Celtic boss Neil Lennon praises 'sensational' captain Scott Brown for rising to pre-match challenge of scoring against St Mirren

The 40-year-old was happy with his side's performance and aimed praise at a number of individual players including Fraser Forster and in-demand striker Gary Hooper
Celtic manager Neil Lennon revealed that he challenged his skipper Scott Brown to score a goal before kick-off and was delighted with the midfielder's response in the 2-0 victory over St Mirren.

After a goalless first half, James Forrest took a pass from Brown to break the dead-lock, then the Hoops captain scored the second himself with a brilliant curling shot from the edge of the box. The win leaves Celtic five points clear of Rangers, after Ally McCoist's side drew 1-1 with Aberdeen.

On the goalscoring challenge Lennon had set his skipper, he said: "I challenged him before the game to get a goal for us if he could.

"I also wanted a big performance from him and I got both. I thought he was sensational today. He loves those types of games.

"His reading of the game was very good, he broke up the play and he was driving the game for us and to cap it off with a beautiful goal speaks volumes for him.

"Some people wonder why I put him in the team, well it was there for all to see today."

Lennon added: "In terms of the run we've been on that was our toughest game.

"Credit to St Mirren and obviously conditions played a huge part in the game as well but I'm thrilled with the win and thrilled with the clean sheet.

"It was a huge win in the context of the season."

The Parkhead manager also found praise for a number of his other players, including on-loan keeper Fraser Forster and in-demand striker Gary Hooper.

He added: "Forster was tremendous and made some great saves.

"No matter where you play away from home, sometimes you need your goalkeeper to do that.

"He had a huge performance today, nothing seems to faze him and he has been a huge presence for us this season.

"[James] Forrest started slowly but I think he got stronger as the game went on.

"His quality is fantastic and he is a huge asset to the club

"I thought Hooper was brilliant as well, I thought he led the line fantastically well and overall, it was a good, solid team performance."

The Celtic boss was full of praise for his players but complained about Thomas Rogne's first-half yellow card after a tackle on Graham Carey and then the defender's late header which was disallowed.

He continued: "I wasn't happy with the referee booking Rogne so early in the game, I didn't think it was a booking.

"I thought he was going to be dishing out yellow cards after that but he didn't so I was pretty unhappy with that decision.

"And from what I gather he wasn't offside [for a third goal]. I didn't think the linesman on this stand side had the greatest of games either."