Batteries reset, Kris is a power of good for Neil's Celtic

KRIS COMMONS has been the catalyst for Celtic's successful pursuit of their third league championship in a row.

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Commons touch...Kris is Celtic's leading scorer this season
Commons touch...Kris is Celtic's leading scorer this season

The midfielder's goals in the first half of the season cancelled out the loss of his close pal Gary Hooper to Norwich, filling the void which none of the strikers at the club could.

It got to the stage where it was widely accepted that, if Commons was on his game, so were Celtic.

Conversely, when the man from Mansfield was kept quiet, Celtic stuttered, putting a huge onus on the broad shoulders of the 30-year-old.

Lennon was always aware how dangerous it was to have so much reliance on the model of consistency Commons proved to be.

However, the dynamic changed on the final day of the January transfer window when Leigh Griffiths was bought from Wolves.

His arrival meant Lennon could start with the new Bhoy and Anthony Stokes as a front pairing, and they started to fire in the goals immediately.

Commons was allowed to drop back from frontline duties and, eventually, from the starting XI as Lennon gave him the rest his efforts in the first six months of the season merited.

And, as the stars aligned, Lennon was delighted to be able to reintroduce a fit-again James Forrest into the key creative position just behind the strikers.

The effectiveness of this fresh look was there for all to see and admire last weekend with the 5-0 demolition of Inverness, Commons eventually coming off the bench to grab his 22nd strike of the campaign, but his first in five games - the longest dry spell he had endured this season.

Lennon's concerns Commons had to be pulling the strings for his side to be in tune have been allayed, and the manager is excited to see what the club's top scorer can bring when fully recharged.

"I just felt Kris was a little bit off-colour in the last few games, and he has already played a huge volume of games this season," said the Hoops boss of his decision to hold Commons on the bench last weekend.

"But his attitude when he came on was fantastic. He looked really bright and, of course, he will come back into the team for the game at Kilmarnock next Friday."

While Lennon accepts the break for internationals and then the Scottish Cup can be viewed two ways - it can be a momentum-breaker for a team which had such an emphatic result, but it can also allow players the opportunity to recover from a tough series of games - at least the Hoops can spend the time reflecting on how they bounced back from the disappointment of seeing their unbeaten league run ended at Aberdeen.

"I was delighted with the way we played against Inverness and the margin of victory, but I think it could have been even more," said Lennon.

"When you think about some of the chances which were not converted...

"Jamesie has put one over, the two-versus-one situation when Leigh put his shot over, and the one just after half-time when Nir Biton put Leigh through but he pulled his shot wide.

"Stokesy also had one cleared off the line as well, so our attacking play was superb, and that is what I want from my team.

"You worry when you are not creating chances and you are maybe just scraping a win.But the variety of our attack last weekend was very good."

It is this improved armoury which can fire Celtic to their third title in a row in record time.

And Lennon can take extra satisfaction from the way the critics who complained when Griffiths was the only striker to be secured during the January window are now having to watch him bang in the goals, and bring out the best in Stokes.

The Irishman's hat-trick in their first start together, against St Johnstone, has now been followed up by the Scotsman's treble against Caley Thistle.

Lennon enjoys seeing the goals shared and said: "That's what you want, but I think Stokesy was unlucky not to score against Inverness.

"I have been pleased with him the last little while now. His work-rate, and his play in general, has been good.

"Stokesy has got a bit of a lift with Leigh coming in, and the two of them are starting to play together quite well."

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