Football: O'Neill sneaks Celtic through

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The Independent Online
Celtic 1 Aberdeen 0 (after extra time) Eventually, without conviction, Celtic sneaked into the Scottish Coca-Cup final last night, earning a meeting with Raith Rovers at Ibrox next month.

After a disappointing 90 minutes which produced a 0-0 scoreline, this game, as the first semi-final had done the previous night, went into extra time.

Nine minutes into the extra period John Collins had a corner returned to him and sent in a cross which saw Brian O'Neil, Celtic's midfielder turned defender, rising above several bodies to send the ball into the net with a glancing header. It was an untidy way in which to settle an untidy match.

Next month's game will be Celtic's first cup final since 1990, yet given the inability of either side to inflict damage upon defences Jimmy Nicholl, the Raith manager, can take a lot of heart.

Given the determination of both teams on the night to take another step towards ending several trophy-less years it was a surprise that so important a game could produce so little in terms of entertainment.

Beforehand Tommy Burns, the Celtic manager, had called for his players to be prepared to don working jackets, a statement which was to prove prophetic as his side made hard work of the whole evening.

Perhaps the supporters should not have expected too much given their recent records, with Aberdeen having to go back to the opening day of the season for their one and only League victory while Celtic had failed to produce a goal in their last three matches.

Throughout the 90 minutes they rarely threatened to better that record, while the Aberdeen forwards found themselves well policed by Celtic's central defensive partnership.

It was hardly surprising then that over those 90 minutes neither goalkeeper was overly troubled with the opening 45 minutes failing to produce a single shot on target.

With extra time approaching Gordon Marshall finger- tipped a Stephen Wright shot past the post.

Celtic might well have scored six minutes into extra time when Donnelly rounded Snelders only for Gary Smith to clear on the line but three minutes later O'Neil provided the goal which sent thousands of Celtic supporters home celebrating.

Celtic (4-4-2): Marshall; Smith, McNally, O'Neil, Boyd; Byrne (McGinlay, 95), Grant, McStay, Collins; Donnelly, Walker (Nicholas, 81). Substitute not used: Bonner (gk).

Aberdeen (3-5-2): Snelders; Wright, Smith, Winnie; McKimmie, Grant, Kane (Robertson, 86), McKinnon (Hetherston, 104), Woodthorpe; Booth, Dodds.

Substitute not used: Watt (gk).

Referee: L Mottram (Forth).