Hartson saves Celtic from new Highland fling

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Celtic's Highland nightmare almost came back to haunt them for a third time in four years yesterday, as they survived a scare from Ross County. The First Division side were just 16 minutes away from taking Martin O'Neill's team back to Britain's most northerly ground for a replay before John Hartson broke their hearts with a diving header.

The roar of relief around Parkhead reflected the fact that Celtic had been knocked out twice in recent seasons by another Highland club, Inverness Caledonian Thistle. Indeed, yesterday it took a remarkable double save from Celtic goalkeeper Robert Douglas to deny David Winters just before the hour. However, Hartson ended those dreams and then Paul Lambert drilled in a low shot five minutes later. "You could sense the whole place was getting nervous," said the Ross County manager, Alex Smith. "We deserved a replay."

The real plaudits go to Spartans, the only surviving non-League team. The quaintly-named side from Edinburgh claimed their second scalp from the Second Division in winning 4-1 at Arbroath, Craig Samson scoring twice.

Partick Thistle, the Premier League's bottom club, avoided a shock by beating the Second Division leaders Morton 3-0 at Cappielow Park. Last season's beaten finalists, Dundee, held out with 10 men to draw 0-0 at Aberdeen, while 18-year-old striker David Clarkson scored twice as Motherwell overwhelmed St Johnstone 3-0 at McDiarmid Park and Dunfermline beat Dundee United 3-1.

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