The aftermath of Sunday’s Old Firm derby, a game won comfortably 3-1 by Rangers, was dominated by Celtic manager Neil Lennon’s complaints over referee Willie Collum failing to dismiss opposing midfielder Lee McCulloch in the first half and award the Ibrox side a controversial second-half penalty. But according to Tom Hall of
“I’m sure Willie Collum is devastated that he got the penalty decision so wrong, that he allowed himself to be conned by Broadfoot and that his positioning was questionable,” Hall said, adding: “But if there is some kind of orchestrated campaign why would Collum choose to blatantly favour Rangers by awarding them a penalty when they already looked to have almost total control over the game in the second half?
“One of our better officials got a big decision wrong. That happens. If we want to see evidence of human error then we might point to the role Celtic’s defence played in the first two goals as being just as crucial in the outcome of the game. If we agree Georgios Samaras was lucky to stay on the pitch then it becomes hard to argue that there is an ‘anti-Celtic’ conspiracy at play.”
Lennon, who also spoke out regarding the official before the game, said: “(The referee) has got a lot of questions to answer. I want to know why McCulloch was still on the pitch, it was blatant obstruction when we were breaking,” and Hall had some sympathy for Lennon’s view. He said: “I think we’ve all seen players in McCulloch’s position receive a second yellow,” adding: “On the other hand we’ve seen referees take a more lenient approach. A different referee on a different day might have made a different decision and while it might be useful for Neil Lennon to focus on McCulloch, I’ve heard similar arguments for the dismissal of three Celtic players in yesterday’s game. ”
Celtic’s attention now turns to the League Cup and the first of a double-header with St Johnstone as they travel to McDiarmid Park twice in a matter of days. Hall believes the trip to Perth offers the Bhoys a good opportunity to shake off the blow of a derby defeat. He said: “I expect Celtic to come through both these games unscathed as they had in the Scottish Premier League until yesterday – Celtic are exceptional at getting past the other SPL clubs.” Hall warns, however, of a Celtic tendency to slip up when faced with tougher opposition: “But in bigger games – a Scottish Cup semi final, twice in European competition and now the first Old Firm match – the esprit de corps that Lennon has built since taking over from Tony Mowbray is not enough. The Ross County semi-final was perhaps too early in his managerial career but against SC Braga, Utrecht and Rangers, Celtic have capitulated rather meekly.
“That’s a pattern Lennon needs to break unless it is to define his management career at Celtic Park. Brushing aside St Johnstone on the way to winning the League Cup would be a good place to start.”