Referees Thomson and McLean receive Scottish League Cup semis

Craig Thomson will take charge of Ross County’s tie with holders Celtic at Hampden Park and Steven McLean will handle Hibernian’s clash against St Johnstone at Tynecastle.

Steven McLean and Craig Thomson (2016 Lge Cup semis)
Coaching role: McLean (left) and Thomson (right) are both referee development officers for the Scottish Football Association (Pictures from Sky Sports)

REFEREES Steven McLean and Craig Thomson will take charge of the Scottish League Cup semi-finals for the second successive season.

McLean, 34, will be in the middle for St Johnstone’s tie with Championship side Hibernian at Hearts’ Tynecastle stadium on Saturday, January 30.

Thomson, 43, will oversee Celtic’s televised encounter with fellow Premiership outfit Ross County at Hampden Park on Sunday, January 31.

Both games will kick off at 15:00 GMT while BBC Scotland will screen the match at the national stadium involving last season’s winners Celtic.

Last year, Thomson was tasked with handling the first Old Firm derby between Celtic and Rangers in three years at this stage of the competition while McLean was in control of Dundee United’s meeting with New Firm rivals Aberdeen.

Steven McLean referee
Major showpiece: McLean was in charge of the 2014 League Cup Final between Aberdeen and Inverness at Celtic Park (Picture from Sky Sports)

Ironically, McLean – who is also a qualified fitness instructor – last oversaw a St Johnstone match at Tynecastle on the opening weekend of the season in their 4-3 defeat by Hearts.

His only Hibs games of 2015-16 so far have been their 1-0 defeat to title rivals Rangers at Ibrox in August and 2-0 League Cup third round victory over Aberdeen at Easter Road in September.

The Fifa official was in Gorgie as recently as December 27 when dishing out four yellow cards during Hearts’ dramatic 2-2 draw with Celtic.

Overall, the Glasgow-based whistler has handled 23 games in all competitions – brandishing 86 yellow cards, sending off three players and awarding nine penalties.

McLean was firmly in the spotlight the last time he refereed a semi-final after failing to spot a handball on the line by Inverness defender Josh Meekings in their 3-2 extra-time win over Celtic in the Scottish Cup last term.

Aside from last year’s League Cup semi-final, he also officiated at this stage of the tournament in 2012 as eventual winners Kilmarnock beat neighbours Ayr United 1-0 and was fourth official for St Mirren’s 3-2 win over Celtic in 2013.

McLean – who has been a regular fixture in Scotland’s top-flight since 2007 – will be assisted by Brian Templeton and Stuart Hodge, with Euan Anderson the fourth official.

Craig Thomson referee (Aberdeen v Hearts - 12th Dec 2015)
Vast experience: Thomson has refereed three League Cup finals and three Scottish Cup finals as well as several semi-finals in both competitions (Picture from Sky Sports)

Thomson, meanwhile, is no stranger to high-profile occasions as he prepares to take charge of his sixth League Cup semi-final and 15th domestic match at Hampden Park.

The Renfrewshire whistler – who was overlooked for Euro 2016, with Willie Collum preferred instead – has awarded more penalties (12) than any other Scottish official so far this season.

He has also issued 108 yellow cards and four red cards in 27 matches across five different competitions in 2015-16.

Thomson has encountered Celtic three times already this term – in their 4-2 win over Inverness in August, 2-1 defeat at Aberdeen in September and, most recently, the 5-0 home victory over Dundee United on October 25.

The Paisley-based official has also handled three Ross County games – the 2-1 win over Dundee United in August, 3-3 draw at Dundee in September, in which he sent off County skipper Andrew Davies, and 2-0 victory over Aberdeen in October.

It will be a fourth League Cup game of the campaign for former solicitor Thomson – now the most experienced referee in Scotland having been in the SPL since 2002.

He will be supported on the day by linesmen Joseph Lawson and Gary Hilland while Greg Aitken will be the fourth official.

Scott Brown lifts League Cup trophy
Triumph: Celtic won the League Cup for the 15th time last season after beating Dundee United 2-0 in the final (Picture from BBC Scotland)

Celtic – who won the trophy for the first time since 2008 in Ronny Deila’s debut campaign – were surprisingly beaten in the Scottish Cup semis by then First Division Ross County in 2010 in the sides’ only previous Hampden clash.

The only meeting this term came on the opening weekend as Jim McIntyre’s side lost 2-0 to the champions at Parkhead.

It will be the first time that St Johnstone – fourth in the Premiership – and Hibs, third in the Championship, lock horns since a top-flight fixture at McDiarmid Park in March 2014.

They also met at this stage in 2007 when Hibs won 3-1 on their way to winning the competition, courtesy of a 5-1 victory over Kilmarnock in the final.

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