Super Hooper's late strike grabs points for Celtic
St Mirren 0
Say what you will about Neil Lennon's pitchside manner -- many have and more will do so yet -- but his declared intention of infusing Celtic with resolve and defiance from the sidelines has had a tangible impact.
For the second time this season -- and at a venue where his predecessor came to grief back in March -- Lennon watched his side achieve a crucial victory, just when it seemed that they would be thwarted by dogged opposition.
Gary Hooper's 10th goal of the season, struck home in the second of three minutes of stoppage-time, summed up his side's endeavour and attitude.
Paddy McCourt, sent on late in the proceedings in an attempt to conjure a spell to break the deadlock, slalomed into the St Mirren penalty box and cut the ball back to Hooper, who stuck out a foot, far more in hope than expectation.
His shot skewed across the six-yard line, hit John Potter and rebounded back towards Hooper -- who changed feet and this time prodded a drive on target and past the despairing Craig Samson in the Saints goal.
As the ball struck the net Celtic's joy was unconfined, literally so in the case of the supporters in a corner beyond Samson, who spilled over the boundary wall in such chaotic fashion that an accident was in prospect.
Happily, no ill consequence came of the incident, although Hooper was booked for his understandable but ill-judged rush towards the fans.
Aside from his steady accumulation of goals, Hooper's capacity to inflict predatory damage in the dying stages of a contest has effectively been worth four points to his team.
Celtic were locked at 1-1 with Dundee United at Tannadice last month when he struck the winner in the final minute of normal time, although it should also be acknowledged that Derry native McCourt was involved in the build-up then too, having been pitched into the proceedings at a late stage.
Of his prolific summer signing from Scunthorpe, Lennon said: "He wasn't at his best in terms of his play in general but we know he can score goals. He's a very intelligent player and I pointed him out as the player who could nick the goal for us.
"I didn't think we nicked it (the game), I thought we fully merited it. I hope it shows the boys are prepared to go all the way to the end and we delivered a reaction from Wednesday night, when we lost to Hearts.
"It was the reaction I was looking for. We were disappointed and we've always come back from every adverse result we've had this season.
"We were brilliant, absolutely brilliant. Even at half-time I wasn't ranting and raving, but I thought we could have done a bit better in the final third. I told the players at half-time they may have to wait until the 93rd minute to get the goal so we will take it.
"I'm not a prophet, but I've been in this situation with Celtic so many times and it's a testament to their belief and their fitness levels against a very committed and a very dogged St Mirren side." (© Daily Telegraph, London)