Lennon salute for his battling Bhoys

NEIL LENNON paid tribute to his side’s character after Celtic ground out a narrow Scottish Premier League victory over Hibernian at Easter Road yesterday.

Robbie Keane’s second-half penalty dragged the Hoops back to within 10 points of leaders Rangers who beat Hamilton 1-0 on Saturday thanks to a strike from USA international Maurice Edu.

The Parkhead club’s interim boss watched his side carve out their second successive win since he took over from Tony Mowbray.

There was little sign of the fragility which has characterised the Hoops’ season as they held on after Keane’s strike, his 12th goal in 12 games since arriving on loan from Tottenham in January.

“I am more pleased today than I was last week,” said Lennon.

“I asked them at half-time, ‘can you see it through now? Can you go and get a goal and maybe another one and win the game?’ And they did it.

“And without being brilliant, I am pleased with the character my team showed today and the ability to grind out a result.

“My back four and midfield two were outstanding when they had to be and we had to rely on the goalkeeper (stand-in Lukasz Zaluska) but that is what he is paid for.

“We dominated the second half at times and I would like us to create more chances but we are two games in. Possibly we could have drawn or lost that game earlier in the season.”

Celtic defender Darren O’Dea agreed with Lennon’s assessment that perhaps it was a game that might have been lost earlier in the season.

The Dubliner said: “Yes, that was the most pleasing thing about today.

“It was probably horrible to watch but a good team needs to come to these places and win at any cost and that’s what we did.

“It wasn’t pretty at times but we won and we probably haven’t done that enough this season.”

The visitors were awarded the penalty in the 61st minute after Anthony Stokes’ high challenge on Aiden McGeady was judged worthy of a spot-kick by Charlie Richmond.

Hibs boss John Hughes was critical of the decision.

“That was an indirect free-kick, I don’t think it was a penalty. Then again, can anybody in this room tell me the last time they have seen an indirect free-kick given in the box?

“Stokesy took a touch, his eyes never came off the ball, he went to hook it and the player put his body in and it was a real dubious decision.

“But it’s done and dusted and you have to put it behind you and get on with it.”

Celtic’s regular keeper Artur Boruc missed out due to the death of his father and Lennon said: “He came back from Poland on Wednesday and said his father was pretty ill.

“There was a thought in the back of my mind of could he hang on and play today but obviously family comes first.”

Elsewhere yesterday, Kilmarnock beat Aberdeen 2-0 at Rugby Park, with Allan Russell’s looping header clinching a crucial victory for the home side in their fight against relegation and ending the Dons’ top-six hopes.

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