Neil Lennon still on striker hunt for Celtic

As the net bulged time after time at Tynecastle on Sunday afternoon and the list of Celtic scorers grew, two things became increasingly noticeable.

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Seven and hell...Anthony Stokes was frustrated at not getting on the scoresheet during Sunday's demolition of Hearts
Seven and hell...Anthony Stokes was frustrated at not getting on the scoresheet during Sunday's demolition of Hearts

Anthony Stokes' increasing anxiety to get in on the act and the fact that another afternoon had underlined that Celtic do not have an out-and-out prolific forward.

It is somewhat ironic that on a day when the club celebrated putting seven goals past a team who have traditionally offered significant resistance, Neil Lennon's side should have cause to note the lack of a striker.

Kris Commons chipped in with a hat-trick, Mikael Lustig, Joe Ledley and Scott Brown were all among the goals.

Teemu Pukki, like Stokes, looked desperate to add his name to the tally and got just over half an hour to do so, but couldn't quite get there.

Lennon spent Saturday afternoon in Huddersfield watching Burnley striker Danny Ings and the quest to replace Gary Hooper is still uppermost in his mind.

The Irishman is keen to get players into the club or at the very least signed up on pre-contract deals so that he can fully begin preparations for the Champions League summer qualifiers as early as possible. However, while the need for a striker remains paramount, the Hoops boss was keen to point out that Celtic are currently better off in the goals front now than where they were at this stage last season.

"Anthony was in there banging his head off the wall at full-time because he didn't get on the scoresheet," revealed Lennon.

"He was really frustrated. I think he felt it a bit, but I was pleased with his performance. I don't think it is too much of an issue because we have scored more league goals this season that we did at this point last season.

"It is no secret that we are looking for that No.9, but we need to be patient. It isn't an easy thing to do, to go out and just pluck a striker out that fits all the relevant criteria.

"We had a lot of knockbacks last summer and it is difficult agreeing fees and salary levels and identifying players that are in the right mould for us. It all takes time.

"In the meantime, it is about giving Teemu Pukki and Amido Balde the chance to find their feet at this level.

"When you are here the spotlight is always on you and it is something that they need to adapt to.

"Teemu has come from a big club, but Amido is a bit different. He will definitely feature a lot more as the season goes on.

"Amido was a player we brought in to play in the SPFL. He'll get his chance over the next few months."

One of Celtic's most impressive performers in Gorgie at the weekend was Charlie Mulgrew. The versatile Scotland internationalist was the first player signed by Lennon when he was brought back to the club three years ago.

Few expected that he would be utilised as little more than a squad player, but such has been Mulgrew's continued development that he has made himself an integral part of Lennon's side.

This season in particular he has excelled in the central pastures and Lennon believes he is just one of a number of players in the squad who have shown a willingness to commit to learning more about their trade.

"Predominantly this season we have played Charlie in midfield and he has played very well there for his country too," said Lennon.

"We have tried not to chop and change too much because we don't want to break the centre-halves up because they're playing so well together at the minute.

"Ninety per cent of the players here have improved in the last few years - I'm talking about big players like Georgios Samaras and Scott Brown.

"You can see how they have come on. But Charlie is an outstanding example to anyone who leaves the club and thinks it is all downhill from there on.

"He came back even better, he has shown a willingness to learn and to knuckle down and I think he has made himself a really top player."

Lennon revealed that he is still waiting to hear from the representatives of Ledley and Samaras over new deals but further afield work has already begun on sounding out players for the January as the Hoops boss looks to strengthen and add quality.

"We are looking," said Lennon. "You never stop trying to bring players in or trying to get better. It is a continual process.

"This season's European chapter has closed for us which is a disappointment, but that performance on Sunday against Hearts is a great marker to show people just where we are.

"We are not a bad team. I felt vindicated by that performance in some ways because there had been a lot of criticism of the team in the wake of the AC Milan result.

"We know where we need to strengthen and we are actively trying to do that.

"We could do with a creative player in the middle because Kris is probably the only guy we have at the minute who fits in there.

"Tom Rogic is still young and finding his way, while we don't have much cover at left-back either. So there are areas of the team that we are looking at and hopefully we'll have some success in strengthening."

Football

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