Thursday 18 January 2018

Murphy eyes top spot for Celtic ahead of Rangers clash

Jamie Holland

DARYL MURPHY wants Celtic to grab their chance to go top of the SPL by beating Hamilton today and hold on to their advantage going into the Old Firm showdown at Ibrox on January 2.

Rangers could have gone five points clear of their arch rivals last week with a win at Inverness, but could only draw 1-1 against the Highlanders, leaving them just three points ahead of Neil Lennon's Bhoys.

And with the Light Blues' game against St Mirren today postponed due to frozen and burst pipes at Ibrox, Celtic can leapfrog them with a win at New Douglas Park, courtesy of their superior goal difference.

Murphy is hoping that Celtic, who have dropped points in their last two matches against Dundee United and Inverness, can take advantage of the potential turnaround.

"We are thankful that last week's result (at Inverness) went our way -- it wouldn't have been nice to have been that far behind," the Waterford man admitted.

Celtic's hopes of winning the title suffered a huge blow yesterday when Shaun Maloney was ruled out for up to four months after undergoing ankle surgery.


The injury is the latest in a long line to hit Maloney, who had been wearing the Celtic armband while Scott Brown recovers from a broken metatarsal.

Last year, the 27-year-old saw his season come to an end in October after being struck by a tendonitis problem in his ankle before suffering a number of niggling injuries. The Scotland international also missed four months of the previous season with a persistent hamstring problem.

On the brigther side, Lennon will be in the Celtic dugout for the Old Firm derby at Ibrox on January 2 after another Scottish FA hearing was postponed.

The SFA's disciplinary committee were due to meet at Hampden on Monday to discuss the Celtic manager's appeal against an automatic two-match ban for being sent to the stand by referee Craig Thomson during the defeat against Hearts on November 10.

An 'excessive misconduct' charge for his reaction to a rejected penalty claim and subsequent dismissal were also to be discussed and, had the automatic ban been upheld, Lennon would have had to watch from the stand for the home game against Motherwell on January 29 and the New Year trip to Ibrox.

However, adverse weather has led to the meeting being cancelled until probably January, leaving Lennon clear to fully carry out his managerial duties over the festive season.

Irish Independent

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