Saturday 17 March 2018

Brown repays Lennon's faith


Ronnie Esplin

Neil Lennon had every reason to feel vindicated in his backing of Scott Brown after the Celtic skipper returned from injury to fire the Hoops to the top of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League with a 2-1 home win over Hibernian.

There was some debate over whether the much-maligned midfielder deserved to come back in to a team that had demolished Inverness 6-0 in midweek. However, the former Hibs player repaid his manager's enormous faith in him after only five minutes by grabbing the opener with a wonderful volley.

Glenn Loovens added a second after the break with a header, but former Celtic striker Derek Riordan responded quickly with a brilliant chip to keep the home fans nervous until the final whistle signalled that Celtic had taken a three-point lead at the top of the SPL over Rangers, who play at Aberdeen today.

"Are you surprised?" smiled Lennon when asked about Brown's performance. "He's got his detractors but we all know what he can do. It was a wonderful performance.

"If we hadn't had him we might have struggled. We had a decision to make for this game. Ki Sung-yueng's performance against Inverness was at a very high level but we feel that Brown can be at his best in games like this.

"I've said before, he has been a big player for me and it showed today, I thought he was fantastic." Lennon claimed his side made heavy weather of a victory that should have been more comfortable. "At 2-0 up we should have been coasting," he said.

"The goal we gave away was criminal from our point of view. When it goes to 2-1 it gets a bit edgy but we had enough chances to see the game off. But it was important that we won the game and put the onus back on Rangers and we did that."

Lennon will have a look on television at the incident which saw his striker Anthony Stokes booked for diving in the Hibs box. "We don't condone it if he has done it. We will have a look at it again," he said.

Sunday Independent

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