Partick’s Gary Fraser defended over kick into Celtic crowd

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Brendan Rodgers said last night’s 2-0 victory over Partick Thistle was a mark of his 
Celtic side’s resilience after the defeat by Hearts that ended their 69-game domestic unbeaten run.

Rodgers praised his team’s mentality as they secured victory in their 35th game this season courtesy of sparkling strikes from Stuart Armstrong and Kieran Tierney.

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers gives fans the thumbs-up after the 2-0 win over Partick. Picture: Rob Casey/SNS

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers gives fans the thumbs-up after the 2-0 win over Partick. Picture: Rob Casey/SNS

“It’s a mark of the team,” the Northern Irishman said of a win that moved Celtic five points clear of second-placed Aberdeen.

“I said to them before the game that you define yourself as a team whenever you have disappointment and what your reaction is to it. I thought the players reacted well. It was always going to be tricky. The games here last season were 1-1 and 1-0, so we knew it was going to be difficult and we came through it very well.

“It’s so, so tough for the players. You are virtually asked to play back to back seasons [because of Champions League qualifiers]. It’s incredible the energy they have to put in. It took us a bit of time to get going and find our range, but you see the condition of the players and how they got stronger during the game. We have to do it. There are certain parts of the team where you need to be dynamic and the players showed that.”

The evening ended with a controversial moment when Partick’s Gary Fraser battered the ball into the crowd from close range but manager Alan Archibald defended his player.

“I think he’s tried to smash the ball off the boards,” the Thistle boss said. “Nobody in their right mind would try to do that from so close, especially with the way he strikes the ball. No, there was no reason for it, nothing in it, it was just a heavy touch and frustration he never started the match either.

“He didn’t mean it. I don’t think there was any malice in it; he’s not that type of lad. We’ll deal with it. He’s not done it deliberately. He’s tried to apologies there at the end. That’s all we can do.”

Rodgers effectively concurred with the protestations of innocence. “I would have to give the benefit of the doubt to the player because I would sincerely hope he wouldn’t be smashing a ball into a crowd on purpose.

“It was only my staff who told me what happened,” the Celtic manager said. “You’d like to think he didn’t mean it. It’s a respect element as well. I don’t think there is a need to do it. If you are that close to supporters who are paying money to go and watch a game, you shouldn’t be doing things like that.

“There’s no need. There’s maybe frustration from the young player because he is not playing or losing a game, but you don’t do that.”