Celtic take revenge on St Mirren with four-goal blast but suffer Steven Welsh injury

David Turnbull scores Celtic's fourth  - GETTY IMAGES

David Turnbull scores Celtic’s fourth – GETTY IMAGES

For the second time in a week, Celtic netted four on the road while keeping a clean sheet, in this case in Paisley, where Tom Rogic’s opener was supplemented by second-half goals from Odsonne Edouard, Ryan Christie and David Turnbull.

The evening was marred somewhat for the Hoops by the injury sustained by Steven Welsh, who was stretchered off after a challenge by Jon Obika.

The contest was played out in the punishing aftermath of Storm Darcy, kicking off in a temperature of -4 degrees – and falling – with an uncongenial start of 8pm to suit the TV schedules. For once, those supporters who have yearned for the chance to back their team in person had the better of the deal, as they no doubt reflected from the comfort and warmth of their armchairs.

The fixture was one of Celtic’s two games in hand over Rangers and they would have given themselves the chance to trim the leaders’ advantage to 15 points had they prevailed when the teams last met at Parkhead on Jan 31.

Instead, that occasion belonged to St Mirren, who inflicted a first league defeat in 10 years and a first victory in the east end of Glasgow in three decades.

Nor was that a random outcome, the Buddies having knocked Rangers out of the Betfred Scottish League Cup in an enthralling quarter-final tie in Paisley in December –- the Ibrox side’s only loss in 39 games this season. With three games in hand over the teams immediately behind them in the table – Dundee United and St Johnstone – St Mirren’s motivation for this encounter was to consolidate a top- six finish.

Given the background, it was no surprise that the hosts took the game to Celtic, pressing high, harassing and generally enjoying themselves. Two setbacks in quick succession punctured this initial buoyancy. First, Jamie McGrath injured his shoulder in an over-physical challenge on Steven Welsh and had to leave the field with his jersey doubling as a sling, to be replaced by Kyle McAllister.

From the consequent free-kick, Celtic hung out in opposition territory for the first time and won a throw-in from which Rogic gathered and pushed into the box to place a full-blooded drive beyond goalkeeper Jak Alnwick.

The teams’ respective demeanours were transformed but, busy as they were, Celtic could not expand their advantage by the interval, although Kris Ajer should have got a goal out of a long-distance run, that included a stepover and a couple of shimmies before Alnwick pinched the ball from the tip of his boot.

With seconds left in the half, St Mirren should have pinched an equaliser when Dylan Connolly broke into the box with a clear sight of the target, but he slid his finish wide of the mark. When the teams reappeared for the restart, the Celtic substitutes were equipped with hot water bottles to stuff up their jerseys and hot drinks to fend off the vicious chill.

By contrast, a heated challenge by Obika on Welsh cost the Buddies’ striker a booking, but saw the Hoops’ central defender stretchered from the field after several minutes of treatment.

Celtic inflicted revenge at the other end of the field with a penalty converted by Edouard after Ryan Flynn fouled Greg Taylor in the box. The contest was put beyond doubt in a three-minute burst that saw Christie and Turnbull net with accomplished finishes in an emphatic climax.

Match details

St Mirren (3-5-2): Alnwick; Fraser, Shaughnessy, McCarthy; Connolly (MacPherson 68), Flynn (Erwin 82), Erhahon, Doyle-Hayes, Durmus; McGrath (McAllister 15), Obika.
Subs: Lyness (g), Tait, Mason, MacPherson, Finlayson, Erwin, Henderson, Jamieson.
Booked: Flynn, Obika, McCarthy.

Celtic (4-4-2): Bain; Kenny, Welsh (Duffy 65), Ajer, Taylor; Turnbull (Elyounoussi 85), Brown, McGregor, Rogic (Griffiths 82); Edouard (Klimala 79), Ajeti (Christie 65).
Subs: Barkas (g), Duffy, Griffiths, Klimala, Soro, Christie, Johnston, Elyounoussi.
Booked: Duffy.

Referee: David McGeachie.

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