Wednesday 16 January 2019

Lennon delighted as Celtic break records and Stokes notches up his 100th goal

St Mirren 0 Celtic 4

Celtic's Anthony Stokes celebrates his goal during the Scottish Premier League match at St Mirren Park. Photo: Danny Lawson/PA Wire.
Celtic's Anthony Stokes celebrates his goal during the Scottish Premier League match at St Mirren Park. Photo: Danny Lawson/PA Wire.

Roddy Forsyth

Turkey for Celtic, St Mirren stuffed. That was the upshot of events in Paisley as the Scottish Premiership leaders prepared for their midwinter excursion -- they meet Trabzonspor in Antalya on Thursday, in a four-way tournament -- by shredding their hosts to take their unbeaten league run to 27 games and set a club record of eight domestic clean sheets in succession.

Celtic were gratified by their most emphatic win in seven games since they beat Motherwell away on December 6.

Coincidentally that fixture at Fir Park saw Anthony Stokes (right) score one of his meagre total of six goals from 32 appearances for club and country prior to this match.

Yesterday, the Dubliner reached a milestone when he recorded his 100th career goal with a powerfully struck second-half finish.

By that stage Celtic had already taken the lead through Charlie Mulgrew, and it became a romp when Kris Commons scored twice inside two minutes.

There was no place for Georgios Samaras, but Neil Lennon dispelled the possibility that the Greece forward -- whose contract expires this summer -- had been exiled because had not signed an extended deal.

"He picked up a niggle at the top of his hamstring yesterday and he was 50-50 for the squad," said the manager.

"He won't be coming to Turkey -- he'll stay for treatment -- and I hope we'll have an answer one way or another when we come back."

St Mirren were without Gary Teale, a long--term injury victim, and Kenny McLean -- who needs a knee operation and will be out for several weeks -- plus Jim Goodwin, who was banned after applying his elbow to Stuart Armstrong of Dundee United.

Certainly, Goodwin's more legitimate contributions would have been helpful on a day when the St Mirren back four found themselves under significant pressure for most of the proceedings.

Yet when half-time arrived scoreless, it looked as though a familiar pattern had been established, to Celtic's frustration.

They had spent the first half camped along the margins of Marian Kello's penalty box only to find their attempts to force a breakthrough blocked or deflected time after time.

Even when the human barriers were circumvented, the goal frame entered the equation, as Mulgrew and Commons saw shots rebound from the same post.

At the interval, however, Lennon told his players that the decisive moment would not be long delayed.

"We felt that if we got a goal it would change the psychology of the game and we got our just reward -- to break the club record for clean sheets is a fantastic achievement and the players can be proud."

Mulgrew hit the post again after the break, when fed by Adam Matthews, but this time the break of the ball took it behind Kello and Celtic were on their way.

Stokes, who has cut a forlorn figure at times, took his chance with aplomb when he was supplied by Joe Ledley -- whose representatives will discuss a contract extension with the club tomorrow -- and Commons completed the business, first with a stooping header from an Emilio Izaguirre cross and then with a slashing left-foot shot when James Forrest rolled the ball into his path. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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