Self-inflicted mitigating circumstances or not with their missing personnel, this performance from Celtic was symptomatic of their title defence as a whole; uninspiring, listless and nowhere near good enough.

It was always going to be difficult up against a Livingston side that came into the game on an eight-game winning streak and bursting with confidence, and the differing levels of belief were evident in the opening exchanges as Livi came flying out the traps.

Celtic very rarely looked like scoring, with a fine Max Stryjek save from Jeremie Frimpong in the first half and a fine Anthony Ralston cross being spurned by late substitute Armstrong Okoflex the closest they came.

“If that had gone in it might have been a different story,” said Frimpong about his chance. “The keeper made a good save to be fair. These are the things you need to go your way.

‘We didn’t create too much in the game. One goal might have done it but I don’t think we can complain at the result.”

It all rather petered out in the end, which could well be the epitaph of their tilt at 10-in-a-row.


Livingston will take on Celtic again at the Tony Macaroni Arena on Wednesday night, but manager David Martindale has an arguably more important appointment earlier in the day, when he should finally find out if he has passed the SFA’s fit and proper person test.

Martindale’s crimes and conviction are well documented, but so too is his openness about his past and rehabilitation, and there can be little question over his capability to perform his job.

His influence on Livingston’s team and tactics has long been apparent, and the reaction of his players to his leadership is obvious.

Having done his time, it would seem contrary to the SFA’s own values of inclusion send Martindale back into the shadows. His team were again a fine testament to his managerial ability here.


The Celtic players and management were keen to downplay the influence that not having a striker available had on the bluntness of the home side, but while Tom Rogic was game, he was clearly a fish out of water trying to lead the line.

“We still had a strong side and a good shape to us,” said Frimpong. “We just didn’t play well enough.”

That Celtic didn’t play well enough is incontestable, but there seems little doubt that the lack of a focal point on attack contributed to that. Livi got their tactics spot on, pressing Celtic high up the park knowing that playing long to a target man was not an option for the home side.

Any time the ball came near Rogic, it was swallowed up by Jon Guthrie and Efe Ambrose, who perhaps had as easy a day any pair of visiting centre-backs to Celtic Park have ever had.

"That was definitely the game plan," said in-form Scott Robinson. "With the run we are on we felt we could come here and stamp our game on Celtic and take the game to them.

"We tried to do that and it was working. For the majority of the game we played really well and just needed that goal in the end."


It may seem churlish to criticise the Celtic defence given its make-shift nature and the fact they did indeed record a clean sheet, but that had more to do with the profligacy of Livingston – with Ambrose the chief sinner – than any solidity in the Celtic backline.

In fact, it seems that no matter who takes to the field for Celtic, the same old deficiencies remain, and it was no surprise to see Livi creating opportunities from set-pieces. Twice Ambrose got on the end of dead ball deliveries in the second half, with the first of those chances particularly glaring, as the former Celtic centre-back put a free header over from around eight yards.

When Shane Duffy was brought to Celtic in the summer, he was seen as the man to toughen up that soft centre at the heart of their defence, but opposition teams are still making hay from simple balls thrown into the heart of the box.


If there was to be one perceived benefit of Celtic having 13 players self-isolating in the last two matches, then it should have been the opportunity it presented to those on the periphery of the first team to stake a claim for more regular involvement.

Instead, most of those drafted in only served to underline why they aren’t central to manager Neil Lennon’s plans.

Anthony Ralston gives his all and put in a couple of decent crosses, but there has to be doubts over whether he will ever make the breakthrough at this level, while Mikey Johnston has been ineffectual over the past two matches.

In fairness to the winger, he has been out injured for a long time and still looks some way short of match fitness, but in these games where Celtic have been crying out for creativity, he has been found wanting.