WHEN a player drops down a level from the first team to the Under-20s, you expect them to make an impact and to stand out amongst less experienced and less heralded talents.

Mikey Johnston and Glenn Middleton just did that at Parkhead. It was the Hoops kid that saw his efforts rewarded, though, as Celtic lifted the Glasgow Cup.

First half goals from Jack Aitchison and Johnston had Tommy McIntyre’s side seemingly easing to a victory that would see them reclaim the silverware on home soil. Rangers had other ideas, though.

A superb second half fightback had the game on course for penalties but Robbie Deas won it at the death for Celtic. The emotions in the respective camps couldn’t have been more different.

The Scottish Youth Cup may have evaded the Hoops at Hampden last midweek but the Under-20s did what their Under-18s couldn’t achieve as the Old Firm kids went head-to-head once again.


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Given the rise in age group, there were a number of more familiar faces on show for both teams and several on the park had tasted first team football at some stage of their development.

It was Aitchison that opened the scoring inside 20 minutes and it was a lead that Celtic deserved after an impressive start to the action as boss Neil Lennon watched on.

The Hoops had come close through a Johnston free-kick and long-range strike from Barry Coffey but the first goal came from an incisive attacking move. Armstrong Oko-Flex slipped the ball down the left to Aitchison and the forward beat Reece Breen with ease before firing home inside the near post as keeper Kieran Wright was left with no chance.

Rangers hadn’t really been able to get into the game, although they had come close when Stephen Kelly curled an effort just wide from the edge of the box. On the half hour mark, they could have pulled themselves level.

Josh McPake, the Man of the Match at Hampden last week, combined with Middleton down the right and the ball fell to Jamie Barjonas. His strike was powerful, but it rattled back off the back and to safety.

The Gers weren’t short of effort, but it was Celtic that looked more accomplished and composed on the ball.

When the second goal arrived, there was a touch of class about it. Johnston had been a constant threat for Celtic and he got the goal his play deserved with seven minutes remaining of the half.

Keeper Wright got a hand to a curling free-kick, but it was too well placed and too well struck. It was a moment of magic from the forward, and it should have been a match winning one.

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At that stage, it was hard to see Rangers coming back into it. The Light Blues were positive after the break, but the early goal they seemingly needed didn’t come, with Andy Dallas firing just over with their best chance of the opening spell.

Murty had switched Middleton to a role through the middle in an attempt to spark Rangers into action but openings proved hard to come by.

At the other end, Johnston almost doubled his tally and made sure of the win but a low effort was just wide of target. Almost immediately, he signalled to the bench that his night was over as he pulled up with a thigh injury.

The clock was now very much against Rangers but Middleton gave them a chance with a terrific low finish across target. Minutes later, sub Dapo Mebude couldn’t keep his shot down as Murty’s side chased an equaliser.

When it came, it did so in style. Middleton had grown into the game and started posing the kind of the threat he is capable of and his second strike was a stunning left-footed effort into the top corner of Ryan Mullen’s net.

It wasn't enough. In the last minute, and with the last attack of an entertaining match, Celtic won it in dramatic fashion.

Ewan Henderson’s free-kick from deep wasn’t cleared and Deas beat Wright with a terrific effort high into the opposite corner. The celebrations had barely stopped by the time the final whistle had blown.

There would have been pride amongst the dejection for Murty and his players. For Celtic, there was only euphoria as the silverware was held aloft.