The events of the 22nd May 2005 will live long in the memories of three clubs, in the media it is most commonly referred to as Helicopter Sunday, for Celtic it is known as Black Sunday and of course for the Steelmen it is known as Skippy Sunday.
As always the SPL was being dominated by the Old Firm, Celtic came to Fir Park on the last day of the 2004/05 needing a win to secure the league title, they had a two point lead over their Glasgow rivals but a poorer goal difference, Rangers who were breathing down their necks travelled to Easter Road to face Hibernian having only lost a handful of games all season.
Celtic fans arrived at Fir Park in expectant and buoyant mood, they were eager to see their side lift the championship, in May 1966 they managed to do the same at Fir Park when they netted an 89th minute winner, ’Well fans of a certain vintage certainly hoped these events wouldn’t be repeated.
A bumper crowd of 12,944 were in attendance, many away fans littered around the home sections as they had managed to obtain tickets many of which persuaded ‘Well fans to part with their brief for a heavy markup as they were confident they just needed to show up to secure the title and didn’t want to miss out on the occasion. Motherwell of course had been no stranger of spoiling parties in the past as they managed to ruin Rangers 9 in a row party at Ibrox in 1997, a game which had been moved to live tv to catch the occasion.
Motherwell: Marshall, Corrigan, Craigan, Kinniburgh, Fagan, Foran, Kerr, Fitzpatrick (Clarkson 88), Paterson, McDonald, Hamilton (Britton 85)
Celtic: Douglas, Agathe, Varga, Balde, McNamara, Lennon, Petrov, Sutton, Thompson, Hartson (Beattie 75), Bellamy
Ref: Hugh Dallas
The day of course would start so well for Celtic, the Bhoys started in rapid fashion and looked to wrap up the title quickly, they dominated the early proceedings as Motherwell lacked composure and guile early on. Former Celt Gordon Marshall would prove to be in find fettle making saves from Welsh duo Craig Bellamy and John Hartson in quick succession.
The muddy rutted Fir Park pitch hampered both sides somewhat as the general play was scrappy. Celtic did however manage to secure the breakthrough when midfielder Alan Thompson disposed ‘Well forward Richie Foran whose cross was beaten away by Marshall, with the Motherwell rear guard slow to react, Chris Sutton managed to prod the ball home from around eight yards with nearly 30 minutes played.
Celtic seemed to take their foot off the gas after getting the breakthrough as they wouldn’t threaten again in the first half.
Early in the second half the Steelmen almost snatched an equaliser as Stephen Craigan’s header was blocked on the line by Didier Agathe but they survived the early scare, Celtic obviously took noted upped the ante as they searched for the killer second goal.
Hartson squandered a fantastic opportunity when he headed over a cross from Thompson from close range. Keeper Marshall was still in fine form as he pulled off a string of remarkable saves firstly denying Craig Bellamy whose low shot was palmed away and then saving at the feet of the on rushing John Hartson.
Celtic keeper Robert Douglas was a touch fortunate as he dropped a cross but luckily for him defender Stan Varga was on hand to mop up.
The atmosphere inside the stadium was fiery to say the least, many arguments had broken out in the stands as many away supporters had infiltrated the home end, the goal in the first half obviously brought many to the attention of Motherwell fans as they couldn’t contain their excitement when they took the lead, others became more visible as the game wore on and went into the final stages, knowing Rangers were in front many of their fans were spotted chewing their finger nails as they knew any slip up would be costly. As the final turn minutes came around the Celtic players started to argue amongst themselves as they struggled with the pressure.
As the game went into the 88th minute, Foran a long way from goal tried his luck but his skewed shot was controlled by his strike partner Scott McDonald who controlled it on his chest and with his back to goal hooked a magnificent volley into the top corner of the net sending the ‘Well fans into delirium.
Celtic of course knowing a draw wouldn’t suffice went gung-ho in search of a winner but Motherwell went forward again but the ball went out for a goal kick, the goal kick from Douglas was met swiftly by a clearance from the Motherwell defence which actually sent McDonald through on goal again, the Celtic defence managed to rush back but were out numbered, McDonald had the chance to square it to Gerry Britton who would have an an empty net but the Australian opted to go it along, his shot was partially blocked and looped over the helpless Douglas to secure a famous 2-1 victory for the Steelmen and deny Celtic the title in the process. The Parkhead side had plenty opportunity to wrap the points up but they squandered a clutch of chances and were caught out in the end.