Chequered flag approaches as Celtic tick all the right boxes

YOU didn't have to be Mystic Meg to see this one coming.

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Boss Neil Lennon shows his thanks to the Celtic supporters
Boss Neil Lennon shows his thanks to the Celtic supporters

The three features that seem to arrive in every Celtic fixture these days were chalked off once again yesterday afternoon.

Celtic victory. Check. Kris Commons goal. Check. Clean sheet. Check.

Winning has become a habit for Neil Lennon and his side and it is not one that they are looking to kick any time soon.

There will be no cold turkey for the Hoops in the coming days and months, not at least until they have savoured the taste of more champagne as they close in on the SPFL Premiership title and attempt to defend the William Hill Scottish Cup.

St Mirren were the latest team to succumb on Celtic's charge towards three-in-a-row, the champions extending their unbeaten league run this season to 24 matches with a 1-0 triumph which could, and should, have been more comfortable.

Lennon's side will wrap up the top flight crown in a matter of weeks, with the lure of going the whole campaign without defeat still a realistic possibility after another three points were collected in comfortable fashion.

The champions may have had to wait some time for their latest victory to be confirmed but it only took a matter of minutes for Commons to add to his remarkable tally this term.

There was a degree of good fortune, with keeper Marian Kello hardly covering himself in glory as he made a poor attempt to block Common's sweetly struck drive, but the Hoops forward, nor the Celtic support, were fussed as they celebrated together for the 22nd time this season.

It was the only time the Saints net would ripple but it wasn't for a lack of trying as Celtic swarmed forward at every opportunity, keeping Danny Lennon's side firmly under the cosh as the Buddies looked for a result to boost their chances of Premiership survival this season.

The home crowd did take to their feet once again before the break, however, rising in unison in support of their manager following the shocking events that lead to Lennon being forced to leave the League Cup semi-final between Aberdeen and St Johnstone 24 hours earlier.

As chants of 'one Neil Lennon' rang round the Parkhead stands, the manager emerged from his dugout to show his appreciation and say thanks to the faithful fans for their support during the latest unsavoury episode to blight his time in Scotland.

Back on the field, his side continued to dominate against a St Mirren outfit that were offering little resistance to the waves of attack, yet the crucial second goal to settle the nerves continued to elude the Hoops.

Anthony Stokes, restored to the starting line-up following his red card against Motherwell last month, should have marked his return to the team with at least one goal but chances came and went for the Irishman as he failed to convert after being fed by Virgil van Dijk before a couple of efforts from distance also failed to beat Kello.

With Leigh Griffiths watching on from the stand, and able to take to the turf at half-time to give the crowd their first chance to see him in the Hoops since his deadline day move from Wolves last week, Stokes now has a fight on his hands to retain his starting jersey in the coming weeks.

Celtic will have to wait until the visit of Aberdeen next weekend on Scottish Cup duty to see Griffiths make his bow but another new Bhoy was already catching the eye in the middle of the park.

Stefan Johansen was proving why Lennon shelled out £2million to bring him to the club last month with an accomplished display.

He could have marked his first start in green in white with a goal but he pulled his effort from 20 yards narrowly wide just minutes after midfield partner Scott Brown had spurned a glorious chance as he blazed over.

St Mirren never looked like making Celtic's profligacy cost them but there were still gasps from the Parkhead crowd every time the Buddies got within sight of Fraser Forster's goal.

The Englishman equalled Charlie Shaw's long-standing record of 10 consecutive league clean sheets against Kilarmock last midweek and earned his place in Parkhead folklore by shutting out the Saints.

As Celtic spurned yet more chances, James Forrest with the most clear cut as he fired wide after meeting Stokes' pass from the byeline, the visitors struggled.

There was a brief moment of anxiousness when Efe Ambrose was called upon to stifle Steven Thompson before Forster played his part, denying Josh Magennis with a smart stop to make sure he extended his shut-out record to 1035 minutes.

As expected, his place in the history books, and the final two Celtic components were confirmed. Everyone should have seen it coming.


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