St Mirren 0-0 Celtic: Covid-hit Saints hand Ange Postecoglou's men a setback in title race

From a match they didn’t want to play, St Mirren earned as precious and unlikely a point as they will claim all season.

PAISLEY, SCOTLAND - DECEMBER 22: Dylan Reid and Tom Rogic in action during a Cinch Premiership match between St. Mirren and Celtic at SMiSA Stadium, on December 22, 2021, in Paisley, Scotland.  (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
PAISLEY, SCOTLAND - DECEMBER 22: Dylan Reid and Tom Rogic in action during a Cinch Premiership match between St. Mirren and Celtic at SMiSA Stadium, on December 22, 2021, in Paisley, Scotland. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

On a dramatic evening which put a dent in Celtic’s pursuit of Rangers at the top of the Premiership table, Jim Goodwin’s side set aside their Covid-related personnel problems to mount a remarkable rearguard action.

With teenagers Dylan Reid, Jay Henderson and debutant Kieran Offord all pressed into action, St Mirren performed heroically to soak up all of the pressure Celtic placed upon them. The home team’s exceptional defensive display was inspired by captain Joe Shaughnessy was exceptional at the heart of their back four.

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It was a hugely frustrating evening for Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou and his players who find themselves six points behind Rangers having now played the same number of games as the defending champions.

Dean Lyness, making his first league appearance since February, was another one of the less familiar faces in the Saints’ line-up.

The English goalkeeper was unsurprisingly prominent as the action generally flowed in the direction of his penalty area and he showed no signs of rustiness with a series of fine saves throughout.

In the initial stages, Lyness denied Mikey Johnston, Nir Bitton and Callum McGregor as Celtic tried to impose their authority on the contest as quickly as possible.

While the pre-match build-up had been largely dominated by St Mirren’s problems, Postecoglou had significant selection issues of his own amid a lengthening injury list and the suspension of central defender Carl Starfelt.

Celtic, in fact, made more changes to their starting eleven than their hosts - six in total, the absentees including League Cup Final winning hero Kyogo Furuhashi. Among those coming in were 19-year-old winger Owen Moffat to make his maiden first team start.

Saints found opportunities to get out of their own half limited but they did cause the Celtic defence some alarm 10 minutes before half-time with an inswinging corner from Scott Tanser. The ball dropped to Joe Shaughnessy whose close range effort was scrambled wide.

The pattern changed little in the second half and Lyness remained equal to everything Celtic could muster, albeit Johnston should have done better than fire a close range volley straight at him.

Chances continued to come and go for the visitors, McGregor passing up a couple he would have expected to do better with, while Liel Abada carried little presence as the central striker in their attack.

Scott Bain was a spectator for most of the evening but had to make one save in the 69th minute from Curtis Main after Henderson had mounted a rare counter-attack for Saints.

There were seven minutes of stoppage time but unlike seven days earlier in Dingwall, Celtic couldn’t find a late winner. The final whistle prompted celebrations among the home players and supporters while the Celtic fans were forced to digest an unanticipated setback.

St Mirren (3-5-2): Lyness, Fraser, Shaughnessy, Dunne; Millar, Reid, Henderson, Kiltie, Tanser; Offord (McManus 87), Main. Subs not used: Urminsky, Taylor, Jack, MacDonald, Kenny.

Celtic (4-2-3-1): Bain, Ralston, Carter-Vickers, Welsh, Scales (Taylor 89); Bitton (Shaw 80), McGregor; Johnston, Rogic, Moffat (Juranovic 61); Abada. Subs not used: Hazard, McCarthy, Henderson, Montgomery.

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