Scottish Premiership: Celtic take New Year honours in Old Firm derby

Scott Sinclair scores the winner as Celtic claim the New Year honours in Glasgow by coming from behind to beat Rangers at Ibrox and earn a 15th successive league win.

  •  Old Firm derby on Hogmanay at packed Ibrox
  •  Miller puts Rangers ahead early on
  •  Dembele and Sinclair turn it around for Celtic
  •  Hoops maintain unbeaten domestic record
players-tunnel
Adversaries: Celtic and Rangers went head to head for the 404th time in a competitive game – and the first at Ibrox since March 2012 (Picture from Sky Sports)

Celtic claimed the New Year honours in Glasgow, coming from behind to beat Rangers and record a 15th successive league win in the first Old Firm derby at Ibrox in almost five years. 

Veteran striker Kenny Miller rewarded Rangers’ early enterprise by firing them into the lead from close range against his former club.

With their first shot on target, Moussa Dembele drew the Hoops level with a spectacular finish for his fifth goal against Rangers this season.

Celtic upped the ante in the second half and showed their powers of recovery, as Scott Sinclair scored the winner with 20 minutes remaining.

As 2017 approaches, Brendan Rodgers’ men open up a 19-point lead at the top of the Scottish Premiership, with a game in hand to come against St Johnstone next month, heading into the winter break – the biggest ever advantage at this stage of a top-flight season.

The champions, seeking a sixth successive league title and first under Rodgers, have a hat-trick of derby wins this term after September’s 5-1 demolition at Celtic Park and the League Cup semi-final success the following month.

Rangers can take plenty of positives, with Barrie McKay excellent as an attacking force, but Mark Warburton’s side, who are now only two points ahead of third-placed Aberdeen, face a battle to secure the runners-up spot after suffering a first home defeat in 34 games.

Lining up with a back three, the hosts hit the front by pressing Celtic in wide areas from the outset.

It paid dividends in the 12th minute when Josh Windass released James Tavernier to cross low for Miller – wearing the captain’s armband in the injured Lee Wallace‘s absence – who finished well inside the six yard box for his 10th Old Firm goal.

But in the aftermath, fellow forward Joe Garner had to be stretchered off and was replaced by Martyn Waghorn.

Rangers continued to look menacing and ask questions of the Celtic defence but, after Sinclair struck the post and Clint Hill put the rebound behind for a corner, the visitors responded.

Stuart Armstrong’s deep delivery picked out Dembele, who had escaped the attentions of Danny Wilson, and the Frenchman instantly brought the ball under control before unleashing a powerful left-foot volley into the roof of the net for goal number 19 this season.

Celtic came out stronger in the second period to take a firm grip of proceedings, with Wes Foderingham in the Rangers goal the much busier keeper.

Armstrong and James Forrest brought good saves from the ex-Swindon man before Dembele hit the frame of the goal with a mishit effort after good work from Calum McGregor – returning after a one-match ban.

Rangers continued to offer a threat as McKay’s long-range effort and a Wilson header tested Celtic stopper Craig Gordon – celebrating his 34th birthday.

But the visitors struck the decisive blow to complete the turnaround in front of their delighted supporters as substitute Patrick Roberts found Armstrong in space and his inviting cross was touched in by Sinclair for his ninth of the campaign.

rodgers
Worse for wear: Rodgers appeared to injure himself whilst celebrating Sinclair’s goal (Picture from Sky Sports)

Celtic could have gone further ahead in the closing stages as Armstrong, Sinclair and sub Nir Bitton produced more saves from Foderingham.

And Rangers might have snatched a late leveller through Miller, who hit the base of the post from a well-weighted centre by Andy Halliday.

However, as referee Steven McLean – excellent on his Old Firm derby debut – blew the final whistle, the hosts could only reflect on an encouraging display despite their best efforts.

Meanwhile, Celtic ensured they signed off for 2016 by maintaining their domestic bliss after proving once again why they are looking such an unstoppable force this season.


TEAMS:

rangers-xi

Substitutes: Waghorn (on for Garner 16′), Dodoo (on for Windass 65′) and Forrester (on for Holt 83′).
Not used: Gilks (GK), Hodson, Crooks, O’Halloran.
Booked: Hill, Tavernier, Windass
Goals: Miller (12′)

 

celtic-xi

Substitutes: Roberts (on for Forrest 68′) and Bitton (on for McGregor 86′).
Not used: De Vries (GK), Toure, Gamboa, Mackay-Steven, Griffiths.
Booked: Simunovic, Lustig, Brown
Goals: Dembele (33′), Sinclair (70′)


MATCH OFFICIALS:

Steven McLean referee

Referee: Steven McLean – 9/10
Assistant referees: Douglas Ross and Frank Connor
Fourth official: John Beaton

Scottish Premiership: Steven McLean to referee Old Firm derby

Fifa referee Steven McLean will take charge of his first ever Old Firm derby when the two fierce Glasgow rivals meet on Hogmanay at Ibrox.

  •  First Old Firm derby for Renfrewshire whistler McLean
  •  First derby not officiated by Collum or Thomson since 2012
  •  Second league meeting of the season
  •  Celtic boss Rodgers’ first trip to Ibrox
Steven McLean referee
On the rise: McLean is regarded as one of the up and coming officials in Scottish football and on the international stage (Picture from Sky Sports)

Steven McLean will referee his first ever Old Firm derby in the televised New Year’s Eve lunchtime showdown, the Scottish FA has confirmed. 

The highly-rated Fifa official has been given the difficult task of administering law and order in the Hogmanay meeting of bitter Glasgow rivals Rangers and Celtic (KO 12:15 BST, live on Sky Sports).

He will be assisted at Ibrox by Frank Connor and Douglas Ross – who were also the linesmen for September’s Celtic Park derby – while John Beaton will be keeping the peace in the dugout as the fourth official.

Both meetings this term – Celtic’s 5-1 league win and 1-0 League Cup semi-final victory at Hampden – were officiated by seasoned campaigners Willie Collum and Craig Thomson respectively.

Collum and Thomson – Scotland’s only Uefa Elite Category officials – are the only referees among the current crop in the country who have previously experienced what is one of the most thankless tasks in world football.

So there is a certain level of responsibility on the shoulders of McLean, who has seemingly beaten off competition from Beaton and Bobby Madden to be appointed, in order to show that other officials are capable of rising to this particular challenge.

Only in an interview at the start of the season did McLean confidently insist the country’s whistlers can cope with the return of the unique Old Firm environment and there is enough strength in depth in terms of the number of leading match officials.

The 35-year-old has shown he can handle high-profile occasions in the 2014 League Cup Final at Celtic Park and last season’s dramatic Scottish Cup Final involving Rangers, after which he and his fellow match officials were caught up in an unsavoury pitch invasion.

steven-mclean-in-action-inverness-v-ross-county-27th-oct-2015
Regular: McLean will take charge of his 11th Scottish Premiership game of the season at Ibrox (Picture from BBC Scotland)

McLean has been fourth official for two Old Firm derbies before but nothing can quite prepare him for his debut in the middle, with the Scottish Premiership’s top two desperate to sign off in 2016 with a winning feeling and bragging rights to boot.

The East Renfrewshire whistler endured an eventful afternoon in Rangers’ home win over Aberdeen at the start of the month, dishing out nine yellow cards and sending off both Gers defender Clint Hill and Dons skipper Ryan Jack in stoppage time.

Incidentally, McLean last encountered Celtic in a league match against the Dons at Pittodrie in October but many Hoops fans felt he allowed Aberdeen to apply too much rough treatment despite only brandishing five bookings in their side’s 1-0 victory.

They were the only occasions he has officiated either side in the league this term although McLean oversaw Rangers’ first competitive game of the campaign, in their 2-0 win at Motherwell in July in the Betfred Cup.

Celtic supporters will also remember McLean as the referee who oversaw their controversial Scottish Cup semi-final defeat against Inverness in 2015.

The officials – including an additional assistant referee positioned behind the goal – failed to spot a clear handball by Josh Meekings on the line before Hoops keeper Craig Gordon conceded a penalty and was sent off.

Celtic boss Ronny Deila was furious after the game with the first-half decision, which happened when his side led 1-0, and the club subsequently wrote to the Scottish FA but nothing came of their complaints.

McLean has since handled five matches involving the champions without any major controversy but incurred the wrath of then Hearts boss Robbie Neilson for failing to protect his players against Hamilton in November.

Steven McLean points for goalkick (Hearts v St Johnstone - 2nd August 2015)
Fresh: McLean hasn’t officiated a game since Hibernian’s 1-1 draw at Greenock Morton in the Championship on December 17 (Picture from BT Sport)

Overall, he has brandished 95 yellow cards, sent off four players (three in the Premiership and all for second bookable offences) and awarded four penalties in 21 games in all competitions so far this season.

McLean – a Fifa referee since 2010 who refereed his first SPL game in November 2008 – is the older brother of former Ross County and Dundee United defender Brian McLean.

A qualified fitness instructor and physiotherapist, he is now employed full-time by the SFA as a referee recruitment and education officer.

Elsewhere, Willie Collum will be in the middle for Hearts against Aberdeen on Friday night as third and fourth in the table lock horns at Tynecastle.

You can see a full list of this weekend’s SPFL match official appointments here.


‘Horrendous and horrible’ – Fans react:

As is normally the case before any derby encounter, there is a lot of division among fans on social media – but most supporters of both teams have been largely united in being unimpressed with the choice of referee.


State of play:

Mark Warburton’s Rangers will be desperate to make home advantage count as they seek to record a first league win over their arch nemesis since a memorable 3-2 win over nine-man Celtic at Ibrox in March 2012.

But Celtic will have other ideas in their bid to increase their lead at the summit to a massive 19 points and simultaneously maintain their unbeaten domestic record this season under Brendan Rodgers.

Both sides had mixed fortunes on Wednesday night, with Rangers failing to get the better of St Johnstone in a 1-1 draw at McDiarmid Park while goals from Erik Sviatchenko and Stuart Armstrong gave Celtic a routine 2-0 victory over Ross County at Parkhead.

Attention can now fully turn to the 404th meeting in one of world football’s oldest rivalries. Rangers know only a fifth league win in six games would be enough to keep alive their slim hopes of toppling Celtic, who have scored 11 goals in their last three away league games.

Scottish Premiership: Steven McLean to referee Aberdeen v Celtic

Fifa referee Steven McLean will take charge of the weekend’s first and stand-out fixture at Pittodrie as the top-flight’s top two go head to head for the second time this season.

Steven McLean referee
Reunited: It will be a first Celtic game of the season for McLean – and only his second of 2016 (Picture from Sky Sports)

REFEREE Steven McLean will take charge when Celtic visit Aberdeen in the Scottish Premiership this weekend.

The 35-year-old Fifa official will make his first trip to Pittodrie of the season as the champions look to move further clear at the top of the table this Saturday lunchtime (KO 12:00 BST, live on Sky Sports).

In their previous meeting back in August, Bobby Madden sent off Dons defender Mark Reynolds and awarded the Hoops a penalty late on in their 4-1 win at Parkhead.

McLean will encounter Celtic for the first time since he oversaw his only other match between the sides who have finished in the top two in the last three seasons earlier this year.

He gave out four yellow cards and put in a good display in Aberdeen’s 2-1 victory over Celtic at the start of February – one of two defeats the champions suffered on their trips to the Granite City last term.

Craig Thomson had a busy time last September as the Dons won by the same scoreline, awarding a spotkick for both sides and sending off Dons winger Jonny Hayes for a strong challenge on Mikael Lustig.

Other than the aforementioned Pittodrie clash, McLean also handled three more Celtic games last season – their 6-0 home win over Dundee last September, a 2-1 success at Hamilton a year ago and 2-2 draw with Hearts at Tynecastle on December 27.

steven-mclean-referee-rangers-v-hibs-scottish-cup-final-21st-may-2016
Honour: McLean took charge of his first major showpiece at Hampden Park in May when turning out for the Scottish Cup Final (Picture from BBC Scotland)

Meanwhile, McLean will oversee his second Aberdeen game of the current season after their 3-1 win at Dundee in September – as the Dons’ Kenny McLean converted a penalty and Dundee’s Mark O’Hara was dismissed late on for a second bookable offence.

McLean handled seven Aberdeen games in 2015-16 but it will be his first match at Pittodrie since the end of February – a 1-1 draw with St Johnstone, in which he awarded the visitors a controversial late penalty.

The Glasgow-based whistler – who is a qualified fitness instructor – was in charge of the 2014 League Cup Final at Celtic Park when the Dons beat Inverness on penalties.

McLean then oversaw Hibernian’s dramatic 3-2 triumph over Rangers last season in the Scottish Cup Final, after which he and his fellow match officials were caught up in the unsavoury pitch invasion.

Before taking charge of the stand-out match of the weekend, he made the calls at Dens Park for bottom club Dundee’s 2-0 defeat by Partick Thistle on Wednesday night – booking six players in his sixth top-flight game this term.

Steven McLean points for goalkick (Hearts v St Johnstone - 2nd August 2015)
Siblings: Steven McLean is the older brother of former Ross County and Dundee United defender Brian McLean (Picture from BT Sport)

McLean – a Fifa referee since 2010 who refereed his first SPL game in November 2008 – has so far issued 67 yellow cards, sent off two players and awarded three penalties in 15 games this season in all competitions.

He will be assisted on Saturday by Douglas Ross, Andrew McWilliam and fourth official Kevin Clancy, who handled Aberdeen’s 2-0 League Cup semi-final win over Morton last weekend.

The eagerly-awaited contest – a dress rehearsal for next month’s Betfred Cup Final – will bring together challengers Aberdeen and leaders Celtic, who are four points clear having played two games fewer.

Elsewhere, Nick Walsh is to oversee Motherwell against Ross County, John Beaton will handle Rangers’ clash with Kilmarnock and Barry Cook has been appointed to St Johnstone against Partick Thistle.

You can see a full list of this weekend’s SPFL match official appointments here.

Scottish League Cup: Thomson and Clancy to referee semi-finals

Craig Thomson will handle his 13th Old Firm derby while Kevin Clancy will referee his first domestic cup semi-final in this weekend’s Betfred Cup last-four ties at Hampden Park.

craig-thomson-and-kevin-clancy
Chosen ones: Thomson (left) and Clancy have been handed the responsibility to oversee the 2016 League Cup last-four ties (Pictures from BBC Scotland and Sky Sports)

CRAIG Thomson and Kevin Clancy have been confirmed as the referees for this weekend’s Scottish League Cup semi-finals at Hampden Park.

Thomson will be in the middle for the Old Firm derby between Rangers and Celtic on Sunday (KO 14:05 BST).

Meanwhile, Clancy has been selected to officiate Premiership side Aberdeen against Championship outfit Greenock Morton on Saturday (KO 12:15 BST).

Both ties will be televised live on BT Sport.


The perennial Old Firm whistler…

Craig Thomson (Rangers v Celtic Scottish Cup semi - 17th April 2016)
For the big occasion: It will be Thomson’s 17th domestic match at Hampden and his 10th cup semi-final (Picture from Sky Sports)

It may be an unlucky number for some but Thomson will be hoping it will bring him some fortune as he prepares for his 13th Old Firm derby – no other referee has handled more than five.

His first derby came back in 2006 and he has since built up a wealth of experience in handling Scottish football’s most explosive duel in cup finals, crucial league encounters and, more recently, semi-final battles.

It will be the third season in a row the Fifa whistler, who went to Euro 2012, will manage a cup semi-final between the sides at the national stadium – after Celtic’s 2-0 League Cup win in 2015 and Rangers’ Scottish Cup win on penalties earlier this year.

David McGeachie and Alan Mulvanny will assist Thomson, with Steven McLean taking the fourth official reins.

craig-thomson-speaks-to-scott-brown-v-rangers-17th-april-2016
Longest-serving: Thomson has officiated in Scotland’s top-flight since 2002 and appointed Fifa status a year later (Picture from Sky Sports)

It was widely expected McLean or Bobby Madden might be entrusted with their first Old Firm derbies as Thomson and Willie Collum – who oversaw his third when Celtic thrashed Rangers 5-1 last month – are the only officials among the current crop to have previously refereed the fixture.

But, with a place in November’s Betfred Cup Final at stake, they have called on the vastly experienced Thomson to make the decisions for the latest meeting of Glasgow’s biggest rivals.

The former lawyer, from Renfrewshire, oversaw the League Cup final meeting between the sides in 2011 – awarding Rangers a penalty before reversing his decision and sending off Celtic’s Emilio Izaguirre in an eventual 2-1 win for the Ibrox side.

Earlier this season, he was involved in a bitter spat with pundit Chris Sutton, who called him a ‘bottler’ after opting not to send off Rangers midfielder Harry Forrester for a second bookable offence in their 2-1 win at Dundee.

Meanwhile, a week later and also in front of the BT cameras, Thomson refused to co-operate with the broadcaster’s staff before starting the second half of Celtic’s 4-2 win at St Johnstone more than a minute ahead of schedule.

They are the only occasions Thomson, who has handled three Scottish Cup and three League Cup Finals, has encountered either of the Old Firm sides this term.

The 44-year-old handled Copenhagen’s 4-0 win over Club Brugge in last month’s Champions League group match and the Netherlands’ 4-1 victory over Belarus in a World Cup qualifier earlier this month.

But he has only refereed one previous League Cup tie this season – Aberdeen’s last-gasp 1-0 victory over St Johnstone at Pittodrie in the quarter-finals.

Overall, Thomson has issued 51 yellow cards, sent off three players and awarded four penalties in 12 games across five different competitions so far this term.

REACTION:

Celtic fans have been particularly vocal on social media, expressing their disappointment that the Scottish FA have again looked towards Thomson to keep the peace in the Glasgow derby…


Another step in Clancy’s burgeoning reputation…

Kevin Clancy before the 2016 Scottish League Cup Final
Footnote: Clancy is widely regarded as a lenient and respectable referee who keeps control of games well and rarely attracts controversy (Picture from BBC Scotland)

Despite several appearances as a fourth official and additional assistant, it will only be the second time Clancy steps out as referee at the national stadium.

The Glasgow-born whistler will still have fond memories of his previous visit after overseeing his first major final in last season’s League Cup showpiece, booking only two players as Ross County beat Hibernian 2-1.

He was also in the middle for Rangers’ shock 1-0 defeat by Raith Rovers in the 2014 Challenge Cup Final at Hibs’ Easter Road.

Surprisingly, it will be the 32-year-old’s first ever domestic cup semi as referee too – in this his fifth season officiating in Scotland’s top-flight.

Former lawyer Clancy has previously been the fourth official for the 2013 and 2015 League Cup Final – as well as Ross County’s 3-1 semi-final win over Celtic last term, which was refereed by Thomson.

He was also an additional assistant referee in the 2014 Scottish Cup Final at Celtic Park and Rangers’ Scottish Cup semi win over Celtic on penalties, as well as European games such as the 2015 Uefa Super Cup.

But the Renfrewshire-based official missed out on a place in Willie Collum’s team of officials for Euro 2016 last summer, with Bobby Madden and John Beaton selected for the role.

Kevin Clancy (Dundee v Dundee Utd - 2nd January 2016)
Big games: Clancy has handled several Europa League matches as well as Dundee and Edinburgh derbies domestically (Picture from Sky Sports)

Clancy has encountered both sides once in league games this term – issuing seven yellows in Aberdeen’s goalless draw with Hearts in August and booking six players in Morton’s 2-1 victory over Dunfermline.

It will be his fifth League Cup tie of the campaign after Partick Thistle’s 1-0 win at Airdrieonians, Dundee’s 6-2 victory over Dumbarton, Alloa’s 1-0 success at Raith Rovers, and Celtic’s 5-0 win over Motherwell in the last 16 phase.

Overall, Clancy has brandished 54 yellow cards, sent off Kilmarnock’s Greg Taylor in their 1-1 draw with Rangers in August, and pointed to the penalty spot three times in 13 matches in all competitions.

Clancy first took up the whistle in 2000 and was admitted to the Scottish FA five years later before overseeing his first SPL match in 2012.

Such was his fast progression, he was even recognised by Fifa – one of seven currently from Scotland on the list – before his promotion to the top-flight had been confirmed.

Among Clancy’s other high-profile appointments was the Championship play-off semi first leg between Hamilton Accies and Falkirk in 2014 and Queen’s Park’s League One play-off second leg win over Clyde last term.

At Hampden, he will be assisted by Alastair Mather and Gordon Crawford, while Euan Anderson will be on electronic board duties as fourth official.

2014 winners Aberdeen have complained about the scheduling of the tie, with the lunchtime kick-off not giving enough time for their travelling support to make the trip from the north east.

Scottish Premiership: Bobby Madden to referee Celtic v Aberdeen

The Fifa whistler will take charge of his third top-flight game of the season when last season’s top-two face off at Celtic Park.

Bobby Madden referee (Celtic v Aberdeen - 8th May 2016)
We meet again: Madden will oversee his third fixture involving the two sides, all at Celtic Park (Picture from Sky Sports)

BOBBY Madden will be the man in the middle when Celtic host Aberdeen at Parkhead on Saturday in the Scottish Premiership.

The 37-year-old Fifa referee will take charge as the top-two in the last two seasons meet for the first time this season (KO 15:00 BST).

He will be ably assisted by Stuart Stevenson and Gavin Harris, while Steven McLean will be the fourth official.

Madden handled the previous encounter between the champions and the challengers – Celtic’s 3-2 win in May which mathematically sealed their fifth successive title.

He also officiated Celtic’s 2-1 win in September 2014, remembered for Aleksandar Tonev receiving a seven-game ban for racially abusing Dons full-back Shay Logan.

Domestically, Madden was promoted to Category One in 2009 and has built up a wealth of experience and respect to become a Scottish top-flight regular since his first match in January 2011.

He first took up the whistle in 2002 and last year revealed that an advert in the East Kilbride News – spotted by his brother Jamie – inspired him to become involved in refereeing after realising he wouldn’t make the grade as a professional player.

Since joining the Fifa list in 2010, Madden has refereed several Europa League games and been an additional assistant referee for Champions League matches, the 2015 Uefa Super Cup, and part of Willie Collum’s team of Euro 2016 officials for two group games.

The East Kilbride-born whistler has also controlled several domestic cup semi-finals and play-off matches, with his biggest honour coming in 2015 when appointed to referee Celtic’s 2-0 win over Dundee United in the League Cup Final at Hampden Park.

Saturday’s game at Celtic Park – surprisingly not being broadcast live on TV – will be Madden’s seventh of the campaign in all competitions, his third in the top-flight.

He has so far brandished 15 yellow cards, sent off one player and awarded four penalties – three of which came in the space of 23 minutes in St Johnstone’s 3-0 win over Falkirk during the Betfred Cup first round group phase.

Elsewhere, Kevin Clancy will take charge of Rangers’ Friday night trip to face Kilmarnock at Rugby Park and Greg Aitken will oversee his first top-flight game of the season when Hamilton host Ross County on Saturday.

You can view a full list of SPFL match official appointments here.

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.

Steven McLean to oversee Celtic’s Hamilton visit

Referee Steven McLean will officiate Celtic’s trip to Hamilton Academical for the second season running when the Scottish Premiership champions visit New Douglas Park on Sunday.

Steven McLean referee (Rangers v Hibernian - 23rd August 2015)
Vast improvement: McLean has been officiating in the Scottish top-flight since 2007 but has stepped up as a senior official in recent seasons (Picture from Sky Sports)

STEVEN McLean will take charge of Celtic for the second time in a fortnight when the Scottish Premiership champions travel to Hamilton Academical on Sunday.

The 34-year-old was only in the middle for the Hoops’ 6-0 thrashing of Dundee at Celtic Park on September 20 – awarding Ronny Deila’s side a penalty that Emilio Izaguirre missed.

He will be ably assisted at New Douglas Park by Graeme Stewart and Stuart MacMillan with Brian Colvin on fourth official duties for the lunchtime kick-off (12:30pm, live on BT Sport 1).

Glasgow-based McLean was also at the helm for the corresponding fixture last term as Celtic ran out 2-0 winners in north Lanarkshire.

It will be the official’s eighth top-flight game of the season and his second involving Hamilton after handling their 4-0 win over Dundee United last month.

The Fifa whistler will first be in Belgium on Thursday evening to oversee Club Bruges’ Group D Europa League clash with Danish outfit FC Midtjylland.

Before that, he has handled 10 games in all competitions – brandishing 39 yellow cards, awarding four penalties and his only red card was shown to Hearts defender Juwon Oshaniwa in their 2-0 defeat at Inverness earlier this month.

McLean – who is also a qualified fitness instructor – has officiated a league game in every round of fixtures this season including the Scottish Championship clash and is yet to fulfill the role of fourth official.

His most recent Premiership game was at Fir Park last weekend in which he handed out seven yellow cards in managerless Motherwell’s 2-1 victory over winless Partick Thistle.

McLean – the brother of former Ross County defender Brian – will be remembered by Celtic fans for failing to send off Inverness defender Josh Meekings for a deliberate handball on the goalline in the Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden Park in April.

It was one of four Celtic matches that McLean officiated in 2014-15 including the 1-0 home reverse against Hamilton at Parkhead almost a year ago to the day.

His only other Hamilton game – aside from the two against the Hoops – was their 3-2 victory over Kilmarnock at Rugby Park in May in which he issued four yellow cards in a largely incident-free contest.

McLean – who handled 23 top-flight games last season – oversaw the 2014 League Cup Final and last season’s semi-final between Aberdeen and Dundee United.