Tuesday 23 May 2017

Lennon: We must not be complacent

Celtic 9
Aberdeen 0

Ronnie Esplin

THERE'S no pleasing some people. Neil Lennon, it seems, falls into that category. The Celtic manager is ready to make immediate changes to the side which created a Scottish Premier League record with their nine-goal thrashing of Aberdeen on Saturday.

The Hoops, inspired by hat-trick heroes Gary Hooper and Dubliner Anthony Stokes, ran riot against the sorry-looking Dons, who left the east end of Glasgow thankful that they had not been subject to a double-figure defeat and with manager Mark McGhee's job hanging by a thread.

Rangers' 3-1 win at St Mirren yesterday took the Light Blues back top of the SPL by a point but Celtic boss Lennon was more concerned about his side's match against Hearts at Tynecastle on Wednesday -- and he hinted that he will re-jig his starting line-up.

"We have a big week coming up, Hearts away and St Mirren away," Lennon said. "So there will be no room for complacency. It is a totally different scenario on Wednesday.

"We will enjoy Saturday but we will start concentrating on Hearts. There will possibly be a few changes to the team, believe it or not, but we will talk about that over the next couple of days."

It could be a while before Parkhead sees another game like the one witnessed on Saturday.

Doubles

Dons captain Paul Hartley and Celtic defender Thomas Rogne were sent off by referee Alan Muir as Celtic stormed into a 4-0 interval lead with doubles from Hooper and Stokes, the Irishman netting two penalties.

The points were secured but Celtic were hungry for more goals and there was no surprise when Hooper and Stokes each grabbed a third. A strike from Joe Ledley, an own goal by Aberdeen substitute Josh Magennis and a late penalty from Paddy McCourt left the Dons licking their wounds from a club record defeat.

Lennon praised his players' potency and professionalism, saying: "You can see what Hooper and Stokes bring to the team at times. They are good players and we feel they both have goalscoring instincts. Stokes took his penalties well and Gary's three goals were very, very good. His instinct is his strength.

"Shaun Maloney was terrific, as was Ledley, and to keep a clean sheet again was very pleasing because it could have been different. We had one cleared off the line early on.

"It was a challenge for them to come in at 4-0 up at half time, I'm sure many of them wouldn't have been in that position before. It would have been easy to take their foot off the pedal but they didn't and to their credit they got another five in the second half, which is absolutely fantastic.

"We are a long way off from where we want to be yet but that showed there has been improvement."

Former Hibernian striker Stokes will be hoping his good form will help improve his record at the home of his old foes Hearts, who won their derby game 2-0 yesterday with fellow Dubliner Stephen Elliott on the scoresheet.

The former Sunderland striker said: "We looked like we were gelling together and hopefully it's a sign of things to come. My record there wasn't great to be honest. I think I lost most of my games there. It's going to be a very tough game. They are a very good team with organised players so we have to forget about this result and concentrate on Wednesday."

The visitors scuttled back north smarting from their humiliation. Aberdeen boss McGhee became the first manager in the SPL to hear opposition fans chant "We want 10" but he was not for falling on his sword afterwards, although a lot could hinge on his side's reaction to the defeat when they entertain Inverness Caley Thistle at Pittodrie tomorrow night.

The former Celtic and Dons striker grasped for some positives from the performance of his younger players, Ryan Jack and Clark Robertson.

"Things happened to the two young lads, Ryan and Clark, that they will have learned from," McGhee said. "It's a horrible experience, of course it is, but those two boys did okay. They kept going, kept their heads up, didn't hide, showed good character and they will eventually be better players for the experience. It was excruciating to watch but I had to be out there giving support, especially to the young players because they need encouraging."

Although Caley Thistle lost 2-1 to third placed Motherwell on Saturday, they will travel to Pittodrie unbeaten in 15 successive away games, which include a 1-1 draw at Ibrox.

"I don't really see that it is entirely necessary that there is any hangover on Tuesday night from the result at Celtic," said McGhee. "We're all embarrassed, we're all shocked and we all know we will get slaughtered, particularly me, but I can handle that. I know that pressures can build, especially after a result like Saturday's, but I cannot think about that. I have to prepare for the game against Inverness."

Irish Independent

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