Monday 26 June 2017

Lennon set for timely return to pitch patrol

Celtic 1
St Mirren 0

Roddy Forsyth

Neil Lennon will at last return to his beat beside the pitch for Celtic's match against St Johnstone in Perth tomorrow night and -- while that might make life interesting for the fourth official -- the end of the manager's ban from the dugout will surely have a positive impact on a Celtic side who came close to a damaging Scottish Premier League stumble on Saturday.

In the event, their anxious win at home to St Mirren was mirrored by Rangers' similarly fraught victory by the same margin at Hamilton yesterday.

Celtic now have two league games to play before they make the journey across Glasgow for the final Old Firm derby of the season on Easter Sunday.

Aside from tomorrow's fixture at McDiarmid Park, they will meet Kilmarnock at Rugby Park a week on Wednesday, meaning they have three successive matches on the road at a vital stage of the run-in.

Mind you, to judge by Celtic's weekend performance, home is not necessarily a hospitable place to be.

Lennon had the Easter Sunday date with Rangers in mind when he left out Mark Wilson, Scott Brown and Georgios Samaras, all of whom were within one booking of missing the Old Firm game.

The manager's strategic decision might have contributed to Celtic's below-par performance, but he had the comfort of knowing that he had substitutes who could change the game -- none more so than Kris Commons, whose pace and direct style have frequently galvanised both team-mates and supporters since his arrival from Derby County in January.

The sight of Commons replacing the tiring Freddie Ljungberg -- who had begun on the right before changing places with James Forrest -- for the final 20 minutes was certainly an unwelcome spectacle for Marc McAusland, the St Mirren right-back.

And it was Commons who found the single chink in Saints' armour when he fastened on to a stray ball on the edge of the box and drilled a shot between Paul Gallacher and his near post to lance the tension which enveloped the stadium.

Even so, the Celtic defence displayed astounding laxity to allow John Potter an undefended attempt from inside their box in injury-time. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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