Sunday, 17 January 2010

Mowbray's meddling doesn't help stuttering Celts

Five changes, same result but a very different story. When Celtic last took to the field against Rangers they did everything but win the game in a positive display bar the poor defending that allowed Rangers an equaliser. Two weeks on and unfortunately for Tony Mowbray the only thing that remained was the poor defending as his disjointed side saw their title chances take a further dent as bottom placed Falkirk came away from the East End of Glasgow with a deserved point. With Gary Caldwell and Barry Robson never to return and Landry N'Guemo not due back for at least another fortnight Tony Mowbray must find a solution quickly if the title is not to be out of his sight by the end of January.

Mowbray certainly didn't help Celtic's fluency in bizarrely chosing to go with a 4-3-1-2 formation against a Falkirk side that had won only once away from home all season. Darren O'Dea, Stephen McManus and Lee Naylor were drafting into a desperate backline for Caldwell and the injured duo of Glenn Loovens and Danny Fox. All three were at fault when Falkirk surprisingly took the lead through Carl Finnigan.

Falkirk could have extended their lead ten minutes later when Ryan Flynn forced Artur Boruc into a smart smave after more poor defending from O'Dea and McManus. Josh Thompson replaced the injured McManus on the half hour mark but also looked a bag of nerves on his first appearance in the SPL and was continually put under presssure by the towering presence of Enoch Showunmi.

In midfield Celtic lacked cohesion. Ki-Sung-Yong looked tidy on debut but Marc Crossas and Zheng Zhi struggled to gain control against a busy Falkirk midfield whilst star man Aiden McGeady looked uncomfortable in the unfamiliar role behind the front two.

Crossas began to make more of an impression as the half wore on and it was he who played Georgias Samaras through to equalise five minutes before half time. For once the Greek took the ball in his stride as he drove into the box and fired a low left-footed shot beyond Olejnik in the Falkirk goal.

The second-half brought waves of Celtic pressure but without McGeady's spark on the wing they failed to create many clear cut chances. The best effort came from a marvellous Ki free-kick that forced Olejnik into a flying save.

Mowbray then baffled most inside the ground when he decided to withdraw Crossas for Nial McGinn with 25 minutes to go. The Spanish midfielder could be forgivenfor feeling hard done by having been unfairly withdrawn against Hearts and Rangers in previous weeks. His manager currently fails to understand that throwing on as many wingers and strikers as possible doesn't necessarily lend itself to more chances and goals but does tend to sacrifice the midfield. Mowbray repeated the trick with 10 minutes to go by replacing Andreas Hinkel with Paddy McCourt forcing McGinn to play at full-back after a generous 15 minutes to make his case.

For all their faults Celtic should have had the opportunity to take all three points when Marc-Antoine Fortune was hauled down in the penalty area but on a day of poor performances referee Alan Muir rounded off his inept performance by waving away the appeals.

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