Celtic's wide Bhoys can power up Pukki

CELTIC boss Neil Lennon today predicted Teemu Pukki's strike rate will improve - when his crocked wingers return to action.

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Teemu Pukki is backed to hit target when James Forrest and Derk Boerrigter are fit
Teemu Pukki is backed to hit target when James Forrest and Derk Boerrigter are fit

Lennon was delighted to see Pukki end his 15-game goal drought in the SPFL Premiership match with Hibs at Celtic Park last weekend.

But he believes the absence of wide men Derk Boerrigter and James Forrest through injury may limit his opportunities in the final third.

Lennon said: "We are being forced to play without both Boerrigter and Forrest, who are both out injured, at the moment.

"I have been pleased with the application that Teemu has shown in games even though the goals have not come.

"He will have received a lift from the goal that he scored at the weekend. Hopefully there will be more goals to come now.

"But I always think that it is difficult for a team to play without natural wingers. Unfortunately, we just haven't got that width in the team at the minute."

Lennon revealed he has been pleased with the partnership that 23-year-old Pukki has formed up front with Anthony Stokes in Celtic's last two domestic fixtures.

The pair linked up well in the emphatic 5-0 win over Motherwell at Fir Park and also in the triumph against Hibs at the weekend. And if Pukki recovers from the ankle knock that he sustained against Hibs, the Celtic boss looks set to persevere with the pairing.

The strike duo could line up once again in the league meeting with Hearts at Celtic Park this Saturday.

Lennon, who last night was in Holland to watch the KNVB Cup tie between Heerenveen and AZ Alkmaar, said: "I think we have still to find out what partnership suits Teemu best up front.

"You have to try and find a formation that suits the players that you have available and that is what we have done recently.

"I think Teemu and Stokesy played well together at Motherwell. It has suited us in the last few games we have played.

"We will see how they develop as a partnership in the games that we have coming up."

Meanwhile, Lennon is set to make a decision on whether to offer Japanese international Hiroki Yamada a deal after watching him in training at Lennoxtown this week. The 24-year-old midfielder, who has been capped twice by his country, plays in the J-League for Jubilo Iwata.


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