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The National (Scotland)
The National (Scotland)
Sport
Graeme McGarry

Celtic 2 St Mirren 1: Late Oh stunner sickens Saints

CELTIC dug out a hard-fought win against an impressive St Mirren outfit as Oh climbed off the bench to bag a crucial three points for the champions.

A brilliant opening goal from Conor McMenamin – his first since arriving in the summer – gave St Mirren the early lead, before a stunning David Turnbull strike hauled Celtic level.

The midfielder would hit the post with a spot kick soon after though, and Saints managed to frustrate Celtic until Oh popped up with a belter for his first of the season - and more importantly - to earn a win that at times didn't look to be coming.

Here are the talking points from Celtic Park...

OH BOY, SUBS MAKE THEIR MARK

It was revealed this week by Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers that James Forrest was still the fastest winger at the club, and he turned to the veteran speed merchant as he rested Daizen Maeda on the left of his attack.

Neither he nor Luis Palma got out of first gear though on the night, save for Forrest’s cutback that led to the award of Celtic’s missed penalty, and there appeared to be greater impetus in their attack – as was the case at the weekend – when the starting wingers were replaced.

Yang Hyun-Jun in particular looked lively on the left when he came on around the hour mark, while Odin Thiago Holm and Oh asked a different question of the St Mirren defence.

Indeed, it was the latter two who combined brilliantly for Celtic’s late winner, Kyogo feeding Holm who in turn produced a lovely little pass into the path of Oh, who smashed the ball high past Zach Hemming and into the net.

For all the talk of the lack of quality on Celtic’s bench over the past few days, their subs certainly played a vital role in earning a priceless three points.

MIXED BAG FOR TURNBULL AS HE GETS HIS CHANCE TO STAKE CLAIM

Given his lack of recent game time, and the fact that his relationship with the Celtic support seems a little fraught at present given criticism of his performances, this felt like a big night for the Turnbull.

The long-term injury to Reo Hatate has presented an opportunity to the likes of him and Paulo Bernardo, and this was his chance to show manager Brendan Rodgers that he was the man to fill that considerable void.

As has been consistent with his Celtic career over the piece, though, there were ups and downs.

Turnbull’s technical ability has never been in doubt, and he showcased it here again as he scored once more against his favourite Celtic Park opposition, slamming home a much-needed equaliser for his side after St Mirren’s bright start.

If that endeared him to the home fans though, his celebration perhaps would not have, immediately putting his fingers in his ears to signify that he was ignoring the stick that has often come his way from his own punters.

He followed that up by winning his side a penalty, his shot being blocked by the arm of Saints defender Alex Gogic, but subsequently stepped up and rattled his spot kick off the right-hand post.

One step forward, one step back, sadly seems to be the way of his Celtic career, but he was warmly acclaimed as he left the field with 15 minutes remaining, which will be encouraging for the 24-year-old.

CAMERON CARTER-VICKERS ABSENCE FELT AS NAT PHILLIPS STRUGGLES

Celtic’s main defender was taken out of the line-up to protect his knee following his injury lay-off, with Phillips brought in for just his second start for the club, the previous one being against Lazio on Champions League duty.

Any notion he would face any lesser of a test though was quickly disproved as Saints took a shock lead, McMenamin standing in a space between the centre-backs large enough to house all 250 absent Green Brigade members.

There was another worrying moment when Phillips and Callum McGregor both swung at the same ball into the Celtic area, fortune favouring the pair as the ball skewed wide.

There’s no doubting that the big man was rusty, misplacing more than a few passes and committing a clumsy foul or two, and his stumble just after Celtic scored presented Kiltie with a chance that, in fairness, Phillips managed to clamber up and block.

As is often the case though, the value of Carter-Vickers was accentuated keenly when he wasn’t playing.

SAINTS SICKENED BUT EMERGE WITH CREDIT

St Mirren will be sick having followed the template of how a provincial team gets a result in Glasgow to the letter. Early goal? Check. Well organised? Check. Keeper having a blinder? Check. Slice of luck when required? To a point.

For all that Stephen Robinson is rightly praised for the organisation he has instilled in his team, their opening goal was a thing of beauty.

Greg Kiltie did brilliantly on the left wing, cutting back onto his right foot and swinging a wicked delivery directly onto the head of McMenamin, who calmly finished beyond a helpless Joe Hart.

The penalty apart, there weren’t too many scares for the visitors after Turnbull’s leveller either, their resistance only being broken by a brilliant bit of attacking play from Celtic.

They won’t want the platitudes, but it is easy to see why the Saints are marching on at the top end of the table under Robinson.

GREEN BRIGADE SIT THIS ONE OUT

It was hard to judge just how much the absence of the Green Brigade affected the atmosphere given the rest of the stadium also appeared a little sparse, but the front of the railed standing section was indeed lacking its usual life for the most part.

The acrimony that the split between board and that section of the support though was still present, with another fan group unveiling a banner having a pop at the police for their part in it all.

The sooner there is a mending of that broken relationship, the better for Celtic.

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