Celtic are leading by example

NEIL LENNON believes Celtic are wearing them down.

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Neil Lennon was delighted with the form shown by his team in the 3-0 weekend win against Motherwell
Neil Lennon was delighted with the form shown by his team in the 3-0 weekend win against Motherwell

Not the opposition trying in vain to prevent the Hoops marching to a third straight championship title, but the critics reluctant to praise the emphatic manner in which they are defending their crown.

Despite going 21 games unbeaten in the SPFL Premiership, keeping clean sheets for the last nine games domestically, and surging 13 points clear with two games in hand, the Celtic boss is convinced his players have not received the credit they deserve.

However, as he purred at their most recent performance - Saturday's 3-0 dismantling of a hitherto-in-form Motherwell - Lennon is sure the tide is turning, and that the waves of praise will soon be lapping over his stars.

He said: "The longer the unbeaten run goes, the more people will take notice of what they are doing.

"If we play like we did on Saturday, particularly at home, more people will come through the gates because that was really good to watch."

Lennon is keen to underline his side is not just winning, but, after a dip over the festive period, that they have returned to collecting all three points in style and with entertaining football.

"Apart from ourselves, Motherwell have been the form team in the country," he said.

"But our attacking play was fantastic and I really enjoyed watching the team perform. The players all looked good, all looked fresh.

"Obviously, we took a bit of a gamble by taking the break. But we feel it was worthwhile doing.

"You are always wary going into the game after a break, but I got the performance I was looking for."

Predictably, Player of the Month Kris Commons stole the headlines with another double.

But, while the Manager of the Month is delighted his decision to give his attacking midfielder a free rein to move wherever he believes he will be most potent, Lennon is sure the 19 goals Commons has now scored can be the platform from which to push on for many, many more.

Asked if 30 this season is beyond him, the Parkhead boss said emphatically: "No, not in the vein of form he is in.

"Kris is not a natural centre-forward, but he is a natural goalscorer. That speaks more about the way he has played this season than anything else.

"He is really enjoying himself - and long may it continue."

Proof of this has been delivered in the games either side of Celtic's break to Turkey.

Against St Mirren, with the team coasting, from the half-way line, James Forrest broke clear on the left and got to the goal-line.

When he looked up for someone to pick out with a pass, the only player who had kept up with him was Commons.

On Saturday, his hunger was evident again. Having played in Anthony Stokes for a clear shot at goal, Commons was the man who had stolen ahead of everyone else - Motherwell defenders included - to have a simple tap- in when keeper Gunnar Nielsen pushed the striker's shot out.

"He has just got that instinct to get into the right place," observed Lennon. "He's the first one there when it matters.

"The way Saturday's game panned out, the ball just seemed to pop up in his area, whether we were counter-attacking or pressing them.

"Kris takes up really good positions at times. When other teams are attacking us and we get the ball and break, he is the first port of call for anyone looking to play it forward.

"He is also a very good passer, and has looked very good in training after his short break.

"Kris carried that on into the game on Saturday, though I thought he looked a little tired towards the end, which is why we took him off.

"Now, we will just have to keep him as fresh as possible."

The success he has enjoyed -and continues to enjoy - this season has raised Commons to the level whereby he is the man opposing managers tell their defenders and midfielders they must keep quiet.

However, that is easier said than done, and Lennon believes one of the main weapons in the 30-year-old's armoury is his ability to drift off those marking him.

The fact he does not occupy a conventional striker's position means he is very difficult to pick up.

"That's the general idea," confirmed Lennon. "And he can play left, right or through the middle, so he has got that flexibility to move around."

Little wonder Commons is flavour as well as Player of the Month. However, his boss knows how important it is to mention in despatches those supplying the ammunition to the hot shot.

Lennon is the first to give a pat on the back to the likes of Stokes, Emilio Izaguirre - the Honduran tops the table for laying on chances this season with nine - and the others who are so important in this vital 'assisters act'.

"The guys who score the goals will be the first to recognise it is not just about them," said the Hoops manager.

"I think Jamesie Forrest is another one who will have plenty more assists coming from him, if we can keep him healthy.

"There is a nice blend to the way we are playing. And, in the last few games, there has been some fantastic football, with plenty of goals, and we have deserved that.

"We want to kick on. We have played 21 games unbeaten now.

"Who knows where it can take us? But we just want to stretch the lead as far as possible."

Football

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