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Neil Lennon

Neil Lennon

Neil Lennon

If pleasure deferred is pleasure intensified, Celtic should greatly savour the successful defence of their Scottish championship, which they cannot now celebrate for at least another two weeks because of James McFadden's late intervention at Fir Park.

Neil Lennon's players started the afternoon needing six points to secure the prize and, having done their part with a simple 3-0 win at home to Hibs, it looked as though they would be obliged by St Mirren, who led second-placed Motherwell until McFadden uncorked one of his distance specials to finish the scoring at 2-2.

The chances are that Celtic will secure the single point they now require against the first opponents to be thrown up by the SPL's post-split fixture list, which will be published today.

Hibs will not be in Celtic's half of the table after their strangely listless performance at Parkhead but Pat Fenlon's team have two consolations.

One is that by finishing south of the dividing line they are guaranteed a fourth league derby meeting with Hearts – a sequence that has so far seen them unbeaten, in contrast to their whitewash last season; the second is that they have a Scottish Cup semi-final against Falkirk on Saturday to energise them.

That tournament is, of course, the definition of pleasure deferred far beyond a joke for the Easter Road side, whose 111-year record of failure was extended by their brutal 5-1 battering by Hearts in last season's final.

Celtic, too, have a semi-final date at the weekend and meet Dundee United at Hampden on Sunday, which is why they must put title parties out of their mind for the moment.

Nor can Neil Lennon and his players take for granted that they will be bidding for a league and cup double come May 26 – they have lost on their three most recent visits to the national stadium, against Kilmarnock, Hearts and St Mirren.

"I know the lads want to show that we're a really good team and we can perform well, even at Hampden," said Mikael Lustig, who supplemented Kris Commons' double with a goal that the Hibs players insisted had been scored with the help of one of the Swede's arms. They were right, as Lustig confessed.

When asked if he was saying sorry to Hibs for the occurrence, Lustig replied: "Absolutely. I felt the ball went to the hand so I did what I did and then it was up to the referee."

(© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent