Lennon hails chemistry of front two for success

NEIL LENNON praised strike duo Anthony Stokes and Gary Hooper after they combined for the second week in succession to fire Celtic to victory.

Stokes’ first-half goal in the 1-0 win over Aberdeen at Parkhead on Saturday was his fourth in three games to take his Hoops’ tally to 12 since signing from Hibernian last summer.

He was set up in the 27th minute by Hooper, who returned from injury last week to score his 12th of the season in the 3-0 win at Easter Road, where Irishman Stokes grabbed a double.

Celtic increased their lead over Rangers at the top of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League to five points, although they have played two games more than their Old Firm rivals who lost 1-0 at Hearts earlier in the day.

Parkhead boss Lennon, who has chopped and changed his attack all season, said: “The front two were a handful and they worked the goal very well.

“I thought they dovetailed very well together.

“You can tell there is a bit of chemistry between them and they are doing what we brought them to do, they are scoring goals.”

Stokes insists hard work on the training ground is beginning to pay off.

“The last few weeks we have been doing quite well together and we want to keep that up,” said the Dubliner.

“We work a lot in trying to get an understanding in training and I think we have been taking that on to the pitch so it’s been great.

“As a striker you want to score as many goals as possible, but the main thing is that you are winning games.”

Stokes and Hooper will pair up again, against Hearts at Parkhead on Wednesday night and Lennon reiterated his belief that the Jambos, who are now two points behind Rangers with a game in hand over Celtic, are genuine title contenders.

The former Hoops skipper said: “I have said this all along about Hearts.

“They have put a concerted, consistent run together and the result against Rangers adds to the theory that they are in the running.

“It’s a big, big game for us.”

Unsurprisingly, Aberdeen looked a far improved outfit from the team which lost 9-0 at Celtic Park in November.

Craig Brown’s side will face Celtic again next week in the Co-operative Insurance Cup semi-final at Hampden with more confidence but skipper Paul Hartley insists all their focus will be on the SPL game at Inverness in midweek.

The former Celtic midfielder said: “We don’t want to talk about the semi-final until after Wednesday.

“The league is the most important for us and it will be another tough game against Inverness who are having a good season.”

Rangers youngster Jamie Ness also believes Hearts cannot be ruled out of the battle for the silverware just yet after their win over the Scottish champions.

Ryan Stevenson grabbed the only goal of the game on Saturday, as Hearts moved to within two points of the Ibrox side, who have a game in hand over the Jambos.

Ness said: “It’s disappointing but there are still a lot of games to go and I still think it’s going to go right down to the wire.

“Hearts have been really consistent throughout the first half of the season and, if they can keep that up, I’m sure they will be up there towards the end.”

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