Raith youngster revels in Celtic Park limelight

Ross Matthews and Scott Brown clash at Celtic Park last week - Credit - Fife Photo Agency -
Ross Matthews and Scott Brown clash at Celtic Park last week - Credit - Fife Photo Agency -

One of the highlights of the Raith Rovers performance at Celtic Park last Wednesday was young midfielder Ross Matthews.

The 19-year-old was handed only his third competitive start in the League Cup tie but he showed no fear as he mixed it with Celtic and Scotland captain Scott Brown in an impressive display.

“It was a great experience,” Matthews told the Press. “Since I was young I dreamed of playing at places like Ibrox and Celtic Park and I’ve done both this season.

“I’m disappointed with the result because I thought we played well. We really had them rattled for a good 10 minutes in the second half and I probably should have scored. I’ll have nightmares about that.

“The boys worked incredibly hard. We just switched off for a split second for the two goals and that’s what happens when you play top teams like Celtic.”

Matthews’ previous first team starts came at Dumbarton and Stenhousemuir but the teenager was not overawed by the Celtic Park surroundings - nor the verbal intimidation from Scott Brown.

“I was definitely ready for it,” he said. “I knew I was up against top midfielders in Kris Commons and Scott Brown and I thought I did alright. Scott Brown was in my ear the whole game, and I was happy to get a couple of tackles in on him.

“I don’t think what he said to me is repeatable, it was just the usual ‘next time you get the ball’ stuff, but it didn’t really faze me.”

Raith boss Ray McKinnon was full of praise for Matthews performance after the game - and even compared him to the Celtic skipper.

“That’s the sort of player I am,” he said. “I’m a defensive midfield player. I like to make tackles and get the ball.

“The gaffer said before the game that he wants me playing exactly the way Scot Brown does. He wants me breaking up play, winning the ball back, and keeping it.”

Matthews hopes that his performance against Celtic can convince the manager that he deserves more starts in the Championship.

“It you can play at Celtic Park I believe you can play anywhere,” he said. “That goes for everyone in the team. That performance will give us some belief going into the rest of the season.”

The outcome of the tie was in doubt up until Celtic scored a late second, which was testament to Raith’s gallant performance.

After falling behind on 32 minutes to a trademark Commons strike, Rovers continued to make life difficult for the Scottish champions, and had chances to equalise, before Stefan Johansen made sure of Celtic’s place in the quarter-finals with an 87th minute breakaway goal.