Sport Soccer

Thursday 22 February 2018

Stokes in firing line as pressure mounts on Celtic


Roddy Forsyth

A week of reckoning looms for Celtic at home and in Europe as their inconsistent form shows no sign of being remedied.

Next Sunday's visit to Fir Park is now a fixture freighted with significance because a win for Motherwell would put the Steelmen six points clear in second place in the SPL table and, while Celtic would still have a game in hand over the Lanarkshire side, the prospect of drifting through November in third position is not likely to be greeted with stoicism by their supporters.

Celtic have not managed three consecutive wins since they beat Dundee United 5-1 at home on August 13.

At no time against Hibernian -- whom they had beaten 4-2 in the Scottish Communities League Cup three days previously -- did they look like repeating the feat.

This team sadly lacks the sheer bloody mindedness Neil Lennon displayed when he wore the green and white jersey. It is an indictment of most of the senior squad members that 20-year-old James Forrest displayed the most obvious urgency when the situation cried out for it.

Celtic are spineless, in more ways than one. Injury has prevented Lennon from assembling a settled central defensive partnership.

The midfield pair of Beram Kayal and Ki Sung-Yeung continue to lack authority and Anthony Stokes and Gary Hooper frequently look as though they regard the proceedings as no more demanding than a kickabout with their mates.

Lennon was raging afterwards, warning: "This just can't go on," he said. "There is still a long way to go but I can't keep saying that.

"I am really angry -- they let the game drift away from them and that is not acceptable.

"There are a few who have been consistent but there are others who are happy to go along, riding on their backs and not really making the contribution that I want.

"I have to speak to them and out them, basically. I don't think they are giving enough in terms of the quality of their play or effort and I will speak to them individually and tell them what I think and I am looking for a response from them.

"But you ask them questions at times and you don't get answers."

Lennon pointed the finger specifically at striker Stokes and Hooper, adding: "I thought the two of them were poor today and I need some more consistency," he said.

"If they are not scoring goals, they need to bring something else."

Lennon has been linked to the Leicester City post vacated by Sven-Goran Eriksson, although he has no inclination to part from Celtic if he can help it. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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