Stokes gets Celts firing

CELTIC manager Neil Lennon is looking for his side to capitalise on Rangers’ slip up in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League title race.

A double from Anthony Stokes gave the Hoops a 2-0 victory at Inverness in Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off, before the Light Blues were held to a goalless draw by St Johnstone at Ibrox.

And with Celtic due to play Dunfermline and St Mirren before Rangers face Kilmarnock next Sunday, the champions’ lead could be cut to four points by the time they visit Rugby Park.

But while Celtic look as if they could be forcing their way back into contention, Lennon is focusing on their game in hand against the Pars on Wednesday.

“We have to make the most of that,” he said. “We look forward to that and are in good spirits.

“I am pleased that we are finding a bit of consistency and a few individuals are finding the consistency and playing at the levels they can.

“It was important to win the game against Inverness.

“You always go there with a little bit of trepidation because you just never know what you are going to get.

“We were fortunate with the conditions being as mild as they were, but the attitude was brilliant and I was delighted.”

Lennon praised midfielder Ki Sung-yueng for his contribution as a second-half substitute after recovering from a virus which had required a stay in hospital during the international break.

“Ki manipulates the ball well and passes it well,” Lennon added. “And we were a wee bit sticky, in terms of passing.

“We were worried that he hadn’t played much football in two weeks, that’s why we didn’t take the chance by starting him. But he felt a lot better and made a great contribution when he came on.

“Badr El-Kaddouri and Victor Wanyama both had a virus were touch and go. I thought Wanyama was superb and I thought El-Kaddouri had a great game so credit to them.”

Wanyama, who is hoping to have recovered fully by Wednesday, is also trying not to look too far ahead.

“It was very important not to drop points,” he said. “At the moment we are taking it game by game and trying to win them. We are looking forward to the next home games and hopefully we will get maximum points.”

Lennon’s squad has been boosted by the addition of former Arsenal trainee Andre Blackman, who has agreed an undisclosed deal with the Parkhead club.

The 21-year-old Englishman, who can play at full-back and in midfield, impressed after a trial period in Glasgow.

“He’s a kid who was out of contract and he was recommended by an agent friend of mine,” Lennon said.

“We had a good look at him for two or three weeks and he’s a hungry boy who wants to make a name for himself.”

Inverness boss Terry Butcher criticised referee Steve O’Reilly and the Scottish Football Association at the end of a match in which his side finished with 10 men.

Midfielder Greg Tansey was sent off in the first half following an aerial challenge on Georgios Samaras, a decision that looked harsh and which the former Rangers defender believes changed the game.

Butcher, who also hit out at the SFA’s appeals process, tried to take some comfort from the way his side battled on with 10 men.

“The players did everything I asked of them,” he said. “The first goal gave Celtic heart and forced us to think about changes and at 2-0 you don’t want it to be three, four and five.

“But the sending off kicked them in the stomach and also the fans who paid good money to see a game of football that for me, was over when the red card came out.”

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