Hearts. . .1
CELTIC and Hearts engaged in a furious encounter which ultimately proved disappointing for both teams in their attempts to keep up with Rangers at the top of the Premier Division, although Celtic would have felt the loss of a point more acutely having controlled the game for most of the 90 minutes.
Both goals were scored in a first half which saw few realistic efforts on goal and, unfortunately for both teams, that was again the case after the interval.
History, as much as Celtic, was Hearts's enemy with a record of just 14 wins in 104 League games at Celtic Park. The Edinburgh side could have been excused an even deeper sense of foreboding about this match after only one win in their last five matches, and, suitably, they fell a goal behind in the seventh minute.
Joe Miller, in scoring for the first time this season, recorded Celtic's 100th Premier Division goal against Hearts. He did so with a powerful shot from six yards, which ended high in the net past a bewildered Henry Smith. The Celtic winger had played a one-two with Stuart Slater and appeared to have lost possession before regaining his balance and shooting.
A few minutes later, Miller crossed from the right and Slater came within inches of scoring his first goal for the club with a powerful header which cleared the bar. The same player was further denied by a wonderful Smith save.
Hearts responded with an equaliser from their first direct assault on goal. A corner was knocked out of the penalty area to the waiting Alan Preston, who drove a low left-foot shot through a group of players into the net.
Celtic retained the upper hand in possession, but their lack of penetration gradually angered their own supporters who chorused their disapproval at the replacement of Miller by Andy Payton after an hour. Smith was called on to make an easy save from a Miller shot shortly before the winger left the field, but the incisive moves of the first half had deserted Celtic.
Hearts, too, had trouble finding their front pair of John Robertson and Ian Baird with passes that were often overhit and, with the crowd becoming increasingly frustrated, the end-to-end football on display proved of little consequence.
Celtic created an opening for Payton before the end, Paul McStay supplying the throughball, but the striker messed up his shot.
Celtic: Bonner; McNally, Boyd, Grant, Mowbray, Galloway, Miller (Payton, 63), McStay, Slater, Creaney, Collins. Substitute not used: Fulton.
Hearts: Smith; Hogg, McKinlay, Levein, Mackay, Van De Ven, Robertson, Mauchlen, Baird, Snodin, Preston (Bannon, 79). Substitute not used: Millar.
Referee: D Syme (Rutherglen).