Jonny Hayes: Not a case of sour grapes from Celtic

Aberdeen's Jonny Hayes opens the scoring with a glorious long-range strike. Picture: SNS
Aberdeen's Jonny Hayes opens the scoring with a glorious long-range strike. Picture: SNS
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After becoming the first player to score against Celtic in the league since November, Jonny Hayes felt Neil Lennon’s pain and said he understood why the Celtic manager sounded so irritated at the manner of Tuesday night’s defeat to Aberdeen.

Lennon complained that Virgil van Dijk should not have been red carded after only 11 minutes of his side’s first league defeat of the season. The Dutch defender was judged to have prevented Peter Pawlett running through on goal with a last-ditch tackle where he failed to make contact with the ball.

The Celtic manager was also unhappy about a penalty appeal for handball by Aberdeen defender Mark Reynolds being ignored by referee Craig Thomson in the second half. Hayes recalled how his manager Derek McInnes had reacted after an uncharacteristically sloppy display against Partick Thistle last weekend.

“Every manager feels aggrieved when they lose, especially if decisions go against them,” he said. “I know our manager wasn’t happy on Saturday even though we lost comprehensively,” said Hayes. “We had a couple of key decisions go against us so I do know how they feel. So I wouldn’t say it was sour grapes at all. Maybe they [Celtic] were disappointed at losing their unbeaten record. I think that was a big thing for them so it’s maybe that. But I wouldn’t say it was sour grapes. They came out after we beat them in the cup game and said we deserved to win.”

After so long without conceding a goal, it was always going to take something special to beat Fraser Forster. The Celtic goalkeeper was left grasping thin air as Hayes’ 30 yarder dipped beneath his bar, with the Dubliner yesterday admitting such a strike is a once-a-year event for him. He had sympathy with Forster, who didn’t stand a chance of stopping the viciously-hit effort.

The goalkeeper’s shut-out record was extended to an impressive 1255 minutes on Tuesday before Hayes made his explosive intervention. Forster has been in the spotlight for many weeks as he closed in on Aberdeen goalkeeper Bobby Clark’s Scottish league record of 1155 minutes, set in the 1970-71 season. Having broken this last weekend, Forster had his sights on Edwin van der Saar’s British record, but Hayes ended this ambition with a shot that was heard, if not all around the world, then certainly resonated across Scotland.

“He [Forster] may be disappointed or he might feel a sense of relief, I don’t know,” added Hayes. “That [ending the record] wasn’t in our minds at all, we were just focusing on ourselves and looking for the three points after we felt we dropped three on Saturday. I hit one a few years ago against Rangers that was nice. But that was up there.

“It was one of those ones you catch probably once a year – including training! You know the keeper is going to have to do unbelievably well to save it. And as soon as I hit it I had a feeling it was going in. When you see the back of the net bulge it is more of a relief really that you’ve managed to score rather than hit the corner flag.”

Hayes is glad compatriot Adam Rooney, who added the second goal on the stroke of half-time, has started his Dons career so successfully, otherwise his trumpeting of the player in the days leading up to his signing might have left him feeling foolish. “I knew the kind of player he was before he came,” said Hayes, who played with Rooney at Inverness Caledonian Thistle. “I thought he would be a really good signing for us.”

Rooney had proved his friend correct, so far at least. After scoring in each of his first four league games for Aberdeen, the Irishman has emulated Johnny Pattillo’s achievement in the late 1930s.

“When I heard he might be coming I was asking Doc [Tony Docherty, the Aberdeen assistant manager] every day what was happening,” recalled Hayes. “And I was ringing Adam asking if he was coming.

“We were close anyway but, with him playing in the team, I think it has helped me as well. We have a really good understanding and I think he has settled in really well.

“You can see the way Peter [Pawlett] and Niall [McGinn] play around him as well. I can’t believe he has settled in as well as he has. He’s on the same wavelength as us.

“I think the midfielders and attackers will be a bit disappointed with their goals- from-chances ratio over the last year and a half.

“Adam has come in and he has five goals in six matches. But it’s not just that, his overall impact has been brilliant,” added Hayes.