COULD do better – that’s the report Neil Lennon will be getting on his young charges after a Celtic XI played out a thoroughly entertaining 2-2 draw with Cliftonville on Saturday.
Hoops coach Stevie Frail wasn’t impressed with his side’s performance at Solitude despite a late turnaround appearing to put the visitors on course for victory when Tony Watt and Callum McGregor netted to cancel out Liam Boyce’s headed opener.
However, with the tie deep into injury-time, Joe Gormley took control of a goalmouth scramble to thunder home an unstoppable equaliser – but that’s not what left Frail irked.
“We can’t just rely on playing football, we have to work on the horrible side of the game,” said the Parkhead coach.
“You have to earn the right to play your silky soccer and I don’t think we were up for that fight. Cliftonville worked really hard and deserved to draw the game but my disappointment is based more on how we played for long stretches rather than the result.
“I now have to go back to Neil Lennon and go over the game with him because these are the players he’s looking to step into the first team. ‘Could do better’ is how I’d sum it up.
“We had some players off-form out there and a few who really didn’t perform. Tony [Watt] and Callum [McGregor] did very well but there were areas where we didn’t do enough.”
Indeed, after the game Mark Barrowman – a half-time replacement for Josh Thompson – tweeted “Played the second half against Cliftonville today for the development squad, great experience”, while Watt said: “Nice to get a goal today but the whole team had a poor game! Hard hard game and Cliftonville did very well!”
Despite Celtic’s first-team facing Inter Milan at the same time, the guts of two thousand people nevertheless descended upon Solitude from right across Europe for what was only the Glasgow club’s second visit to Belfast in more than a quarter of a century.
The Reds were more than worthy of the draw and could actually have clocked up a comprehensive victory were it not for goalkeeper Robbie Thomson keeping Boyce, Martin Donnelly, Barry Holland and Ryan Catney at bay, while McGregor cleared another Boyce effort off the line in addition to Stephen Garrett hitting the post.
With Reds boss Tommy Breslin on holiday, dugout duties fell Peter Murray’s way and the former Ballymena United and Portadown midfielder was chuffed with his team’s efforts.
“I certainly think we deserved to win because I felt we shaded things overall but friendlies are more about performances than results and, in terms of how we’ve played, we can be very pleased,” he said.
“We kept the ball on the deck, passed it around and tried to play our football as best we could. We deserved to go 1-0 up but, when we chopped and changed with all the subs, we lost our shape a wee bit and found ourselves behind, but thankfully we kept going right to the end and got ourselves an equaliser.
CLIFTONVILLE: Devlin, Cosgrove, Johnston, Holland, McGovern, Caldwell, McMullan, O’Carroll, Boyce, Donnelly, Lynch. Subs: Connolly (for Devlin, 63 mins), C Scannell (for O’Carroll, 56 mins), Garrett (for Boyce, 63 mins), Stuart (for Caldwell, 69 mins), Catney (for Johnston, 56 mins), Templeton (for McMullan, 63 mins), Gormley (for Donnelly, 77 mins), Caldwell (for Lynch, 83 mins)
CELTIC: Thomson, Toshney, Chalmers, Frazer, Thompson, Fisher, Atajic, McGregor, Watt, Rasmussen, Twardzik. Subs: Daniels, Barrowman (for Thompson, 46 mins), Ross Madden (for Twardzik, 89 mins), Eadie (for Rasmussen, 40 mins)
REFEREE: Raymond Crangle (Belfast)