THOM ENDS UP TOP CAT

Celtic 2 Thom 9, Donnelly 23 Raith Rovers 0 Attendance: 33, 415
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The Independent Online
AS CELTIC huddled together for their now customary ritual team talk before the kick-off, Danny Lennon, Steve Crawford and Tony Rougier camped up their own version in Raith Rovers' half.

Before the daunting new stand at Celtic Park it was a wonderful act of defiant mischief, giving us hope that something exciting was about to occur in this Scottish Cup fourth-round tie.

By the end, two of the three had hobbled off injured, while Rougier had titillated us with some delightful close control as Cup holders Celtic strolled to a comfortable win.

The match began entertainingly as both sides ran at each other, playing the ball low and producing plenty of goalmouth incident.

But as Raith lost Lennon and eventually Crawford through injury, and Simon Donnelly consolidated Celtic's lead, gained through Andreas Thom, the football dwindled into irrelevance. Both sets of players quickly realised whose name would go in to the quarter-final draw.

A memorable Cup-tie looked to be unfolding when Gordon Marshall produced a fine save to prevent Colin Cameron giving Raith the lead after six minutes. Then immediately Celtic went on the attack and only a deflection off Ronnie Coyle's shin put Paul McStay's shot wide.

Three minutes later Brian O'Neil, in his first start for nine months after a horrendous knee injury, fed John Collins from his own penalty area. A quick ball to Pierre van Hooijdonk was knocked on to Thom and the German's pace eased him away from David Sinclair before finishing comfortably.

Raith reacted positively with more attacking and another save from Marshall denied Cameron for a second time. But Celtic soon assumed control. Thom ripped through the Rovers defence and chipped over the keeper but hit the post while Donnelly, with the goal at his mercy, scuffed the rebound high and wide. However, he made up for his mistake after 23 minutes when Thom, again, cut the ball back to him from wide on the right and his shot went between goalkeeper Bobby Geddes' legs.

In the second half Celtic seemed happy to protect their lead and their defence dealt calmly with most of Raith's efforts. Their guard was breached when Jason Dair was through on goal but his effort hit the post. Rougier blasted a free-kick inches past the post but this was as close as they came.

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