| 13.2°C Dublin

Hero Stokes hailed for giving Celts lifeline

Anthony Stokes let his football do the talking by netting the goals against Inverness Caledonian Thistle to move Celtic closer to Rangers -- who drew 0-0 at home to St Johnstone -- with a win in the highlands.

Eight goals in eight games from Stokes has given Celtic and Neil Lennon a lifeline in the title race, when even assistant manager Johan Mjallby started to speculate about the job consequences of falling further behind their main rivals.

Inverness lost Greg Tansey to a 37th minute red card before Stokes came up with a classy double in the second half at the same time as the Celtic defence kept a rare clean sheet.

On Wednesday night, Celtic play Dunfermline at home in a game postponed for the July Dublin Super Cup, followed by a visit from St Mirren on Saturday. Full points from both matches would cut the gap with Rangers down to just four points before Ally McCoist takes his squad to Kilmarnock on Sunday.

Earlier in the season, Stokes was still the outcast when it came to the big matches, sitting on the bench against Atletico Madrid, Rangers and Hearts, but with Gary Hooper not hitting last season's heights and Georgios Samaras goalless in November, the former Hibs striker has given Lennon plenty to think about.


"He is playing well and what pleases me more is his all-round game is improving," the Celtic boss admitted.

"He has been a huge player in the last couple of months. He keeps going and on another day he could have had a hat-trick. It is never easy here but I was happy with their attitude."

Caley Thistle's Rickie Foran added: "He's a complete goalscorer, an out-and-out scorer. He has so much confidence in front of goal.

"He can put the ball in a small little spot at the back of the net if that's the only option open to him. He has that bit of quality."

Having taken such a battering in the opening part of the season, no-one at Celtic will be thinking for a moment that they have turned a corner.

Not until they host Rangers on December 28 will anyone be able to make any claims about how the title race is shaping up.