An Antony Stokes hatrick eased holders Celtic into the fifth round with a comprehensive win at Balmoor, writes Jim Irving.
The day was all about the occasion for Peterhead and all associated with the club should be proud of the never-say-die attitude of the players who worked their socks off and made the Glasgow giants work hard for the victory.
Chairman Rodger Morrison and his staff also deserve a huge pat on the back for the professional way that the club organised the biggest day in the Blue Toon for the club in recent memory. The income generated will ensure not only the club but the community will benefit in years to come.
In theory, this tie was set up as a classic Cup upset in the making, the club top of the SPL travelling to the side only just above the basement of Scottish League football. However, the potential banana skin never looked on and keeping the margin of defeat to a respectable three goals will be looked on as a victory of sorts in itself.
After the game, manager Jim McInally admitted his disappointment at the almost complete lack of a goal threat his side posed and in situations like that, damage limitation is always the aim of the underdog.
A positive start in the opening few minutes gave the home support a momentary heart flutter and there were mild calls for a penalty but thereafter, predictably, Celtic swarmed towards Paul Jarvies goal.
Having said that, despite almost total possession, it was 26 minutes before the visitors caused a serious threat, Cha Du Ri cutting the ball inside from the byeline on the right but as soon as the ball flew from the boot of Stokes it was rising.
Three minutes later, a Charlie Mulgrew corner from the right was played to KI Sung Yeung a couple of yards outside the penalty box and his rocket of a shot cracked off the crossbar.
Ten minutes before the break a Mulgrew free kick 20 yards out and to the right of goal was well struck but Jarvie pulled off a fine save to turn the ball clear.
Whether the Peterhead defence were mentally patting themselves on the back after that or not, a minute later Jarvie was picking the ball out of his net after a soft opening goal. Georgios Samaras cut the ball into the path of Stokes who had the simple task of sidefooting home from a couple of yards out.
As the break approached, a free kick out on the left wing allowed the Blue Toon a brief respite as Ryan Stachan whipped the ball into the box but Celtic broke clear with Samaras again feeding Stokes but his close range finish was deemed offside.
Peterhead made a positive start to the second half but the inevitable second goal came after 57 minutes, Stokes turning and shooting in one movement to score into the far corner when nothing seemed on.
Two minutes later Stokes had a shot deflected wide then shot wildly over from the resultant corner.
The home side simply could hold onto the ball on the rare occasion they had it in their possession and the Celtic attacks flowed toward the Peterhead goal like a conveyor belt.
Substitute Brian Deasley had a brief sight of goal as he cut in from the left wing but his shot faded wide and soon after, the Blue Toon hopes were extinguished. Eight minutes from the end,that man Stokes powered an unstoppable shot through a ruck of defenders from the corner of the penalty box.
At the end of the day, everyone seemed to leave Balmoor happy. Celtic Manager Neil Lennon was gracious in victory as was McInally in defeat. The fans appreciated the teams endeavour and if the players show a similar commitment against bottom side East Stirlingshire on Saturday and for the rest of the season, something positive may yet be resurrected out a so-far disappointing campaign.
JARVIE, DONALD, MCBAIN, SCOTT ROSS, MACDONALD, STRACHAN, DAVID ROSS (DAVIDSON 68), REDMAN, MCALLISTER, BAVIDGE (WYNESS 60) SHARP (DEASLEY 46). SUBS NOT USED – JELLEMA, CONWAY
CELTIC: ZALUSKA, IZAGUIRRE, WILSON, BROWN, SAMARAS (TWARDZIK 70), STOKES, DU RI, LEDLEY (WANYAMA 67) YEUNG, MCCOURT, MULGREW (MCGEOUGH 81), SUBS NOT USED- FORSTER, MATTHEWS
REF: A MUIR
Attendance – 4,505