His greatest game – Danny McGrain – 1976 Hearts 3-4 Celtic

This game is fondly remembered by Celtic fans of the period, for their teams’ magnificent comeback on a cold, winter’s day at Tynecastle. It is also recalled for Hearts’ striker Willie Gibson scoring an excellent hat-trick to become one of a very select band of players to have achieved this against a Celtic team.

Hearts had the better of the first half and in the opening ten minutes they were 2-0 up due to Gibson’s opportunism. Celtic replied in 21 minutes when Danny McGrain’s free kick was headed on by Kenny Dalglish for Roddy MacDonald to score.

Things looked bleak when Gibson completed his hat-trick from the best move of the game, following a flowing Hearts attack. However, Celtic’s veteran forward, Bobby Lennox, managed to pull a goal back before half time to reduce Hearts’ lead to 3-2.

The 21,000 crowd were breathless at half time from the on field action, and the excitement was to continue into the second half. If Hearts had the better of the opening period then Celtic were now to dominate the final period of play.

Danny McGrain proved an inspiration after half time, with his dynamic runs from the full back position setting up a plethora of Celtic attacks. It was commented afterwards that Hearts fine left winger, Bobby Prentice, was charged with the duty of marking McGrain when it should actually have been the other way round. McGrain was a one-off talent, a player who could actually dictate the flow of play from the right-back position, as well as any midfielder could further up the field.

On the hour mark McGrain made yet another thrusting run into the Hearts area, beating several players in the process. He cleverly stopped the ball on the bye line and cut the ball back to Kenny Dalglish, taking out the Hearts ‘keeper, Brian Wilson, in the process. Dalglish calmly took aim, and placed a fine shot between the two Hearts defenders on their goal line, to bring Celtic level.

 The Celtic fans were in a fervour and roared their team on as they sensed a remarkable comeback was in the offing. Celtic hammered away at the Jambos’ defence and missed a series of chances through careless finishing, with John Doyle being the main culprit. As time wore on it looked as though Celtic’s efforts were to be in vain.

With only three minutes remaining, Celtic’s frantic attacks came to fruition. Dalglish found space in the crowded area and his rising shot was parried high into the air by Wilson, only for Ronnie Glavin to score with a fine scissors-kick volley as the ball landed.

Celtic prevailed at the end of this remarkable game by 4-3. The green and white clad fans happily sang their way into the Edinburgh gloom and the media were fulsome in their praise for the Celts’ fine comeback. The Sunday Mail reported that ‘Celtic produced the type of comeback normally associated with the US Cavalry and drove their fans into hysterical joy with the winner three minutes from time.’

Most observers made Danny McGrain as man of the match in view of his heroic second half display of attacking football. McGrain was now at the peak of his powers and at the end of the season he was the overwhelming choice as Scottish footballer of the year. This was a much deserved award for one of the greatest players that Scotland has ever produced.

 

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