Celtic winner just the tonic for Sutton

CHRIS SUTTON climbed out of his sick bed to score the winning penalty against Livingston at Parkhead yesterday.

His goal took them three points clear of Rangers at the top of the Bank of Scotland Premier League.

The Englishman wrapped up the points from the spot after a dubious second-half decision before it emerged he had been laid low by a virus.

Sutton is now set to return to his bed to try and get over the illness and manager Martin O’Neill is confident that he will be ready for the Tennent’s Scottish Cup tie with Rangers.

O’Neill explained: “He did great for us, especially as he has been pretty ill the last couple of days and he was really out on his feet at the end. But he is a big player for us and he wanted to stay on and we were never really able to open a gap. He might have been needed had they got an equaliser.

“Hopefully he will be fine for next week. Last night he wasn’t good but he wanted to play. He doesn’t feel great at this minute but he has got a week to recover. I’m not sure exactly what it is but we don’t want him passing it on.”

John Hartson fired his 18th goal of the season to open the scoring and looks set to sign a new contract this week.

“We are pretty pleased with the way things have gone and we are hoping things will be resolved,” added O’Neill. “It’s looking reasonably good.”

Jim Hamilton pulled the scores level for the SPL strugglers but Livingston manager Richard Gough was incensed with referee Craig Thomson’s decision to penalise the goalscorer for handball, which sparked an angry reaction from the former Dundee United striker.

Former Rangers star Gough said: “It’s hard enough here without losing debatable penalties. The referee seemed to give it even though the linesman, who was closer, never. Jim says that the ball hit him and it’s not intentional.

“I have not seen it yet but I had a word with the referee after the game. Jim said it hit him on his shoulder but the linesman never gave it. But in my career I have had a fair few of those myself and at Celtic Park and Ibrox when you get the ball in the box that many times those things can happen.”

But Gough played down an incident involving Hamilton and Bobo Balde in which the defender appeared to slap him in the face in retribution for an earlier elbow.

The response was similar to that of Wayne Rooney against Bolton which earned the Manchester United forward a three-match ban.

The Scottish FA could look into the Balde incident.

Gough said: “I saw that Jim elbowed him in the mouth and Bobo retaliated with a playful slap. Nowadays you can go off for that if the referee sees it. I saw it and I’m sure Mr O’Neill saw it or maybe he didn’t.

“I saw the same with (Wayne) Rooney last week, but I wouldn’t like to have seen him get sent off for that even if he’s not my player because that’s just football.”

CELTIC: McNamara, Balde, Varga, Laursen, Petrov, Lennon, Thompson, McGeady (Juninho Paulista 85), Sutton, Hartson.

LIVINGSTON: Meldrum, McNamee, Bahoken, Rubio, Dorado, O’Brien, Lovell, Brittain (Dair 87), Stanic (Adam 87), Snodgrass (Libbra 66), Hamilton.

Referee: C Thomson (Scotland).

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