Sunday, January 29, 2012

Falkirk v Celtic

Saturday 15th October 2011.

Celtic, fresh from a defeat at Tynecastle, are 3-0 down at half time to Kilmarnock.

Winning the title looks a long way off, Neil Lennon's managerial coat seems to hang on an ever shooglier peg.

They came back to draw 3-3, three goals in a 10 minute burst from Anthony Stokes and Charlie Mulgrew salvaging a point. And, with hindsight, transforming a season.

That draw was the start of a run that has seen Celtic lose just one game in 21. That defeat came against Atletico Madrid in the Europa League. The last point they dropped in the SPL was at home to Hibs on 29th October.

Along the way they've scored 41 goals across four competitions and conceded - including those three at Rugby Park - just 13.

An emphatic turnaround powered by form that looks - from this distance at least - to carry treble winning potential.

That, for Falkirk, is the depressing reality that punctures dreams of semi final glory at Hampden today.

Lose a two goal lead and then beat Rangers in injury time. Come from behind in extra time to beat Dundee United on penalties.

And then face another mountain to climb at Hampden. If Falkirk are to get to the league cup final they'll have done it the hard way.

Neil Lennon has been a model of admiration on the topic of Falkirk and their manager Steven Pressley this week.

Even allowing for hackneyed managerial chat - and, perhaps, attempts to defuse any lingering ill-feeling from a past personality clash - it's easy to see why.

Written off and the butt of a thousand internet jokes, Pressley has persevered. Instructed to cut his cloth in line with Falkirk's poverty, he's built a young team with determination and imagination. Today's semi final is a just reward.

A just reward but a mission just about impossible. It's true that Celtic's recent run has been hugely impressive without being scintillating in every game.

But they win and they win and they win. Celtic could have an off day, Falkirk could play as well they've ever played. And Celtic might still find a way past them. It's a habit they've got at the moment and it's proving a hard one to break.

Maybe if Falkirk can get an early goal, maybe...

Another semi final, another win for an SPL club. I'd not bet against it.

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