Celtic kicked off their 2023/24 Scottish Premiership campaign with an entertaining 4-2 win over Ross County at Parkhead.

In Brendan Rodgers’ first competitive match since his return to the club, six goals were scored as the visitors looked to spoil the Flag Day party. Quite rightly, most of the plaudits following the game were for the home side’s attacking prowess, as well as the midfield which contributed three out of the four goals scored. However, the fact that Celtic conceded twice in this game cannot be ignored or brushed aside, especially the way in which these goals were given up.

Of course, there are some mitigating circumstances regarding the players involved that shipped these goals. It was a first start back for Anthony Ralston following a knock, while Maik Nawrocki made his competitive Parkhead debut alongside Cameron Carter-Vickers in the centre of defence, who himself had just returned from his knee injury. Joe Hart and Greg Taylor both made up the rest of the positions at goalkeeper and left-back, respectively, though they were perhaps the main culprits in terms of mistakes made.

Here, we break down the two goals that Celtic conceded to Ross County, as Rodgers’ defence got off to a shaky start at the back despite an impressive performance further up the park.

Jordan White goal (59 mins)

Ross County managed seven shots in this match, however, only two of them were able to test Hart. Despite this, they remained a threat in this game due to their physicality and determination to not let the heads drop, and both shots transpired into goals for the away side in this match. In years gone by – especially under current boss Malky Mackay – Ross County have been a team which have thrived on set pieces and getting the ball into the box for their strikers to attack. Indeed, the away side managed to win eight corners over the course of the game.

READ MORE: Celtic Flag Day positives are plenty but Joe Hart remains a problem

Someone who is no stranger to Celtic in this setting is Staggies striker White, who is an imposing figure in and around the 18-yard box due to his height (six foot four inches) and aggression in the box. The forward has a history of scoring against Celtic, an example being in Neil Lennon’s last game in charge of the club in 2021. Despite being three goals down at this stage, Ross County endeavoured for a route back into the game, and they got it through White.

As shown in the above photo, Ross County’s creative midfielder Yan Dhanda (formerly of Liverpool’s academy when Rodgers was first-team manager) is about to whip the ball into the 12-yard box. Having dealt with every corner that the visitors had thrown at them up to this point, Celtic will come undone on this occasion. Looking to attack this cross is White, who is being man-marked by Nawrocki in this instance. Hart is caught in the middle of a body of players – both his own teammates and the opposition – leaving him at risk if a Ross County player gets on the end of this initial ball into this area.

As the passage of play continues, Hart has now alerted himself of White’s danger in the air at the far post. In doing so, he has completely gotten in the way of Nawrocki, meaning the two are now scrambling to deal with the header. The Ross County striker is leaning back but still manages to get good contact on the ball despite moving in a reverse motion in a congested area of the box. This still is before he gets contact with the ball, but you can see he has plenty of open space to aim for with regard to Celtic’s goal.

White has now headed the ball and it is heading for the opposite side-netting of inside the goal. Kyogo Furuhashi – one of the shortest players on the pitch – is trying to get his own head on the ball in order to clear the danger, but his lack of height ensures that the ball loops over the diminutive striker and into the goal. Observe the position of Hart, who is nowhere near the ball as it falls into his goal. By leaving his original position and crowding Nawrocki, he has left the opposite side exposed. A well-taken goal by White, but suspect defending all-round for Celtic, with Hart again not covering himself well in what was a shaky afternoon for the goalkeeper.

James Brown goal (94 mins)

As the game was petering out at 4-1, young County defender Dylan Smith plays a cross-field pass to right-back Brown. The Irish defender – a new signing for the Staggies – is up against Taylor on the opposite side of the pitch, who is having one of his poorer games on this occasion.

The cross-field pass is accurate and finds Brown, who takes the ball down and has free rein to go one-on-one with Taylor. The right-back intends to bypass Taylor and cut inside in order to find a cross or to take a shot. Taylor’s position here is satisfactory for the moment, as he has tracked his man and is about to face him up.

Above is where the problems start to occur. Brown easily bypasses Taylor, who has found himself chasing the ball as a result of this failed attempt at defending the oncoming attacker. He is now on the back foot and risks his designated man finding another player or – in this case – getting away a (deflected) shot.

Brown takes his shot after making his way into the box and finding space. His strike catches Carl Starfelt’s outstretched leg and deflects its way past Hart into the net, in turn concluding the scoring for the day at 4-2. Taylor’s failure at continuing to track his man has cost his side, as it forces the outgoing defender Starfelt to commit to blocking the shot by whatever means necessary. Despite needing a replacement in this position, little blame can be attributed to Hart for this concession.

READ MORE: The Starfelt Celtic replacement factor Rodgers must consider


Despite Celtic’s clinical showing of attacking intent and ability, there remain cracks defensively when a team does decide to push forward and attack their faltering backline. And even with Nawrocki being new, part of the blame can be attributed to himself for not dealing with White’s header that led to the goal. As for Hart and Taylor, their performances on the day may be further proof to Rodgers that reinforcements may be needed in these key areas.