Boss Lennon praises Bhoys’ fighting spirit

NEIL LENNON praised his side’s character after Saturday’s hard-fought 2-0 win at a blustery St Mirren Park ultimately took Celtic four points clear of Rangers at the top of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League.

On-loan Hoops keeper Fraser Forster showed why Lennon wants to sign him on a permanent deal from Newcastle with a string of good saves, before second-half goals from winger James Forrest and skipper Scott Brown extended the visitors’ winning run in the SPL to 12 games.

The result became more significant later in the day when Rangers could only draw 1-1 at home to Aberdeen.

“I think the players have a lot of pride in this run and want to maintain it for as long as they can,” said the Celtic boss, who now turns his attention to next Sunday’s Scottish League Cup semi-final against Falkirk at Hampden.

“They showed great character. You won’t always play scintillating football, there are times when you have to show character and resolve and they did.”

The two points dropped by wobbling Rangers strengthened further Celtic’s chances of wresting the title back from Ibrox.

Comparisons between the respective Old Firm squads as a guide to who will be eventual champions undoubtedly favours the Parkhead club, and the strength of Lennon’s bench was evident when the visitors needed a boost when the game was goalless.

Striker Anthony Stokes and midfielder Kris Commons both came on just before the hour mark to give the Hoops an injection of quality which Lennon acknowledged.

“Stokesy and Gary Hooper linked up very well when Anthony came on and made us better, which is what you want your substitutes to do,” Lennon said.

Meanwhile, Rangers boss Ally McCoist wants new signing Mervan Celik to deliver on his promise to score goals after the champions dropped two more points on Saturday.

Aberdeen took the lead through Kari Arnason but the Dons were denied a first win at Ibrox in more than two decades when Maurice Edu levelled just four minutes later.

Swedish attacking midfielder Celik joined the Scottish champions on Friday and McCoist hopes his new recruit will be fit enough for next week’s visit of Hibernian.

The Rangers boss said: “Hopefully he can stand by that statement because we are short on goals.

“Nikica Jelavic is our main striker and I feel we could, and probably should, be chipping in with goals from other areas. That wasn’t the case [today].”

The scale of the job facing Pat Fenlon is becoming more and more apparent as Hibernian suffered a 3-2 reverse at home to St Johnstone.

Hibs could slip to the foot of the SPL if Dunfermline win their game in hand against Motherwell tomorrow night.

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