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Neil Lennon's men record another bad result at home but emphatically return to form against John McGlynn's Hearts side

DIGEST
By Martin Macdonald

MORE DISAPPOINTMENT AT CELTIC PARK

Celtic dropped yet more points in the Scottish Premier League at the weekend as Inverness Caledonian Thistle ran out 1-0 winners in Glasgow.

Terry Butcher’s men kept the home side at bay for the majority of the match, and managed to snatch the three points thanks to a Billy McKay strike just after the hour mark.

The Hoops enjoyed crisp periods of possession in the first half, but they were unable to get any kind of meaningful threat to the Inverness defence.

The attempts were mostly long-range efforts and Kris Commons and Mikael Lustig both had shots clip the side-netting, but the teams went into the break after a dour opening 45 minutes.

The Highlanders came out of the blocks the quicker in the second half, and looked a threat down the right-hand side. Both Charlie Mulgrew and Efe Ambrose had to be alert to clear away crosses that were whipped into the six yard box.

Inverness eventually opening the scoring four minutes after the hour mark when Phillip Roberts showed composure inside the Celtic box to feign inside and pick out McKay at the back post, who easily slotted home.

Neil Lennon responded by introducing Lassad, Paddy McCourt, and Scott Brown, but the Hoops were unable to improve on their play in the final third. The closest they came to an equaliser was a Kris Commons strike that went just over the bar with 10 minutes to go.

The visitors managed to hold out and claim a vital SPL victory.

CELTC BOUNCE BACK IN STYLE

Celtic bounced back from the disappointing result against Inverness with an emphatic 4-0 victory over Hearts on Wednesday night.

The match opened to a typically raucous Tynecastle crowd, but the home fans were silenced just 10 minutes in when Kris Commons sent a glorious cross to the back post for Lassad, who showed fantastic composure to side-foot the ball with a volley into the back of the net.

Commons and Charlie Mulgrew both had decent attempts at goal fail to meet their target, but the lead was doubled on 21 minutes when the Englishman hit a shot at goal that was blocked. Mikael Lustig was on hand to slide the ball home.

The match was end-to-end, and Hearts would have clawed a goal back if not for a fantastic double save from Fraser Forster. The Hoops goalkeeper palmed away a Ryan Stevenson free kick and then somehow got back on his feet to dive and parry away Marius Zaliukas’s header.

The Edinburgh side showed plenty of guile throughout the first half, but the quality of Neil Lennon’s side shone through once again half-an-hour in. Mulgrew tenaciously galloped down the left wing and fizzed a cross into the box. Unfortunately for Hearts, the ball cannoned off the leg of Ryan Stevenson past Jamie Macdonald.

The hosts were noticeably more quiet in their pressing in the second half, a tactic which played into the hand of Neil Lennon’s men, who played out the majority of the second 45 in third gear.

More misery was heaped on Hearts seven minutes from time. Mulgrew found space on the left and curled a pin-point cross to the back post for Gary Hooper, who made no mistake in smashing the ball in to make it 4-0.

Celtic’s clean sheet looked to be in jeopardy in the last minute when Kelvin Wilson brought down Stevenson inside the box and the home side were awarded a penalty. However, Forster once again showed why he is now an England international by batting away Zaliukas’s penalty to the right-hand side.

It was a brilliant response to the weekend disappointment for the Celts, who remain top of the Scottish Premier League.


LENNON WANTS CONSISTENCY

Celtic manager Neil Lennon was understandably delighted with the performance and the result of his players in the 4-0 drubbing of Hearts during the week, but has urged his squad to add more consistency to their league form as the season progresses.

The Hoops comfortably dispatched of the capital club on Wednesday, but they were coming off a disappointing 1-0 defeat to Inverness, the latest in a series of bad results at home, but the manager was happy with the response he got. Speaking after the match, he said:

“We played with great intensity and pace to our game, but it’s the players who do it and I got a much better reaction from them”

“We were back to the levels that I know we can play at and, obviously, we’ve got a very strong midfield, so it was a great team performance. We looked dangerous. There was a spark and a tempo to us that was a lot more like us.”

The Irish manager, although delighted at the result, warned his players that this must be the start of a run of better performances. He said:

“While I was delighted with the performance, I want us to find some consistency now. Let’s not get carried away. It was a great win for us and it puts a different complexion on the table, but let’s find that sort of form at home.”

NEXT MATCH: HOOPS WELCOME SMOKIES

Celtic’s next match sees the Scottish Premier League champions welcome Arbroath to Glasgow in the Scottish Cup.

The Second Division side confirmed the fourth-round meeting with the Hoops thanks to a 3-1 defeat of Inverurie Locos, with goals coming from Brian Kerr, Derek Holmes, and Steven Doris.

This will be Neil Lennon’s side’s first Scottish Cup match of the campaign. Their last outing was in the semi-finals of last year’s competition, when they were defeated 2-1 by Hearts.

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