Kilmarnock thumping proves title is fourgone conclusion for Celtic

WHY exactly is Neil Lennon trying to recruit a goal scorer?

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Joe Ledley gets the ball rolling last night as he puts the ball beyond Kilmarnock goalkeeper Craig Samson early on
Joe Ledley gets the ball rolling last night as he puts the ball beyond Kilmarnock goalkeeper Craig Samson early on

It's not because they need any help to fire Celtic towards more silverware.

With the 4-0 crushing of Kimarnock, they have now scored 15 goals in their last four games.

And, of course, they have forgotten long ago what it feels like to concede.

Last night's mini-goal-fest could have yielded a much richer harvest had Kris Commons - of all people - Virgil van Dijk and Derk Boerrigter not been profligate when clean through in the closing minutes.

But, to dwell on this would be churlish because Celtic are moving serenely towards title No.3 under Lennon.

The managers of every other side in the land should be making a pilgrimage to Cappielow to study Morton's methods.

After all, they are the only club in this country to have defeated Celtic in the last nine months.

Women can conceive and deliver a baby in that time, while every team outwith Morton have failed to conceive of how to deliver a single victory against the Bhoys.

There should now be a pregnant pause while we digest that this has been a span of 27 games, including last season's Scottish Cup final.

In this run, only eight points have been dropped in 25 league games, the result of four draws.

Ironically, Morton have since jettisoned Allan Moore, the manager who masterminded that League Cup success at Parkhead in September.

How the Hoops may regret that in late May if it proves to be the off night which denies them a treble.

For now, they will be content to have moved 18 points clear in the title race, with a game in hand over second-placed Aberdeen, their Scottish Cup opponents on February 8 and the last team to have scored against them in a domestic game.

Since that afternoon on November 23, they have stretched their shut-out record to 11 games.

Last night's clean sheet was the 10th in a row in the SPFL Premiership, and took Fraser Forster past the 1000-minute mark since he last picked the ball out of his net in the league or cup.

It also saw him equal Charlie Shaw's club record of 10 league clean sheets in a row, set in 1913-14 and equalled by the same man eight years later.

The absence of predator-in-chief, Kris Boyd, from Killie's young starting XI had significantly reduced the likelihood this would be the night Forster's defences would be breached.

New signing Alexei Eremenko did not even get a seat beside Boyd on the bench, his lack of match fitness ruling him out.

So it was no surprise it was Craig Samson who was the busier by far of the keepers on duty, though Forster did have to be at his very best to prevent a Manuel Pascali close-range volley spoiling his night.

His reaction block with a foot even drew congratulations from the disbelieving Killie skipper.

It had taken Celtic only 11 minutes to get their noses in front, and, for once, Commons was not the scorer, undoubtedly to the relief of bookies fed up paying out on him hitting the net first.

Lennon had predicted the return of James Forrest after injury would create more scoring opportunities. And, to Killie's chagrin, the winger lived up to his billing.

He used the entire width of the pitch, and handful of his team-mates, as he weaved his way through the Killie midfield then defence.

At the right moment, Forrest played the perfect pass through the inside-left channel to Joe Ledley, who shot across the keeper from an acute angle to score.

Ten minutes later, the little man from Ayrshire was at it again, this time twisting hapless full-back Jeroen Tesselaar in knots before firing a low cross into the six-yard box.

Lee Ashcroft attempted to clear, but, in his panic, succeeded only in diverting the ball in at the near post.

Forrest didn't have a leading hand in goal No.3 on 67 minutes, but Ledley did.

He lifted the ball over the Killie back line and Charlie Mulgrew took one touch to control it and one more to dispatch it beyond Samson.

In injury-time, sub Amido Balde rubbed salt into the Kilmarnock wounds as his weak shot slipped through the hands of Samson and trickled into the net.

Other than Pascali's close-range effort, Killie's only threat of note came when William Gros tumbled after a coming together with Van Dijk as he burst into the Celtic box, but referee Brian Colvin awarded a corner.

The official had been equally non-plussed when Commons appeared to be tugged back by Pascali in the opposite box.

And, when Rory McKenzie's mazy run towards Forster in the second half ended abruptly as he became the meat in a Van Dijk and Emilio Izaguirre sandwich, only Killie boss Allan Johnston appealed.

But, Celtic were in the mood. The level of control they enjoyed for the majority of the game exposed how comfortable their run to the line in this title race is.

With another three home games coming up, including the cup tie against the Dons, there appears to be no reason why their records can't be extended even further.

Football

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