12th March, 1988. Partick Thistle 0, Celtic 3.
As both teams prepared for the 5th round of their respective Scottish Cup campaigns, there was an air of uncertainty with regards to where the match in question would be played. Firhill was undergoing fairly major redevelopment at the time, and this match, a rare Glasgow derby for Thistle, was sure to be a sellout.
As a result of this, the home side made a request for the match to be played at Hampden, in order to allow more supporters to attend the tie. However, this request was turned down by the Scottish Football Association, forcing Partick Thistle to commission a significant amount of work on one of their terraces, in order for it to be able to opened to supporters on the day of the match.
As a result of the SFA’s decision to have the tie played at Firhill, Partick Thistle decided that they would still attempt to benefit financially (as much as possible anyway) from the occasion, by increasing the ticket prices supporters had to pay.
Regardless of this price rise, almost 17,000 people packed Firhill that day as Celtic went on to seal their place in the semi finals of the competition. The Hoops took an early lead, only seven minutes into the match, after exerting an immense amount of early pressure on the First Division side. Paul McStay, an integral part of Celtic’s side, played the ball into the box, where it was quickly controlled by Frank McAvennie, who crossed the ball for Andy Walker to head the ball home.
However, only minutes later, Celtic were fortunate not to concede not only an equaliser, but two goals. Partick Thistle striker John Mitchell squandered two great chances, as he sent one shot wide of the post and sent another straight at Packie Bonner when he was through on goal.
The score remained 0-1 to Celtic at the break. While Celtic had been the better side, it is likely that the home team would still have thought they had a chance with forty five minutes of the match remaining. However, with ten minutes gone in the second period of play, Celtic scored their second goal as McAvennie once again played the role of the provider, as he crossed a ball for Tommy Burns, who volleyed the ball home with his famous left foot.
As the match progressed, McAvennie hit the bar, allowing Billy Stark to head home the rebound, just as he had done in the previous round. At this stage Celtic began to relax and pass beautifully around the park, forcing the home side to chase the ball as they had against Hibs weeks earlier.
As fatigue and frustration began to take their toll on the Partick Thistle players, the referee was forced to reduce the home side to ten men with about fifteen minutes remaining, after Eddie Gallagher “caught” Anton Rogan in the face with his hand. One newspaper report described it as a “punch”, while another referred to it as an “accident”. I’ll let you read into those descriptions as you like.
All in all, Celtic were fairly comfortable winners at Firhill against their lower division opposition. In his post match interview, manager Billy McNeill described Tommy Burns’ performance as follows: “Tommy Burns deserved the man of the match award. He worked very hard but he also backed up many of his team mates. Although I felt that we didn’t quite hit peak form on Saturday, the professionalism shown by the players was pleasing.” He also referred to Billy Stark’s goals in the last two rounds of the tournament, saying “Billy Stark once again showed that when there is even a sniff of a chance he’ll always be there at the kill.”
And so, as the season moved another step closer to completion, Celtic booked their place in the last four of the Scottish Cup, setting up a tantalising semi-final against Heart of Midlothian at Hampden Park.
This is the third of five articles documenting Celtic’s triumphant Scottish Cup campaign during their centenary season. The previous two can be found in the “Blogs” section of the website, while the remaining two will be published on Saturday and Sunday respectively. Once again my thanks must go to the celticwiki.com, somewhere I always go when researching the content of any article.