Football: Celtic left to count the cost

Celtic 1 Blinker 29 Kilmarnock 1 Vareille 50 Attendance: 58,361
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CELTIC'S STOCK on the pitch was further diminished by a draw with Kilmarnock yesterday, ensuring that Fergus McCann, the club's chairman, will face a hostile AGM tomorrow.

McCann's misjudgement in failing to strengthen the Scottish champions during the summer was underlined as Jozef Venglos's team failed to build on Regi Blinker's fine opening goal, then paid the price when Jerome Vareille equalised. But more costly could be the 77th-minute dismissal of Paul Lambert for a tackle on Paul Wright, the Scottish international's second bookable offence.

Such was Celtic's fragile confidence following only one win in their last five games that they must have been relieved to see Kilmarnock had left Ally McCoist on the bench. The veteran Scotland striker had put Celtic to the sword on numerous occasions during his years at Rangers, and indeed, scored on his final two visits to Parkhead in a blue shirt last season.

Ian Durrant, Kilmarnock's other summer acquisition from Rangers, did not enjoy McCoist's camouflage and the midfielder was jeered every time he touched the ball. Durrant, though, responded to the hostility, conjuring up a devilish cross in the eighth minute which Jonathan Gould had to touch over the bar for a corner.

Three minutes later, Celtic looked to have opened the door when neat work by Simon Donnelly and Henrik Larsson saw the Swede round Gordon Marshall, but he was forced too wide to get his shot in. Within seconds, the Kilmarnock keeper pulled off a wonderful save to turn Craig Burley's fierce 25-yard shot round the post.

Celtic opened the scoring in the 29th minute when Blinker scored an exquisite goal. Stephane Mahe's free-kick from the left was headed out by Kilmarnock's Gary Holt and Blinker buried a wonderful volley past Marshall from 16 yards.

Kilmarnock were deprived of Gus McPherson when the left-back was carried off in the 44th minute. But the visitors refused to lie down and five minutes into the second half they were level. A piercing pass from midfielder Alan Mahood released Jerome Vareille, who struck a firm shot from the edge of the area and, although Gould got a hand to the ball, it merely helped it on to the underside of the bar before it bounced in.