No panning over Celtic goals rush aim

THE Celtic board may have come under friendly fire from sections of the Parkhead support regarding their seeming unwillingness to splash the cash on a multi-million pound signing during the January transfer window.

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Neil Lennon can't fault his side's relentless form but would love to see the Hoops become more clinical in front of goal
Neil Lennon can't fault his side's relentless form but would love to see the Hoops become more clinical in front of goal

But, on the field, Neil Lennon's side have cashed in with their most readily used currency - goals.

The champions emerged unscathed and victorious from their latest Premiership fixture on Sunday, their unbeaten record still intact and another three points added to an impressive tally.

The last column in the table is, of course, the most important one and the one that boss Lennon will take most pleasure from seeing his side add to their current relentless rate.

Strangely, though, given their fine form, their goal tally would only rise by one as they saw off St Mirren for their 21st triumph out of their 24 Scottish top flight fixtures.

The first month of 2014 saw Celtic find the net 16 times in their five domestic fixtures, as well as three in the Antalya Cup triumph over Trabzonspor in Turkey, but there was no goal glut in their first February fixture at the weekend.

It was no surprise that Kris Commons was the man that would break the deadlock and clinch the points for the Hoops, his sweetly struck seventh-minute strike proving too hot to handle for Buddies keeper Marian Kello as the ball flew into the roof of the net from the edge of the area.

The early goal should have been the launchpad for a comfortable success for the champions but the collective sigh of relief that joined the cheers of triumph in reverberating around Parkhead at the final whistle proved that the game - on the scoreboard anyway - was closer than it should have been come the end of a largely one-sided affair.

As chances came and went, frustrations grew as Lennon's side failed to put St Mirren to bed, although the Buddies -bar a Josh Magennis effort that was well saved by Fraser Forster - never looked like making them pay.

The main culprit was Anthony Stokes, the Irishman returning to the starting line-up following the red card he received against Motherwell but enduring a frustrating day in the final third of the pitch.

With Leigh Griffiths looking on from the stands and eager to get started following his deadline day switch from Wolves, Stokes could hardly have picked a worse moment to misfire in the final third.

When your team is on the kind of run Celtic are, it is hard to be too critical, especially in the aftermath of yet another deserved victory.

Perfection is still some way off for the three-in-a-row seeking Hoops but Lennon can nit-pick when required.

"I was delighted with the win and the performance, I thought it was a really good performance," the manager said with fully justified satisfaction after seeing his side stretch their advantage at the top of the table to 21 points.

"I thought we deserved more in terms of goals.

"We were superior in all departments. Our passing was good, the amount of attacks and chances we created was good. It was just that finishing touch that was lacking at times.

"But I can't really criticise the team that much, it was very good to watch."

As the clock ticked on and Celtic failed to add to Commons' early strike, apprehensive levels started to creep up around the Parkhead stands and reached a crescendo when Danny Lennon's side had a flurry of half-chances in the burning embers of an encounter that failed to really catch fire as Celtic cruised.

The second goal would certainly have eased the nerves but nobody should really have been worried.

On the odd occasion when Celtic don't breeze a couple of goals clear from their rivals these days, they appear in little threat of tripping up on their cruise towards the title thanks to a defensive line that has become seemingly impenetrable in recent weeks.

The champions may not have had the finishing touch to their good play but they were solid at the back and composed in midfield, new Bhoy Stefan Johansen picking up the man of the match award on his first start for the club since his switch from Stromsgodset last month.

Each attack was well worked as Celtic flowed forward with intent and poise, only to inexplicably lose their composure when they saw the whites of Kello's eyes.

"I thought we were superb, our football was very, very good," Lennon said.

"We had 19 attempts at goal and only four on target and that is the only criticism I can have of the team.

"I thought it was a very good all-round performance and we deserved much more out of the game."

With the transfer window finally closed and Lennon's transfer dealings completed for another season, silverware is the only aim now for the Northern Irishman.

Griffiths may not have been the blue chip arrival some fans had hoped for as they got caught up in talk of £6million signings but he is the headline buy of another productive window.

The Scotland striker could make his debut in the Scottish Cup clash with in-form Aberdeen this weekend as he looks to follow Johansen's lead and make an immediate favourable impression at Parkhead.

And Lennon hopes it won't be too long before he has more options to call upon as Adam Matthews and Mikael Lustig edgle closer to recovery.

Lennon said: "We are hoping Adam will be fit to train this week. Mika is still another month or so away.

"It will be good to get them back but Darnell (Fisher) has done really well for us and I am really pleased with the way he is progressing," he said.

Football

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