Holiday mode, Iwata audition verdict; 3 things we learned as Celtic draw with St Mirren

By John McGinley

May 20, 2023

Celtic have failed to win for a second successive match in the Scottish Premiership after St Mirren took more points off the champions this season.

The Paisley side have competed against the Bhoys better than most in Scotland this term and today was no different. Taking a 2-1 lead into half-time thanks to Curtis Main, the Buddies held their own for much of the second half before Callum McGregor secured a late equaliser at 2-2.

For Celtic, the result has no bearing on any league matters, but with a big Scottish Cup final ahead in just a couple of weeks’ time, what are we taking away from today? Here are three of our talking points…

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Holiday mode far from ideal

Let’s be fair to this Celtic side. They’ve achieved their league objectives this season and today mattered little in the grand scheme of things. St Mirren are motivated right now as they chase European positions, too. A dip from the Bhoys at this stage of the season might be inevitable. Nobody is hitting the panic button.

But that doesn’t make dropped points any nicer, especially on a much-heralded return to Celtic Park after a month on the road. Fans were looking forward to seeing the champions produce a performance that shows off that status. The result certainly won’t please Ange Postecoglou. And the problem with going into holiday mode early is that it could be difficult to snap back into what is needed at Hampden in the Scottish Cup final.

That match against Inverness Caledonian Thistle is far from a gimme. If Celtic turn up in the manner they did today, Billy Dodds’ outfit will be delighted. Back-to-back dropped points are not the way the back-to-back title winners wanted these final matches to go. Celtic must start to build to a peak again for this Hampden clash and it must start on Wednesday night against Hibernian.

Iwata audition verdict

Having played extensively as a centre-back in Japan, there was intrigue around Tomoki Iwata being deployed in that role for Celtic this afternoon. It was something of an audition for him in that sense, having featured in midfield up to this point. Is he as versatile as we all hope?

The defensive line didn’t cover themselves in glory at all, so the jury is definitely out on whether Iwata is a viable option here going forward. Curtis Main enjoyed himself going up against today’s team, finding space on the ground and in the air to grab his double, as well as showing threat in other scenarios. Iwata did not look comfortable.

His best moment came in building the attack for Kyogo Furuhashi’s goal. He spotted Reo Hatate in space and threaded a smart ball through to him out from the back, with play swiftly moved on to Kyogo in space, who rifled home. It was a sign Iwata can be an effective distributor from deep, but in a defensive sense, he has much to prove.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Cup final places far from guaranteed

One thing we know about Postecoglou is that he doesn’t accept complacency. If he feels some of these players are playing below par right now, he will make changes. And it means that what may have been a pretty set starting eleven at Hampden is open for anyone to break into right now.

Impress against Hibs and Aberdeen over the next week and certainly any player’s hat would be thrown into the ring for a start in what could be a historic and joyous day for the football club. It should be fine motivation for all of these players, despite what they’ve already achieved this season.

That’s what the manager will be striving for now and let’s hope we see the reaction we want here. This treble is not in the bag yet.

In other news, Chris Sutton makes Celtic Champions League prediction.