Sport Soccer

Monday 20 November 2017

Deila delight at 'sharpness' as Celtic restore cushion

Celtic 3 St Johnstone 1

Celtic's Efe Ambrose (left) battles with St Johnstone's Steven MacLean. Photo: Reuters / Graham Stuart.
Celtic's Efe Ambrose (left) battles with St Johnstone's Steven MacLean. Photo: Reuters / Graham Stuart.
Celtic's Ryan Christie (second left) in action with St Johnstone's Liam Caddis (left) and David Wotherspoon (right). Photo: Reuters / Graham Stuart.

Jamie Holland

Celtic manager Ronny Deila was delighted to see his Bhoys restore their six-point lead over Aberdeen ahead of a trip to Pittodrie, but he warned that much work was still needed to retain the title.

The Premiership leaders beat St Johnstone 3-1 on Saturday thanks to two smart finishes from Gary Mackay-Steven and a well-taken volley from Stuart Armstrong.

Aberdeen had kept the pressure on Celtic on Friday night by extending their unbeaten league run to 10 games with a 1-0 win over Dundee, and the champions gave themselves a cushion ahead of their visit to Pittodrie on February 3.

Deila, whose team face Ross County in the League Cup semi-final next weekend, said: "It's always important to win games but this isn't finished now, it's finished in May. There are many, many games left to play.

"We have to keep producing performances and train well, like we have done lately.

"We have players getting back from injury. Broony (Scott Brown) and Charlie (Mulgrew) are training and looking sharper."

Leigh Griffiths missed two good chances to continue his recent scoring spree, having netted seven goals in three matches, but Celtic were always comfortable after Armstrong restored their lead in the 43rd minute.

"You can see much more sharpness in the team now," Deila said. "We are developing every day. "We created a lot of chances again. We were not so effective but 15 goals in three matches you have to be very satisfied with, of course."

St Johnstone contributed to an entertaining game and levelled three minutes after Mackay-Steven's ninth-minute opener when Michael O'Halloran set up Steven MacLean to finish from close range.

O'Halloran impressed on his return to the team after being left out of the previous weekend's draw with Hamilton in the wake of two failed bids from Rangers.

Rangers have not followed up their initial interest and uncertainty remains ahead of St Johnstone's League Cup semi-final against Hibernian on Saturday.

But Wright will not concern himself too much with the prospect of a fresh bid upsetting his plans for the Tynecastle encounter.

Meanwhile, Anthony Stokes (pictured) marked his Hibs' return with a goal after being introduced off the bench in a 3-1 victory over St Mirren at Easter Road on Saturday.

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