22nd March 1969: Celtic v Morton – Scottish Cup Semi-Final

17th March 1969

We had ground out a reasonable result against Partick Thistle on the previous Saturday – at least it was a win – but there was still a feeling of disappointment among the players over the result against A.C.Milan in the quarter-final of the European Cup.

We had been very happy with the result in the first leg. To play in poor conditions in the San Siro against a team of Milan’s quality in front of a crowd of 80,000 and come away with a goalless draw would have satisfied most teams. Certainly, most people behind the scenes at Celtic Park seemed to be pleased with the result and they had been looking forward to the second leg.

Cesar was the subject of some criticism for the mistake which led to the Italians’ goal but in truth, an analysis of the play over both matches would tend to suggest that the defence did well to only lose one goal in 180 minutes. From our record in the league at that point – where we had scored 69 goals in 26 matches – our fans might have expected us to score at least one over the two legs. As we all know now, we did not…..and the fact that we went out of the European Cup at that stage – or more precisely, the way we went out, by a single goal over 180 minutes -really rankled with us and there can be little doubt that we were slightly off the boil against the Jags.

One piece of good news for us all had occurred on the Sunday morning, when Clyde’s Harry Hood joined the club for a fee of around £30,000. Harry had always been a very talented player and he would be a very welcome addition to the squad. He was present that Monday morning, when we just went through a fairly light session, as we had a match on the Tuesday evening against Dundee at Dens Park.

And Harry was named in the squad which would travel to Dundee on the morrow. It consisted of Fallon, Craig, Gemmell, Murdoch, McNeill, Brogan, Johnstone, Chalmers, Wallace, Auld, Hughes, Clark, Callaghan and Hood.

18th March 1969

We were all still at home when the news came though by phone that the match at Dens Park had been cancelled due to the pitch being both ‘icy and dangerous’. We were given the day off.

19th March 1969

We reported in again and worked pretty hard over at Barrowfield. Bobby Lennox was still receiving some treatment but also did some running and even the papers suggested that he might make the semi-final against Morton on the Saturday.

20th March 1969

Training again. Everyone seemingly in good form but Lemon was not right and it was announced in the evening press that he would not make it.

21st March 1969

We did the usual light session on the day before a match and then went home quite early, just after the Boss announced the squad of squad of 13 for the match.

The two semi-finals were Celtic v Morton and Rangers v Aberdeen and there was no doubt what the press thought would be the outcome of the two semi-finals –

All Set for an “Old Firm” Final

22nd March    The Day of the Match

This was obviously a special occasion as we were taken for a pre-match over in the south of the city, and as the other semi-final was at Parkhead, we were told to report quite early before any crowds started to gather. A police escort was on hand to take us firstly through the streets to the chosen hotel for the meal and then back to the National Stadium for the match.

When we arrived at Hampden, we went right out on to the pitch to check the conditions and the Morton guys were already out there. We had not played the team from Greenock since before the turn of the year but they were all known to us and we had a good chat out on the grass before coming in to get ready for the fray.

The Teams

Craig, Gemmell
Murdoch, McNeill, Brogan
Johnstone, Wallace, Chalmers, Auld, Hughes.  
Sub: Callaghan

Ferguson, Rankin
Jensen, Gray, Strachan
Coakley, Allan, Harper, Sweeney, Bartram.    
Sub: Mason

The Play

The Celtic fans in the crowd of 48,396 were shocked – as were we, to be honest – when Morton scored in their first attack…

2 minutes….ex-Celt Gerry Sweeney swept the ball out to Bartram on the left wing. As I approached him for the challenge he swung a cross into the middle and there was Allan to beat John Fallon with a header.   Celtic 0  Morton 1

It was a real blow to us but to give us credit, we buckled down, grabbed control of the play and started to push the ball around. However, while we might have had the vast majority of the play and made some chances, the Hoops fans in the ground had to wait some time to see their side score a goal-

34 minutes…..High ball into the box from Cesar and Wispy got there first with a header.  1-1

Th next goal came just before the break and this one was also for the Hoops –

43 minutes……corner for Celtic, Bertie Auld got a chance to get a shot in, the ball re-bounded out off a defender right to Cesar, who slammed it home.  2-1

As we came up the tunnel for the half-time break, I, for one, was expecting the Boss to be in a grumpy mood but in actual fact he was calmness personified, merely pointing out one or two things that he would like to change and encouraging us to keep the pressure on. And we did, pushing Morton back in defence and we soon got another goal –

56 minutes……a low shot by Stevie completely deceived keeper Nielson.  Celtic 3 Morton 1

We were completely in control by this time, the vast majority of the play well back in the Morton half, with the guys from Greenock only making the occasional attack. We were not always precise with our finishing but we did take advantage of a chance before the end –

65 minutes…..solo run by Jinky ended with a fine shot. 

Final Score  Celtic  4  Morton  1

Other Semi-Final

Aberdeen  1   Rangers  6

League Results

Arbroath  3  Falkirk  0                     
Dundee Utd  2  St Mirren  2        
Kilmarnock  0  Clyde  0
Partick Thistle  0  Dundee  4        
Raith Rovers  1  St Johnstone  3