Glasgow Celtic 2 Ross County 0

Last updated : 10 January 2004 By Footymad Previewer

Celtic eventually and predictably made it through to the fourth round of the Scottish Cup. However, it took two late goals by John Hartson and Paul Lambert to extinguish the challenge from Ross County and prevent an upset.

Indeed on the hour mark, Rab Douglas in the Celtic goal brilliantly blocked efforts from David Winters and John Rankin when the scoreline was still level.

The Dingwall side can be very proud of their display. Their only disappointment will be that Parkhead was only half full with a crowd of 30,565 watching a display which merited a full house.

After their defeat to Inverness Caledonian Thistle last season in the cup, Celtic fielded a strong side with Lambert returning to duty. However, recent signing Stephen Pearson had to be content with a seat on the bench. Chris Sutton stepped back to join the back three, with Stanislav Varga a substitute.

After the passion of last week's Old Firm derby it was a low-key start to the match though Graham Bayne showed that he was going to be a threat in the air as he was also to prove later.

The home team first threatened when Hartson's inside pass found Sutton, but his cutback was cleared.

The visitors showed that they were not there just to make up the numbers when Mark McCulloch seized on indecision between Bobo Balde and Didier Agathe before watching his drive narrowly clear the bar with Douglas scrambling along his line.

Graeme Smith in the County goal had an outstanding match and did well to hold Henrik Larsson's powerful shot.

The home team thought they had made the breakthrough in the 24th minute, but Hartson was adjudged to have nudged Sean Webb before hitting home Larsson's flick.

Both Webb and Jim Lauchlan marshalled Hartson and Larsson as well as any visiting team this season, with Larsson in particular finding it hard to find space.

Smith again came to his side's rescue with a good save from Shaun Maloney's left-foot shot after Neil Lennon's astute pass had found the striker.

Winters cut between Balde and Lambert, but his appeals for a penalty were dismissed. Lauchlan then became the game's only booking with a crude lunge at Larsson from behind.

Celtic's lacklustre display was summed up when the closest they came to a goal in the first half was when Webb nearly put past his own keeper from Ross Wallace's chip.

Buoyed up by reaching the interval all square, County were more adventurous at the start of the second half.

Stephen O'Donnell's pass across the box found Rankin and Douglas could only parry out his cross to Winters, but the keeper recovered well to block his drive from eight yards.

Winters then chipped an effort narrowly wide as the visitors sensed the chance of an upset in front of their 3,000 travelling fans.

It nearly happened when Douglas could only stand and watch as Bayne's header from Rankin's cross landed on the roof of the net.

Such was Celtic's anxiety at this stage that Stilian Petrov was sent on for the ineffective Maloney. Larsson saw two efforts saved by Smith before Celtic took the lead.

Lennon moved the ball wide to Wallace and from his cross Hartson's glancing header left Smith helpless. County were upset claiming that Hartson had pushed Webb before scoring, but referee Ian Grimes waved away their appeals.

The game was over five minutes later when Celtic scored their second. After Larsson's header from Wallace's corner had come back off the post, Petrov teed up Lambert to shoot high into the net with the help of a deflection.