NEIL LENNON today revealed he can't be sure the sight of so many clubs threatening to overtake Celtic at the top of the SPL spooked his players.
But he admitted it certainly gave him a fright.
So the 4-0 smashing of Hearts at Tynecastle to keep the Hoops a point clear with a game in hand carried more satisfaction than might normally be the case.
It prevented Celtic falling to their third straight defeat after losing to Benfica and Inverness.
And with the defence of their SPL title still Lennon's No.1 priority, even with a last 16 place in the Champions League on the line next week when they play Spartak Moscow, the Hoops boss was delighted his ask for a statement victory was answered.
"The sight of so many teams right on our tail in the league probably gave my players a jolt up the backside. It certainly gave me one," said Lennon, who claimed his 100th victory as Celtic manager last night.
"But I was delighted with what they showed against Hearts. I thought we were very good last year when we also won 4-0 at Tynecastle.
"The tempo, intensity and attitude was all there last night, particularly from players who lacked that at the weekend.
"I got the reaction I wanted, but I don't want to keep asking for a reaction. They have raised the bar again. That's the standard they have set themselves.
"Now, I don't expect them to play every week like that, but I want them to play as close as they can to it."
Lennon recognises that life should become less demanding after they conclude their Group G commitments next week.
But he will not accept anyone taking their eye off the ball in any game, and was pleased that was not a problem last night.
The Hoops boss said: "I hope the players are not just looking at the Spartak game. That was obviously not the case last night.
"We sent out a message with that win, and that's exactly what I was looking for. A few of them will not get the weekend off, and we will get them as prepared as possible for Spartak."
Fraser Forster – who made three great saves to deny Hearts, including a late penalty save from Hearts skipper Marius Zaliukas – is one man due a rest.
Lennon said: "Fraser takes pride in clean sheets. He had a lot last year, and the year before, and he wants to match that this time round.
"We just got a little bit slack at the back at 4-0, and Fraser has pulled a few of our defenders out of the hole."