Football: Burns feels heat

Celtic . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0 Falkirk. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2 Henderson 14, Clark 54 Attendance: 23,719 THE sense of well-being which settled over Celtic with the arrival of Tommy Burns as manager was never going to last. Burns' presence did have the immediate effect of increasing confidence among players and supporters, but to build on that he required money.

He bought Phil O'Donnell from Motherwell for pounds 1.75m but when he tried to strengthen his squad by bringing in the Hearts players Alan McLaren and Tosh McKinlay he found the club purse closed.

Burns knew the confidence factor which had given ordinary players the desire and determination that had been lacking for five barren seasons would crumble. He tried to say so, but the supporters were on such a high they didn't listen.

Reality began to return with last week's defeat by Hearts, but yesterday's 2-0 setback to Falkirk confirms the fears that Celtic remain short of the qualities required to win the Scottish Premier title.

Their play was ragged, especially after they had conceded the second goal, and after that their attacks became more frenzied, which left their most cultured player, Charlie Nicholas, a peripheral figure. In the first half his touches and vision created several openings, but with his role diminished Falkirk's defence were able to cope.

Inevitably, Celtic's defence struggled after the loss of both full-backs through injury. Lee Martin went off 14 minutes after falling awkwardly while trying to prevent the first goal, and then Tom Boyd hobbled off five minutes before half-time.

The substitutes, Andy Walker and Simon Donnelly, were both strikers, so Burns was forced to reshuffe. John Collins, who has been scoring freely since the start of the season, dropped back into defence along with the midfield player Peter Grant.

Falkirk prospered, taking the lead through Nicky Henderson, who collected the ball midway inside Celtic's half and, after defenders backed off obligingly, he beat Gordon Marshall from 18 yards.

Nine minutes into the second half Mark McNally fouled Colin Cramb 30 yards from goal and Falkirk's John Clark scored with a ferocious drive.

James Traynor writes for the Herald, Glasgow.

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