Strachan hails defensive duo

Celtic manager Gordon Strachan picked out Gary Caldwell and Stephen McManus for special praise after his side beat St Mirren 3-1 at Love Street.

Celtic manager Gordon Strachan picked out Gary Caldwell and Stephen McManus for special praise after his side beat St Mirren 3-1 at Love Street.

Most of the post-match attention centred on midfielder Thomas Gravesen whose hat-trick helped the Hoops strengthen their bid to retain the Bank of Scotland Premier League.

However, apart from allowing Saints striker John Sutton to score what was to prove no more than a consolation goal in the second-half yesterday, the visitors' centre-back pairing restricted the former Dundee player and his equally robust strike partner Billy Mehmet to few clear-cut chances.

Strachan revealed the defensive side of the Parkhead side's victory had not gone unnoticed.

He said: "I thought our centre halves were probably the men of the match because they got barged, pushed and shoved but they kept their discipline and it never affected their focus.

"They (Sutton and Mehmet) are as physical a pairing as you will see in this league.

"It would have been easy to complain to the referee and get a yellow card but they stayed focused and I thought that was good."

Midfielder Shaun Maloney went off injured after the break and withdrew from the Scotland B squad which flew out to Dublin today to take on their Republic of Ireland counterparts.

The 23-year-old is out of contract at the end of the season but is stalling on the offer of a new deal to consider his options when the January transfer window opens.

However, until such time that Maloney's future is decided one way or the other, Strachan will continue to treat him like any other player.

He said: "I don't have a problem with that (contract situation) because I know what he is like and, if I thought it would affect him, he wouldn't be playing.

"I've got a lot of good players on that bench but I pick him.

"I've been in that position. I was at Aberdeen for a year when I knew I was leaving so I know what it's like.

"You've got to watch for signs but there's none there that says he is going to be any problem to us on the pitch."

St Mirren manager Gus MacPherson believes a more consistent delivery into the opposition penalty area will allow Sutton to add to his tally.

He said: "People criticised him when he missed after Artur Boruc had miskicked but, if he is given the service, John will take his chances.

"That's eight goals that he has got this season already and that is a decent return.

"It was a terrific ball in from Simon Lappin for his goal.

"I just feel that if we can get better service to him more often then we can get a better return."

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