A MAN who threw coins during the Old Firm game at which referee Hugh Dallas slumped to the ground with a head wound was jailed for three months yesterday, only to be released hours later on bail pending an appeal.

Celtic-fan Paul Hodge, 38, threw coins from his seat in Parkhead's West Stand during the May 1999 league decider for season 1998/99.

Glasgow Sheriff Court heard how Hodge's actions increased tension at the game, which saw one man fall 50ft from one of the ground's stands but escape injury.

The same game saw Celtic footballer Vidar Riseth sent off and fans run on the pitch to try and assault referee Hugh Dallas. Mr Dallas also had his home windows broken following the game.

Hodge, of Denbigh Road, Coventry, originally faced a charge of striking Dallas with a coin.

But the Crown decided not to pursue that charge and Hodge pleaded guilty at an earlier appearance to a reduced charge of throwing coins in the direction of the pitch and placing the people on it in a state of fear and alarm.

Mr Gary McAteer, defending, said his client's life had been changed because of the incident.

He had split up with a long-term girlfriend, received hate mail and was refused a job promotion.

But ''worst of all'' he had received a life ban from watching Celtic play.

Sheriff Brian Convery told Hodge that a message had to be ''sent out'' to those wanting to cause trouble at Celtic-Rangers matches.

The court heard how the atmosphere at the game was particularly tense because a win for Celtic would give them a chance of retaining the league championship.

However, Celtic fans at the game felt decisions made by Mr Dallas favoured Rangers.

Some fans tried to run on to the pitch to attack Mr Dallas, and one supporter fell 50ft from the stand.

This led to a number of incidents, one of which saw Mr Dallas needing stitches to a head wound.

CCTV cameras pinpointed Hodge as being one of the troublemakers.

But it wasn't until December 1999 that he was arrested.

Sheriff Convery said a jail sentence was unavoidable and that people must realise that Celtic-Rangers matches can have serious public safety issues.

He said: ''You went along to an Old Firm match and caused trouble in what was already an inflamed atmosphere. People must realise that this attitude cannot be tolerated by this and other courts.

''Given the nature of the offence I feel that I am only able to impose a custodial term of three months.''

Hodge was then led away to begin his sentence sobbing.

After the hearing Mr McAteer said he intended to lodge an appeal to overturn the conviction at the High Court in Edinburgh.

Mr McAteer, a solicitor with law firm Beltrami and Co, said: ''I feel this conviction is too harsh.Accordingly we will be lodging an appeal. I think there were better ways to deal with the case.''

Mr McAteer then asked in the afternoon that bail be given to Mr Hodge pending an appeal. This was granted and he left court without making comment.

Mr McAteer later said: ''He is relieved to say the least.''

The aftermath of that game caused Strathclyde Police to re-think security at the matches after 29 arrests were made inside the stadium, and 39 outside.

Among the changes introduced were that Old Firm matches being played on a Sunday are now played in the early afternoon.