Three defining Rugby Park clashes in recent past

By David Walton

September 22, 2018

With a huge game around the corner tomorrow, we take a look at Celtic’s best moments at Rugby Park in recent memory.

Much focus has been made of how Brendan Rodgers hasn’t beaten Steve Clarke in his managerial career. That’s not for the want of trying either. The Killie manager and the Celtic supremo have met on three occasions, with Killie snatching two draws and a win.

Rodgers has some selection issues to sort out, and he won’t be looking forward to the game on Sunday.

With regards to previous meetings, it’s Clarke’s side that are looking on with fondness. Here, however, we look at the most iconic moments Celtic have had in Ayrshire in recent years:

KILMARNOCK 1-2 CELTIC (April 27th 2007)

Shinsuke Nakamura was a hero during his time at Parkhead (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

There’s only one word to use when discussing this game with Celtic fans – magic.

The feeling after the game was exactly that as the Hoops won their second consecutive league title under Gordon Strachan.

As has been the case, this game will forever be remembered for Shinsuke Nakamura’s sensational free-kick in the dying moments. With the Hoops looking like having to wait even further for their title part, Naka stepped up to curl home an emotional winner.

Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink did bullet Celtic in front on 24 minutes. That moment was often forgotten, as was the fact Celtic dominated afterwards.

Yet, after Steven Naismith missed a sitter, Colin Nish stroked home an equaliser after the half-time interval.

Celtic were deflated afterwards. Their movement was poor, their passing was off, and it never looked like a winner was coming.

Step up Nakamura, who curled into Alan Combe’s right-hand corner to give Celtic a huge second title under the manager.

KILMARNOCK 0-6 CELTIC (April 7th 2012)

Charlie Mulgrew got Celtic on their way at Rugby Park (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Five years later and it was the same scenario without the late drama.

Under Neil Lennon, Celtic were powering to their first league title in three years. Rangers had previously won three in-a-row, but had faltered on and off the pitch by this point.

At Parkhead, things couldn’t have been rosier as Lennon’s side was building nicely. The Northern Irishman as in his second year in charge at Celtic Park, and his side put in a performance to remember in Ayrshire on this occasion.

Charlie Mulgrew and Gary Hooper both bagged braces. Glen Loovens and Joe Ledley were the other pair to get on the score-sheet.

From the moment the game started, Celtic knee this was going to be a day of supreme joy. The party atmosphere was being felt by the players on the pitch, and they cut Kilmarnock open at will.

This was a defining moment in Lennon’s tenure. It was just a season later the Hoops had their remarkable run to the last 16 under the Northern Irishman. Their in over Barcelona also took centre-stage, but those achievements were built on this heroic day at Rugby Park.

KILMARNOCK 3-3 CELTIC (October 11th 2011)

Neil Lennon’s job was saved at Rugby Park (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Rewind the clock back six months and Lennon was on the brink as Celtic manager. Losing the first Old Firm game of the season and failing to make any Europa League impact, Celtic were faltering badly.

There was nothing special on the cards with a routine trip to Rugby Park one afternoon. It became very clear, however, that this wasn’t to going be a normal away day.

Dean Shiels, Paul Heffernan, and James Fowler had the home side cruising at half-time. Lennon’s job was on the verge of being taken from him. Celtic needed a reaction, or the iconic Northern Irishman was out the door.

Anthony Stokes, however, had something to say about that. The Irishman notched two goals in the second half as he inspired a second-half comeback.

Charlie Mulgrew’s title-winning goals six months later wasn’t his first at Rugby Park that season. This one was perhaps even more crucial. Indeed, Mulgrew nodded home an equaliser with minutes to go to spark Celtic into life and save Lennon’s job.

The manager needed a reaction from his squad here. This comeback was a springboard for Celtic’s success under Lennon in the months and years to come.