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Lennon praises Celts' character

CELTIC successfully negotiated their way past Ross County last night as Rangers crashed out of the League Cup away to Falkirk.

An early tap in from Gary Hooper and a second-half own goal by Scott Boyd halted Celtic's two match losing run, with U19 Irish international Paul George almost adding a third goal in injury time after making his competitive debut as a late substitute for Hooper.

Neil Lennon's side took a small step back from the pain of Sunday's Old Firm defeat, while former Celtic reserve Mark Millar scored a dramatic injury time winner for Falkirk to dump Rangers out of their third cup competition of the season.


Whatever he goes on to achieve in management, the name of Ross County will forever hang over Neil Lennon, just as Gordon Strachan's time at Celtic will always be linked to a 5-0 defeat by Artmedia Bratislava in his first game in charge of the Parkhead outfit.

Lennon had challenged his players to show the character that he had questioned at Ibrox on Sunday and he was pleased with the response that he got from his players.

Anthony Stokes was one of four changes from the Celtic side that lost 4-2 to Rangers on Sunday and had a hand in both goals, with Lennon satisfied with the way his side went about their business.

"The attitude was a lot better," the Celtic boss admitted. "The workrate off the ball was a lot better, as was our play in general. It's a small step in the right direction.

"We're not getting carried away, obviously, but we're pleased with the clean sheet as well -- and on the counter attack we could have added to the scoreline.

"I can't ask for any more of the players. Obviously, they were disappointed and we had to pick them up. On the back of Sunday, people might have been thinking we were vulnerable, so I'm pleased.

"It was difficult and you are always looking to see what character they've got and they showed that. I got the reaction I wanted."

Hooper's 13th-minute strike settled Celtic's nerves and ensured that there was to be no repeat of the 2010 Scottish Cup semi-final win for the First Division side.

Former Celt Michael Gardyne rattled the Hoops' post six minutes later but that was as close as the hosts came to an equaliser, with Boyd turning a cross from Stokes into his own net in the 51st minute.

Lennon added: "The football we played at times in the final third was very good. I'm also very pleased with the clean sheet. There were some very good individual performances."