Tuesday 25 July 2017

Lennon sings Stokes' praises as Fenlon struggles

Hibernian 0 Celtic 5

Ronnie Esplin

Anthony Stokes barged his way to the top of the queue for a new contract with his impressive performance in Celtic's comfortable win over Hibernian at Easter Road yesterday, according to boss Neil Lennon.

The win took the Hoops 17 points clear of administration-hit Rangers at the top of the Scottish Premier League.

Stokes has been in and out of the team under Lennon and was fired up in his latest return from a spell on the bench at the expense of Georgios Samaras, heading the visitors into the lead from a Charlie Mulgrew corner with 14 minutes on the clock.

The Parkhead men went from strength to strength and a Gary Hooper brace and goals from Mulgrew and substitute Ki Sung-yueng, on for Victor Wanyama, extended the Parkhead side's winning domestic run to 18 games.

The Celtic boss highlighted the performance of the former Hibs striker, saying: "That's Anthony's best game under me since we brought him in and I couldn't be more pleased with him.

"I will review all the contracts at the end of the season but if we get over the line with the championship, he will be at the front of the queue because his contribution has been fantastic.

"He has set a standard today, that's for sure."

Stokes admitted Lennon had been hard on him at times for his own good and looked forward to the prospect of a new contract.

"Yes, of course," said the Dubliner. "Listen, I have never been happier at a club. I have another season after this and then an option and I can't see myself playing for anyone else for a long time, if the offer is on the table.

"I am obviously delighted that I scored and got back in the team and I was happy with my contribution.

Stokes was keen to stress that complacency will not be a factor in the run-in as rivals Rangers were deducted 10 points on Tuesday after going into administration and then lost 1-0 at home to Kilmarnock to all but end their title hopes.

"We are not thinking about them, honestly," he said. "We are not thinking about anything that's going on over there, we are just focusing on ourselves and if you look at the games that we have played over the last few weeks you will see that.

"We are purely focusing on our football and getting results. We don't want to slack off, we want to keep the momentum going."

Second bottom Hibs continue their relegation battle with Dunfermline and boss Pat Fenlon insists his side need to get back on track for the game against Motherwell at Fir Park in midweek.

"We have a massive game on Wednesday and we have to get the players up for that game and focusing on winning that game," he said.

"We can't get too down about it, we will do our best to get them up for it."

Irish Independent

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