CELTIC match winner Alistair Johnston tonight admitted the “patchy” Parkhead pitch is preventing the Scottish champions from playing the free-flowing football their manager Brendan Rodgers wants to see – but stressed they can’t use it as an excuse for poor performances.

Canadian right back Johnston scored his first ever goal at Celtic Park after just 54 seconds of the cinch Premiership game against second-bottom Ross County this afternoon and his strike was all that separated the two teams at the end of the 90 minutes.

The defender acknowledged that it had not been the Glasgow club’s finest performance of the 2023/24 campaign and confessed the conditions underfoot had made it hard for them to produce their best football.

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“It’s patchy,” he said. “That’s a nice way to describe it. I’m not exactly sure, I’m not an expert on agriculture or landscaping. But I think it’s difficult not getting a ton of sunlight given how big Celtic Park is.

“The away team coming see it’s difficult and it probably doesn’t play to our favour with how we play. But both teams play on it and we’ve all grown up playing on much worse. It’s flat, that’s all we can ask for. When you come out of winter it’ll be green again I’m hoping.”

The Herald: Johnston - who had only scored one goal for Celtic, in a rout of St Mirren in Paisley last season, before today – confessed that he had been delighted to open his account at Parkhead in the very first minute.

“I need to see the time on the clock again,” he said. “It felt quick. I’ll take that. It wasn’t pretty but none of mine ever will be. So getting one was nice as was getting the quick start which could have kickstarted a better result. But a clean sheet at home after scoring in the first minute, you can’t ask for more than that.”
He is certain the league leaders, who played their first competitive game since the winter break against Buckie Thistle in the Scottish Cup last Sunday, will improve as they take part in more competitive matches.  

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“I thought Ross County did a really good job with their organisation,” said Johnston. “The keeper made good saves and they made it difficult with their pressure on the ball. They rallied and kept pressing. Not every team does that and their level of fitness and organisation kept them in the game and they made it very difficult for us till the end.

“We’re just focused on getting into our rhythm. We know if we start playing football the results will come. Coming out of the break we’re finding our feet again and getting that rhythm.

“That’s when the top teams kick into gear and we want to look back and say no matter what happens we went through a purple patch playing our football. If we play the way we want to then we can get three points every match so it’s in our hands.”