Tag Archives: midwinter

Arbroath 0 Celtic 1:

Arbroath 0 Celtic 1: Bhoys made to weather their luck in frosty battle to reach fifth round

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UPDATED:

23:26 GMT, 12 December 2012

For Celtic, an evening spent at Gayfield in the bleak midwinter was about as far removed from the heady glamour of the Champions League as is possible.

It was a midweek assignment in which the white heat of European success gave way to the bitter chill of the Angus coast.

Just seven days after the fanfare of seeing off Spartak Moscow to reach the knockout phase of the elite competition, Neil Lennon’s side arrived in Arbroath with more mundane ambitions.

Party time: Adam Matthews scored the only goal as Celtic beat Arbroath

Party time: Adam Matthews scored the only goal as Celtic beat Arbroath

Match facts

Arbroath: Morrison, Baxter, Hamilton, Malcolm, Keddie, Sibanda (Rennie 73), Kerr (Birse 76), Currie, Scott Robertson, Sheerin (Holmes 76), Doris.

Subs Not Used: Bullock, Gribben.

Booked: Kerr, Malcolm, Scott Robertson.

Celtic: Forster, Ambrose, Wilson, Mulgrew, Matthews (McGeouch 90), Izaguirre (Wanyama 65), Brown, Kayal, Samaras, Nouioui (Hooper 65), Lustig.

Subs Not Used: Zaluska, Miku.

Booked: Mulgrew, Samaras.

Goal: Matthews 18.

Att: 4,127

Ref: Craig Charleston (Scotland).

Who could have thought, then, that reaching the last 16 of the Scottish Cup would tax Celtic just as much as entering that stage of the Champions League That was, however, pretty much how it panned out for the SPL leaders over the course of a nerve-jangling replay.

A stunning first-half strike by Adam Matthews — his first goal for the club — ultimately secured a fifth-round visit to Raith Rovers in early February, but this was a deeply unconvincing display against Second Division opponents.

Arbroath pounded forward after the break and will point to a Steven Doris goal chalked off for what referee Craig Charleston deemed to be an earlier infringement on Fraser Forster. The Celtic goalkeeper, whose outstanding displays have been so vital in Europe, suddenly looked fragile in the face of the admirable efforts from Paul Sheerin’s side.

With others wobbling in front of Forster, it was little wonder Lennon spent much of the second period stomping around his technical area in a state of apoplexy.

All of this could, of course, have been avoided had a re-jigged Celtic line-up displayed a more clinical edge in the first match 11 days ago. In the end, relief would have been the over-riding emotion as they headed back south to prepare for Saturday’s SPL assignment against St Mirren.

Arbroath retire from the competition with pride intact. Chairman John Christison revealed pre-match the club had been sent a good-luck message by Jimmy Tarbuck. Apparently, the comedian spent a brief time training at Gayfield in the 1960s when staging a show in the area.

The unlikely celebrity endorsement did not inspire a famous Cup victory but Arbroath can reflect happily on a most profitable 2012.

A fourth-round tie with Rangers back in January earned enough money to purchase pitch covers which, in turn, ensured last night’s replay could defy the cold snap and land the club an 82,500 cheque from Sky Sports. The combined income from these games should, indeed, be enough to sustain them for the next two years.

Letting fly: Matthews fired home a stunning goal in the first half

Letting fly: Matthews fired home a stunning goal in the first half

Lennon had vowed to field a strong side after his fringe players malfunctioned in the initial tie and proved as good as his word. Only three players who started then — Matthews, Efe Ambrose and Scott Brown — were part of a 3-5-2 line-up last night. The emphasis was on getting the ball wide to try to capitalise on the aerial strength of Georgios Samaras and Lassad Nouioui up front.

It was a tactic that initially looked effective. Lassad, who had peeled off towards the right touchline, crossed to picked out Samaras but the Greek’s header was too close to Arbroath goalkeeper Scott Morrison.

Samaras attempted to return the favour, only to find his Tunisian sidekick in an offside position when he tucked the ball over the line.

Then, with 17 minutes gone, came a passage of play that defined the opening period. Arbroath managed to work the ball into the Celtic area, with player-manager Sheerin hitting a fierce shot that may well have been goalbound but for the head of Kelvin Wilson.

Fury: Arbroath's Steven Doris finds the net but the whistle had sounded already for a foul

Fury: Arbroath's Steven Doris finds the net but the whistle had sounded already for a foul

The centre-half’s bravery was promptly rewarded when the visitors swept downfield to open the scoring in spectacular fashion. Wing-back Matthews robbed Arbroath left-back Colin Hamilton and charged goalwards, reaching the angle of the area before exploding a strike off his right boot and into the top corner of the net. After 18 months — and 62 appearances — without a goal for Celtic, this duck-breaker was worth the wait.

The goal was also a cue for further smoke bombs to be let off by visiting fans behind Forster’s goal, in defiance of a warning issued about their use on the Parkhead club’s website.

Celtic really should have doubled their lead on 33 minutes when Charlie Mulgrew swept a typically pin-point, cross-field pass into the path of Samaras. He then laid the ball on a plate for Lassad, who could only mis-hit what should have been a given straight at Morrison. Lennon looked less than pleased. It was, after all, precisely that kind of lax finishing that landed his team with this match in the first place.

As the second half opened, instead of confirming their superiority, the SPL champions found themselves under sustained pressure.

Battle: Celtic were made to fight all the way by Arbroath to reach the fifth round of the Scottish Cup

Battle: Celtic were made to fight all the way by Arbroath to reach the fifth round of the Scottish Cup

A Sheerin free-kick caused panic inside the visitors’ area, with Forster producing the first of several flaps. Stuart Malcolm challenged as the ball broke loose but ended up in referee Charleston’s book for fouling the England squad man.

Sheerin’s deliveries were consistently productive for Arbroath. Emilio Izaguirre was forced to head out a cross to prevent Lee Sibanda from netting before controversy arrived in the 63rd minute.

Sheerin whipped a corner into the goalmouth area and Doris — who scored at Parkhead — eventually poked the ball into the net. The goal was chalked off, however, apparently for a foul by Alex Keddie on the unconvincing Forster, who should have perhaps punched the ball instead of trying to gather.

Sibanda then had a drive blocked at the near post, before the Celtic keeper was forced to make amends.

Arbroath substitute Connor Birse had a shot on target with his first touch after being sent clean through, only for Forster to divert it wide with his legs.

Unlikely as it might seem, the final whistle could not come quickly enough for the Parkhead side.

Sam Warburton and Wales must be firing from the start to beat Australia

Wounded Wales are on the ropes but they must be firing from the off to beat Wallabies

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UPDATED:

00:04 GMT, 1 December 2012

As the old saying goes: if at first you don't succeed, try having a sixth crack at the Wallabies in a year and see if that helps.

For Wales, the curse of the Grand Slam continues. They have stumbled to six successive defeats since then and this is their last chance of a victory or it will be a bleak midwinter.

They were supposed to be the star candidates for the crucial fourth place in the IRB rankings ahead of Monday's World Cup draw, instead they could slip down to ninth and face New Zealand and England in their World Cup pool if the rugby gods have a sense of humour.

Time to shine: Sam Warburton was in action in Friday's training session

Time to shine: Sam Warburton was in action in Friday's training session

WALES V AUSTRALIA

Wales: Halfpenny; Cuthbert, Davies, Roberts, L Williams; Priestland, Phillips; Jenkins, Rees, Andrews, Reed, Charteris, Shingler, Faletau, Warburton (capt).
Subs: Owens, Bevington, Lee, Jones, Tipuric, Knoyle, Biggar, S Williams.

Australia: Barnes; Cummins, Ashley- Cooper, Tapuai, Mitchell; Beale, Phipps; Robinson, Polota Nau, Alexander, Douglas, Sharpe (capt), Higginbotham, Palu, Pocock.
Subs: Moore, Slipper, Kepu, Dennis, Hooper, McKibbin, Harris, Iaone.

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England). Kick-off: 2.30pm, Millennium Stadium.

TV: Live on BBC1 from 2pm.

Their squad have been ravaged by injury and this team are being held together by bandages. Jamie Roberts, who was sorely missed on the three-Test tour Down Under in the summer, will have to wear a protective pad on his hip bone just to take the field.

The bruising was so bad after the All Blacks game he spent most of his week in ice and could start running only on Thursday.

Admittedly, these two Test teams have become tediously familiar foes over the past 13 months, but this match has taken on new significance. Lose and Wales will begin the defence of their Six Nations title without a victory since March.

The chronic Welsh problem of starting slowly and playing a game of desperate catch-up must be remedied with an explosion out of the blocks that puts the Wallabies on the back foot.

Australia are playing their 16th Test in 12 months, while Wales are playing their 24th in 16, so if this was a boxing match it would be two heavyweights with burning lungs and bleeding noses going toe-to-toe in the last round.

Land an early blow and it should make the difference. Wales must also cut out the stupid mistakes. A botched lineout call scuppered their first attack against the All Blacks and, while Wales made six line breaks, they failed to score from a single one.

Walking wounded: Wales have a depleted squad for Australia's visit

Walking wounded: Wales have a depleted squad for Australia's visit

Thinking cap on: Warren Gatland is hoping to record a win to salvage the series

Thinking cap on: Warren Gatland is hoping to record a win to salvage the series

The All Blacks made three line breaks and scored three times. Wales head coach Warren Gatland, taking charge of his final game before committing full-time to the Lions, has spoken all year about the 'learning curve' when you face the Southern Hemisphere sides.

But at some point that curve has to flatten out and Wales have to put those lessons into practice. With such a jam-packed international schedule they have had enough chances.

The summer was a case in point. They left Cardiff hoping to win the series, left Brisbane hoping for a solitary win and left Sydney with heads hanging after a hat-trick of defeats.

Openside flanker David Pocock got the best of Sam Warburton in June, but the Welsh skipper was recharged and back to his charging best against New Zealand.

Return: David Pocock will return to the fray after missing the England victory

Return: David Pocock will return to the fray after missing the England victory

That made a huge difference to his team. The lineout battle between veteran Nathan Sharpe – captain in his 116th and final Test – and lock Luke Charteris will be a defining fight when clean possession off the set piece is key.

Earlier this week, Australia head coach Robbie Deans said 'cornered beasts are the most dangerous'.

He was talking about the Wallabies. It may just turn out he was talking about the wrong team.

Crunch time: Liam Williams in action on Friday

Crunch time: Liam Williams in action on Friday

Donald feeling the heat after his desert flop, with Westwood and McIlroy poised

Donald feeling the heat after his desert flop, with Westwood and McIlroy poised

Luke Donald could be forgiven for
taking his eye off the golf ball after climbing to world No 1 and
winning a cluster of awards on the European and US Tours.

He also had the distraction of his newly born second daughter, Sophie Ann.

He went into his midwinter break
assured by the experts that, such was his lead in the rankings, it would
take at least a couple of victories from either Lee Westwood or Rory
McIlroy to remove him from his throne.

Distracted: Luke Donald is under pressure to retain his world number one status

Distracted: Luke Donald is under pressure to retain his world number one status

However, after a slow start to the season, Donald could arrive at the Masters in April trailing either of his two nearest rivals with memories of his glorious 2011 fading fast.

Both of his Ryder Cup team-mates went into their Accenture WGC Matchplay quarter-finals in Tucson last night knowing a place in today's final would see either displace Donald at the top of the table, Donald having been beaten 5&4 by South African veteran Ernie Els in the first round.

All the world's top golfers will gather at Doral in two weekend's time for the Cadillac WGC Strokeplay Championship, when more huge piles of ranking points will be at stake.

After suffering the heaviest defeat of all the first-round losers at the Dove Mountain course, carved out of the Arizona desert, Donald's mood was far from the buoyant one that saw him take the money lists on both sides of the Atlantic.

Heavy defeat: Donald was out of sorts in Arizona

Heavy defeat: Donald was out of sorts in Arizona

'I think golf is like that sometimes,' he said. 'It's a fickle game and sometimes it bites you. I've not got off to the quickest start this year, but I am certainly working hard and, hopefully, it will turn around.'

In contrast, McIlroy was full of self-belief after his third-round victory over wily 48-year-old Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez on Friday night.

Asked whether 2012 would be another year of golfing education for the US Open Champion or the time when he would establish himself as the next great player in the sport, he responded: 'The latter.

'I feel like last year was a great stepping stone for hopefully bigger and better things. I've started off this year pretty well with a couple of top-five finishes, and I definitely had a chance to win in Abu Dhabi. It's been nice to get through to the quarter-finals here.

the contenders for world number one

On the charge: Rory McIlroy is one of the contenders for world number one

'I feel like I'm a different player than a couple of years ago, and I feel like I've improved and gained experience. That should all help me.'

Donald would not have been cheered listening to Westwood's assessment of his own form as the Worksop player prepared for his quarter-final last night against American outsider Mark Wilson.

'I've been driving the ball well, long and straight, which is allowing me to attack flags,' said Westwood. 'Since the disappointment of Dubai, I have worked hard to get my chipping in shape again and it has improved.'