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BACK PAGE BULLETIN: CELTIC’S FORGOTTEN MAN IN EURO RETURN, DONS BOSS IN GAMBLE BACKFIRE, PREMIERSHIP REFS NAMED

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CRAIG GORDON will make only his sixth first-team appearance of the season when Celtic take on Cluj in their final Europa League Group E game in Romania on Thursday.

Ironically, the goalkeeper’s last appearance was the opening encounter in the competition when he played in the 1-1 draw with Rennes in France.

Neil Lennon has decided to rest Fraser Forster following his heroics in the 1-0 Betfred League Cup Final over Rangers at Hampden on Sunday.

Gordon has been stand-by since the club’s former shotstopper returned to the club on a season-long loan from Southampton in September. The Scotland international, who will be 37 on Hogmanay, will be out of contract in the summer.

Hoops boss Lennon, speaking to the Scottish Sun, said: “What I’ve got now are three top-class goalkeepers.

“It’s difficult for Craig because he’s not done a lot wrong and, to be fair, Scott Bain hasn’t, either.

“The opportunity to sign Fraser came around and I just thought ‘I can’t miss out on this one’ and, thankfully, it’s turned out to be the right call.

“I’m going to start Craig in Thursday to give him a game and keep him motivated and ticking over.

“It’s very difficult with goalkeepers, but it was my call and sometimes you have to make these decisions for what you think is best for the team and the club.”

Leigh Griffiths, who dropped out of the Hampden squad, is in line for some game-time, too, and Vakoun Issouf Bayo may also get a chance to show what he can do against the Romanians.

Celtic have already clinched top place in the section and will be seeded when they go into the knock-out draw on Monday.

DEREK McINNES made a triple substitution when Aberdeen went a goal down to Hibs after Martin Boyle netted at Easter Road on Saturday.

The Dons boss now acknowledges his decision may have been hasty.

McInnes, speaking to the Press and Journal, said: “We felt even at 2-0 there was something in the game. But the changes we made, maybe we were guilty of going for it a bit early. We wanted to be more of an attacking threat with two strikers and two wide players.

“I don’t want to dismiss it as a blip, but we didn’t defend the goals well enough. We allowed it to develop where Hibs could play as an away side.

“We were good value in the first-half and were far busier than they were. We counter-attacked really well and the speed of Jon Gallagher, Sam Cosgrove and Greg Leigh caused them problems.

“I’m maybe guilty of making too many changes looking back now. I thought the 3-4-1-2 we went to allowed us more possession of the ball and we got into good areas, but we didn’t do enough with the ball and I’ve gambled too early with the shape because it left us more open.”

WILLIE COLLUM, who was in charge of the Celtic v Rangers Betfred League Cup Final on Sunday, will be referee at the Premiership meeting of Aberdeen and Hamilton Accies at Pittodrie on Saturday.

Alan Newlands will be the man with the whistle when Hearts take on St Johnstone at Tynecastle while Alan Muir will be at Dingwall for Ross County v Kilmarnock. Nick Walsh will be the official for St Mirren v Livingston in Paisley.

On Sunday, John Beaton will be at Parkhead for Celtic v Hibs while Don Robertson will take care of Motherwell v Rangers at Fir Park which will be televised live by Sky Sports with a noon kick-off.

 

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Editor

Acclaimed author Alex Gordon wrote the biography of Scotland international legend Denis Law, entitled 'King and Country'. He is a former columnist with World Soccer magazine and Scottish correspondent of respected European journal L'Equipe.

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