Wednesday 29 January 2020

Forrest heaps praise on 'frightening' Stokes

Celtic 2 Motherwell 0

Anthony Stokes maintained his good recent run with the opening goal for Celtic
Anthony Stokes maintained his good recent run with the opening goal for Celtic

Roddy Forsyth

Celtic can look back, aptly enough, on the weekend of the Great Scottish Run as the time when they first went clear of the chasing pack this season.

Their comfortable home win over Motherwell, coupled with Caley Thistle's implosion against St Johnstone in Perth, opened a three-point gap at the top of the Scottish Premiership going into the international break.

There was, as has been the case in other domestic fixtures which have followed Celtic's Champions League outings, a tail-off of performance in the later stages of the contest but that merely offered Fraser Forster the platform to make his customary Big Save – in this case to stop John Sutton's goalbound header.

This intervention prompted an English supporter to address the media seats loudly at the final whistle, telling them the Celtic goalkeeper should now be selected for England's World Cup qualifiers against Montenegro and Poland – a debate that will likely rumble on over the next week or two.

Gratified

Neil Lennon was gratified to see James Forrest put in something close to a full shift, although it was a forced contribution because of the injury sustained by Adam Matthews in a steamroller of a challenge by Motherwell's Keith Lasley.

That left the Welshman rolling in evident pain by the side of the pitch, before he was taken off on a stretcher and replaced by the winger, who himself was recently hospitalised with a virus.

Untroubled by the rearrangement Celtic took the lead through Dubliner Anthony Stokes, who planted a half-volley behind Lee Hollis after the goalkeeper had made a hash of trying to punch clear a cross from Kris Commons, who added the second on 49 minutes.

Stokes, after a considerable period when his future at the club was in doubt, has emerged as the form forward, a development appreciated by his fellow attacker, Forrest.

"I think, since he first came in, Anthony has always scored goals and everyone knows he can do the link-up play as well," said Forrest.

"His movement is frightening and he has great ability. He's also the kind of player that, even when he's not doing very well, can come up with a goal – he's got a lot in his locker."

Forrest showed no sign of being affected by his recent debilitating episode, although he confessed that it had been an alarming experience.

"Yes, for 10 days it was not the best but I'm better now and that's the main thing," he said.

"I was gutted to miss playing in the San Siro and obviously I could only play for 30 minutes against Barcelona but hopefully I can kick on now and play in the remainder of the Champions League games. I was out of hospital by the time of the game in the San Siro but obviously I was struggling and couldn't go over."

l Neil Lennon took part in the 10K section of the Great Scottish Run and finished in a very respectable 54 minutes. He participated on behalf of St Margaret's Hospice, Clydebank. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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