped on its head in the 97th minute of play…

Letdown

The word “overexuberance” the Celtic manager deployed to describe the pandemonium that ensued from the mass pitch invasion sparked by Ralston netting has unwelcome connotations. Then Hibs chairman Rod Petrie used it to dismiss the maliciousness infusing the actions of many Hibs fans who raced on to the Hampden pitch in the immediate aftermath of the Easter Road’s Scottish Cup triumph over Rangers in May 2016.

The Celtic away support bounding on in their scores at Dingwall in unbridled delight over their team pulling a crucial win out of the fire wasn’t a good look. The field of play should be sacrosanct, and their incursion was reckless and seriously compromised safety as a line of stewards and police were engulfed. But the guillotine should be spared here. It was unruly as opposed to ugly. The incident lasted a matter of seconds and the fans who flew forward from the stand behind the goal were back in their places within seconds, following sheerly joyous celebrations with their own players. Nothing apocalyptic was flirted with, whatever the tone and language applied to the sort of pitch ingression that is far from the first in the Scottish game in recent times.

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Referee watch

Alan Muir demonstrated that two wrongs don’t make a right as the referee’s actions were sniped over by both managers. Malky Mackay accused Muir of being willing to play on till Celtic scored because the six minutes of added time that appeared on the fourth official’s board gave way to another that proved pivotal. Perhaps the official should not have been generous in allowing the encounter-changing corner play to develop as the sixth minute of added time elapsed. Although it must be said, the header hit the net a mere three seconds beyond the six minutes.

Equally, though, maybe Muir shouldn’t have waved away a strong appeal for handball in the box by Keith Watson in the 94th minute, the ball then driven against the outstretched arm of the defender. Muir’s composure seemed to wane as a gripping contest boiled up. It is to be wondered if Carl Starfelt really did enough to warrant a yellow card for his vehement protests over being caught by the elbow of Jordan White - caution that resulted in his dismissal for a second yellow in the closing quarter of an hour. There was no suggestion of intent in the contact resulting in a burst nose for Starfelt that required him to change his top. However, White certainly endangered his opponent’s safety by not taking care to avoid smashing the defender’s face. In that sense, it is little wonder the Swede was so apoplectic Muir took no action.

Gave us a giggle

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The self-righteous will tut-tut at any perceived trivialising of the mass pitch invasion by Celtic supporters but there genuinely was a comical element to it.

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