Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers got exactly what he wanted from a testing trip to Ross County as three goals in the closing minutes secured a 4-0 win after he had made eight changes to the side that defeated Rangers on Sunday.
His ability to rest key players – including captain Scott Brown, who wanted to travel but was told to stay home by his manager after becoming a father for the third time – will allow his squad to be ready for Saturday’s trip to Aberdeen. The gap between the Premiership leaders and the second-placed Pittodrie side now stands at seven points, despite Derek McInnes’ men having played a game more.
“They’ll be fresh for the weekend and that was the plan,” said Rodgers. “It couldn’t have gone any better. The game was played at a good tempo. We know Aberdeen will be a hard game – all the games have been that way. The scoreline looks good, but that’s a credit to the players for their spirit, work and quality.”
County manager Jim McIntyre was left exasperated by two calls from referee Alan Muir in the second period as the encounter hung in the balance at 1-1. The official failed to take any action when an already-cautioned Leigh Griffiths clashed with Andrew Davies and then Craig Gordon only received a booking for clattering Liam Boyce outside of his area.
“I’m scratching my head wondering why we are not getting them,” McIntyre said. “It was definitely a second booking on Leigh Griffiths – he has a wee swipe at Andrew Davies. If that’s our player, he’s off. Then you had Craig Gordon’s challenge – it’s high, it’s dangerous, it’s reckless. If an outfield player went in that high, he’d go off the park.
“But equally, I’ve very proud of what the players gave me.”
Rodgers begged to differ but sidestepped the Griffiths incident. On the Gordon foul, he said: “I can see why Jim would feel like he did. But, without seeing it again, I felt at the time that the ball was going away from goal. The referee was excellent.
“Of course if you’re a Ross County supporter or Jim and his team you will want the man to go. But I think with a calm head and a look at the replay of it you will see it is a yellow card.”
Rodgers, meanwhile, cooled Brown’s desire to leave his newborn to make the trip to the Highlands.
The Celtic manager said: “That is three boys he’s got now.
“He wanted to come. I said: ‘listen, look after your wife, family is more important than football’.”