Neil Lennon watched his side ease in to the semi-finals of the William Hill Scottish Cup with a 4-0 win at Dundee United yesterday – then warned his players that they will have to improve if they are to clinch the treble.
The Hoops manager acknowledged that his side struggled at Tannadice until United full-back Robbie Neilson was shown a straight red card in the 28th minute for leading with his elbow in a challenge with Hoops striker Georgios Samaras.
That proved to be the turning point and after Joe Ledley broke the deadlock soon after the break the result was never really in doubt and further goals from Samaras, Anthony Stokes and Scott Brown, from the spot, put a green and white gloss on the result.
Celtic, 21 points clear of Rangers at the top of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League and all but certain to be champions, play the winners of the St Mirren versus Hearts replay in the semi-final but before that they take on Kilmarnock in the final of the Scottish Communities League Cup at Hampden.
While Hoops fans departed Tayside singing about a treble, Lennon warned against such assumptions.
“There is a lot of momentum and there is a lot of talk about the treble but if we play like we did in the first half there will be no treble,” he told BBC Scotland.
“We have to analyse the first-half performance and eradicate where we went wrong.
“I am looking for better than that, particularly in the first half, in games to come.
“We looked a bit disjointed at times. The sending off obviously changed the game and put us on the front foot but in the second half we were tremendous.
“But credit to Dundee United, the scoreline probably flattered us.
“We have a cup final to look forward to next week against Kilmarnock and then a game against Rangers after that so two huge games in the context of the season.”
United boss Peter Houston has little time to dwell on his disappointment as he awaits the visit next week of administration-hit Rangers whose players on Friday volunteered to take wage cuts to stave off the danger of redundancies throughout the club.
He said: “The players worked hard and I don’t think the scoreline was a true reflection of the game.
“But the great thing is you go from one big game to another big game.
“It’s another early kick-off on Saturday and we welcome Rangers.
“It is a difficult game because there is a bit of unity amongst the players there because they have taken a drop in wages and fair play to them, so we are in for a massive game.
“If we if we play like we did in the first half with 11 men then we can be a match for anyone.”
Like most people Houston was puzzled as to why Lennon replaced keeper Fraser Forster with former United keeper Lukasz Zaluska with a minute remaining.
He said: “I had no idea what that was about – maybe trying to get him appearance money.”