Football / Scottish Cup: Coyne spins out Celtic

IT WAS a cruel blow, but Tommy Coyne's headed goal eight minutes before the end of a dismally frenetic Scottish Cup third-round tie almost certainly brought Celtic's season to a premature end.

Motherwell's 1-0 win, which earned them a trip to Dundee United, has probably ensured that one of Scotland's two biggest clubs will finish a campaign without a trophy for the fifth successive time.

Celtic's plight was highlighted only an hour before the tie at Fir Park yesterday when Charlie Nicholas took ill and had to be left out. Celtic's manager, Lou Macari, was left with only 14 players and Frank McAvennie, who has not been able to command a first-team place, was thrown a jersey. Having been away from the sharp end of the game for so long, it was inevitable that McAvennie would be short of the alacrity required at this level and he was unable to trouble a Motherwell defence held together by Brian Martin and Chris McCart.

As a consequence, Celtic suffered their second defeat at Fir Park in two weeks - they lost 2-1 in a league match - but this one was more painful. Macari knows his side are short of the skills needed to last the distance in a league campaign which spans 44 matches, and having watched Rangers take the League Cup earlier in the season, all remaining hope rested on a Scottish Cup run. However, it was Coyne who applied the killer touch.

He had been subdued for most of the game, but when the ball dropped to him at the far post towards the end, he pounced. He is a scorer - 'a predator' was how Motherwell's manager, Tommy McLean, described him. This is a species Celtic lack. They create chances and knock the ball around with a flourish, but they cannot score, and even though Macari has been pleading for money, the directors who control Celtic are broke.

Perhaps if yesterday's defeat now forces change - more supporters will stay away from Celtic and this might be the only thing which will make the directors listen to reason - it will come to be seen as a blessing in disguise. But in the meantime, Celtic and their followers can only watch on as others vie for the prizes.

The Scottish FA is set to launch an inquiry after the Clydebank goalkeeper, Alan Monaghan, was attacked by Dundee fans during the 1-1 draw at Kilbowie Stadium. Nearly 100 visiting fans invaded the pitch after Dundee's Paul Tosh scored an 83rd-minute equaliser. Monaghan was attacked in his goalmouth before being rescued by his team-mates. The referee, Alistair Huett, held up the game for five minutes as the keeper was taken to the dressing-room for treatment but the match was finally completed with Monaghan back in goal.

The other half of the Old Firm, Rangers, beat Dumbarton 4-1 and have been drawn against the winners of the game between Alloa and the Highland League side, Ross County. Perhaps the tie of the fourth round will be played out in Edinburgh between Hibernian and Hearts, who yesterday beat Clyde 2-1 and Partick Thistle 1-0 respectively. Hibs will not be too happy about having to play Hearts, who have not lost an Edinburgh derby in five years.

TENNENTS SCOTTISH CUP Fourth round: Clydebank or Dundee v St Mirren; Airdrie or Dunfermline v Stranraer; Rangers v Alloa or Ross County; Morton or Cowdenbeath v Kilmarnock; Hibernian v Hearts; St Johnstone v Stirling Albion; Dundee United v Motherwell; East Stirlingshire or Aberdeen v Raith Rovers.

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