NEIL LENNON is banking on Forrest fire to spark Celtic in Helsinki next week – and grab them the hot ticket for the Champions League knockout round.
Young Player of the Year James Forrest played his first competitive game since March when he helped the Hoops secure a 2-1 lead to take to Finland for the second leg of their qualifier against HJK.
With the intention to score another goal next Wednesday to force Helsinki to score three to go through, the 21-year-old's blistering pace and firepower will be a key weapon in Lennon's armoury.
The manager wants the youngster to get more game time against Aberdeen tomorrow, but Wednesday's tie on the artificial surface in Finland is already on his mind.
"I hope James's speed will be a real asset in Helsinki," said Lennon. "Georgios Samaras and the two full-backs, Emilio Izaguirre and Adam Matthews, have good pace as well, so we can hit them on the counter attack.
"But we will have to be clever and not do what we did in Utrecht."
That 4-0 defeat, overturning the 2-0 lead they took to Holland from the first leg of their Europa League qualifier two years ago, still haunts Lennon.
Since then, he is convinced his team has made huge improvements, with Forrest – then a teenager making his first start in Europe – one of the players to have come on by leaps and bounds.
The Scotland midfielder can become even more influential, and Lennon said: "James had a great game on Wednesday, especially when you consider how long it is has been since he played a competitive match.
"Sometimes his final ball just wasn't there, or he picked the wrong option. But he works so hard to get himself into great positions, and he did put some great balls across the box which went begging.
"He is a wonderful player, and I'm hoping that, if he stays fit, he can have another big season for us."
Forrest's growing maturity and importance to the team was highlighted in midweek when, having given his left-back opponent a torrid time in the opening stages, he was moved across to the left to help out defensively.
Lennon believes the advantage in terms of match fitness which Helsinki held going in the first leg will be much less of a factor in the return, with tomorrow's SPL opener against Aberdeen offering another important opportunity to get his players right up to speed and in the mood.
"If we win against Aberdeen, we will go to Helsinki in a good frame of mind," said the manager.
"In terms of match sharpness, we will also be two games better off than we were when we started the first leg against Helsinki."