NEIL LENNON today tipped Gary Hooper to end his five-game goal drought – and blast his way to his best-ever tally for a season.
The striker missed two gilt-edged chances in the opening minutes of last night's 1-1 draw against St Johnstone.
But Lennon is backing Hooper to get back on the goal trail soon, and add to the 23 he already has, with the boss confident normal winning service will be resumed.
He refuted any suggestion that the January Player of the Month – whose best tally for a season was set last year at 29 – may be distracted by talk of a new contract, a move south or an England call up.
Lennon said: "It's not like Gary to go so long without a goal, but it's not for the want of trying.
"He has been playing very well, and I thought he was great at the weekend against Dundee United.
"Last night, first half in particular, he was very good again.
"I have no worries at all about Gary. I am expecting him to end up with 30 goals this season, anyway.
"It is just one of these things. He is only human.
"Normally, when he gets chances like last night, you are expecting the ball to be rippling the net.
"But there have been other games, like the one against Kilmarnock at the end of last month when we won 4-1, and he could have had four himself.
"It is not that he is not getting into positions to score. It is just not going in for him at the minute. But it will."
The Celtic manager was disappointed the efforts of Hooper and his team-mates were not rewarded with another victory in the SPL.
But he is convinced the players are focused on getting over the finishing line and that no one is free-wheeling, despite their lead in the league being maintained after Motherwell lost at home to Dundee United.
"I said to the players before the game last night 'Last Tuesday you were playing in front of 60,000 in the Champions League. But these are the games that get you to that competition'," said Lennon.
"I couldn't fault the players for their effort, and I thought their attitude was fantastic, especially in the first half.
"We lost our way a little bit in the second, and lost too many balls in the air for my liking. That's why I put Thomas Rogne on, and he was unlucky that he slipped at their goal.
"To be fair, we should have been out of sight in the game.
"But the longer the game stays at 1-0, the more encouragement you give the home side.
"That said, you could see in the first half that there was a real menace about our play, and their keeper was man of the match.
"He was the only man who could have been with that performance."