Celtic clock up air smiles in Paisley

SO that's what a Celtic team in need of a break can do.

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Commons' double put the game beyond doubt
Commons' double put the game beyond doubt

Heaven help the rest of the SPFL Premiership when they get back from their R&R in Turkey.

After three 1-0 victories, the 4-0 demolition of St Mirren provided the goal return which Neil Lennon was demanding.

The fact it stretched their unbeaten domestic run was another reason to be cheerful, as was the extension of the clean-sheet record which makes it tougher and tougher to recall when Fraser Forster was last beaten.

Certainly, it never looked like happening at St Mirren Park, where, for all their huffing and puffing, Saints never managed to conjure up a shot to trouble the big man in the Hoops goal.

Fortunately for the hardy souls who had elected to attend the lunch-time kick off, there was more than enough action at the other end to keep them entertained.

While the first efforts of the visitors had brought nothing but bad luck - shots from Charlie Mulgrew and Kris Commons both rebounding from the same post behind a beaten Marion Kello - the second half yielded much more by way of just deserts.

Mulgrew set the ball rolling with the opener on 52 minutes, following a mazy dribble into the Saints box by Adam Matthews.

Six minutes later, it was the opposite full-back, Emilio Izaguirre, who started the move for No.2, intercepting a cross-field pass, feeding Joe Ledley, and cheering as Anthony Stokes drilled a shot across the keeper and in.

Another quick one-two, this time from Commons, in 69 and 71 minutes, put the real sheen on the result for the Bhoys.

An appreciative manager said of his midfielder: "His goal return is fantastic. The chip which hit the post could have been a contender for goal of the season."

As it was, Commons' first came from an Izaguirre cross, and was headed in at the back post.

That was goal No.50 for him in a Celtic shirt, and No.51 was right behind, with Celtic now understood to be planning to extend his current deal.

It was the perfect way to sign off for Lennon and his men before their mid-season break.

And it's doubtful anyone back in the SPFL will be sending them a wish-you- were-still-here card during their absence.

Despite the fact it was the second game of the new year, it had been Saints' first chance to become the team that lowers Celtic's championship flag in this campaign.

The delay was caused by the Hoops' decision to opt out of the second game on the original fixture list, due to be against St Mirren back in August, as they elected instead to head across the Irish Sea to play Liverpool in the Dublin Decider. By coincidence, this long-awaited meeting between the clubs was the prelude to Lennon and his players taking another week off domestic duty, and their scheduled league game against Kilmarnock next weekend.

Today they head off to Turkey to allow their most-played stars to enjoy some rest and relaxation and their fringe men to play in a mini-tournament in much warmer conditions.

Perhaps the frequent sight, albeit through the drizzle and mist, of flights taking off from nearby Glasgow Airport acted as a welcome spur to men who are ready to swap football boots for flip-flops and snoods for Speedos.

Whatever the incentive - and you can't dismiss the manager's urgings in recent days as he battles to keep them up to the standard set earlier in the season - this was Celtic firing on all cylinders.

Saints were merely the latest victim, though Danny Lennon's side did at least manage to make something of a contest of it for the first half.

Despite this, Celtic could and should have had their noses in front, and their manager was more than happy with the effort they put into the opening 45.

He said: "We played very well in the first half, and, but for the width of the post, we would have been a couple of goals up.

"We had control of the game, and felt at half-time that if we could get a goal, it would change the psychology of a game we had dominated.

"It was just the way the game was going, and looking at the players who were in the mood, the likes of Forrest, Stokes and Commons.

"It was brilliant to see our forward players playing so well. They got their rewards."

When the opposition is coming at you all guns blazing, the last thing you need to do is shoot yourself in the foot.

But, that, effectively - or ineffectively - is what Saints did by asking the creative Paul McGowan to sit deep in the defensive-covering position normally occupied by the suspended Jim Goodwin.

If deployed further forward, the former Celt's eye for a goal and a telling pass might have given them more of a chance of testing Forster, whose grey kit mirrored the dank day. As it was, all the shooting was coming from one team, who blew Saints away with their second-half power play.

So far ahead were Celtic that Lennon could even afford to send on his subs - or the B team, as it turned out to be as Derk Boerrigter, Nir Biton and Amido Balde took to the field.

Such players will be given even more of a chance to show the manager what they can do in Turkey, where Trabzonspor, Galatasaray and Ajax await, along with better conditions.

And to the PA man selecting provocative tunes to mark Celtic's visit: we've all moved into the year 2014, would you like to join us?

Football

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