CUP specialist James Forrest has former Celtic captain Gary Caldwell and Partick Thistle in his sights after shooting down the gallant challenge of Championship side Dunfermline in a tense, nervy Betfred League Cup encounter at Parkhead on Saturday.
The game was lurching towards the dreaded penalty-kick shoot-out, the score deadlocked at 1-1, when Celtic’s Scotland international winger struck the winner in the 114th-minute decider.
Mikey Johnston had given the holders the lead, but the Fifers rattled the Hoops when they nicked an equaliser through Tom Beadling.
However, Forrest had the final say with his strike to make certain of a quarter-final tie against Thistle at Parkhead next month.
The 28-year-old forward, speaking to the club website, sportingly paid tribute to the visitors who made life difficult for the home side right from the off.
He said: “Fair play to Dunfermline, they played well and made it very hard for us. We’re delighted to get through to the next round and that’s the most important thing.
“It took us to the second-half before we got into the game properly. Off the back of the disappointment of the game in midweek, to score was a big achievement for me.
WINNER…James Forrest races away in delight after scoring while Ryan Scully is a picture of dejection.
“It was an important goal and now we look forward to Thursday and the games that follow.
“But, again, Dunfermline played very well and that’s full credit to them.”
Forrest has scored League Cup Finals goals against Dundee United, Aberdeen and Motherwell in recent years and he got the ball rolling for Neil Lennon in his second game back as Hoops boss when he netted the opener in the Scottish Cup quarter-final victory over Hibs at Easter Road.
He followed that up with the first goal in the 3-0 semi-final triumph over Aberdeen, but allowed Odsonne Edouard to take centre stage against Heart in the Final on May 25 when the Frenchman hit a double in the 2-1 win to seal the treble treble.
Dunfermline defender Lewis Martin, speaking to the Scottish Sun, added: “The boys were amazing. Celtic are the treble treble winners and we were always going to be up against it.
“We fought all the way only for them to get lucky at the end.”
GARY CALDWELL, Hoops’ former Scotland international defender, saw the Jags eventually overcome Ross County 3-2 in another dramatic extra-time encounter at Firhill.
The Maryhill boss, speaking to BBC Sport, said: “It was an unbelievable game – toing and froing – but I thought the character, the resilience, the effort, the desire that we showed was the best I’ve seen since I’ve been at the club.
“It has to be the minimum standard going forward.
“We played against a very good Premiership side who, in my opinion, will stay up comfortably and took them right to the limit. We never let them off the hook, kept believing and in the end just edged it – and we deserved to win.”
Former Dingwall star Steven Saunders was the man who settled the encounter in the added-on half-hour
OLD KING GOAL…Kenny Miller in action for the Jags.
Coincidentally, it was ex-Firhill player Blair Spittal who had put the Highlanders head only for veteran frontman Kenny Miller to strike and push the tie into the extra period with James Penrice adding a second for Caldwell’s outfit.
However, County refused to roll over and Harry Paton levelled before Saunders claimed the winner to set up a meeting with the holders at Parkhead next month.
Steven Ferguson, the Staggies’ co-manager, told BBC Sport: “We didn’t think we did well enough from the start.
“Credit to Partick they were really up for the Cup-tie and rightly so. When you go one goal up, you think at the very worst you can do enough to see the game out and that’s how we thought it was going to go.
“The chances both sides had, it was like a game of basketball at times. We’re really disappointed as it was a massive opportunity missed.”