Aidan Nesbitt’s first half strike was just enough to see Celtic through to meet Rangers in this year’s Hampden Final. But Motherwell had put up a stubborn defence of their cup, and Celtic weren’t home and dry until the very final whistle, and in fact anything but dry in some torrid conditions at Cappielow.
Celtic have yet to concede a goal in this year’s cup but knew they were in for a tough test against the reigning holders and a side which had beaten them just three weeks ago. Tommy McIntyre shuffled his team from the weekend’s league win, with Thomson, Ralston, Nesbitt and Johnston back in the starting line up.
Motherwell meanwhile had no such luxuries. With injuries to contend with Stephen Craigan added 3 under 17s to his depleted squad, with a number of his regular side forced to play out of their natural position.
Despite this Craigan’s side made a real game of it, with little to choose between the sides throughout. Nesbitt’s goal came at the end of an even first half of few clear cut chances. The difference between the sides ultimately was Celtic’s pace up front, with the dangerous trio of Johnston, PJ Crossan and Nesbitt the key to unlocking the Motherwell defence.
But it was ‘Well who began briskly enough and carved out the first opening in the third minute, perhaps the best they were to see all night. Jake Hastie hung a cross from the left flank to David Turnbull at the far post, but the striker couldn’t quite get hold of his header which drifted just wide of Conor hazard’s right hand post.
It wasn’t long before Celtic were up the other end. After a driving run Mark Hill released the Johnston inside the box with his shot blocked by Olly Pain, the Motherwell keeper also alert to stop Aidan Nesbitt’s rebound on five minutes.
Anthony Ralston then went close on 12 minutes, heading just over from a Nesbitt delivery into the box. Celtic went on to probably shade things in terms of possession, but the remainder of the half didn’t see too many further chances on target at either end.
Motherwell were organised and comfortable but vulnerable to the pace Celtic had up front.
Crosssan, Johnston and Nesbitt continued to provide a spark on the break, and Crossan’s dash and cross into the Motherwell box just needed someone to finish in the middle on 37 minutes. Joseph Thompson then had a great opportunity 39 minutes, after Nesbitt found him in the box, but fired just wide of the post.
It looked like things might peter out until half time, but Celtic finally broke the deadlock on 41 minutes, as Johnston played in Ralston on the overlap down the right edge of the box. Olly Pain could only block the full back’s shot straight out to Aidan Nesbitt, who from a tight angle despatched low into the empty net.