GIVE the Bhoys a break, and what do you get?

Certainly not what Neil Lennon expected, nor finds acceptable.

The down time 'gained' through failing to qualify for the Scottish Cup semi-finals should have acted as a recharging point for limbs and lungs which have been working flat out since mid-July.

However, as the opening 45 minutes at Fir Park confirmed to everyone - including Hoops boss Neil Lennon - the danger with switching off for a short while is that it can be difficult to find the restart button.

It is not so much an issue with the bodies, more with the minds.

The break gave the players time to reflect - whether consciously or subconsciously - on a job well done in the defence of their league championship.

So, when they had to pull the boots back on to begin the final five fixtures, there was something lacking.

Ironically, the three men named in the PFA short-list for Player of the Year - Fraser Forster, Virgil van Dijk and Kris Commons - all caught the eye in the 3-3 draw with Stuart McCall's side, but for reasons they would rather forget.

Lennon felt the keeper should have done better when John Sutton put the home side ahead following a horrendous misjudgment by Efe Ambrose.

Dutch defender Van Dijk was then found wanting at Motherwell's second, scored by Zaine Francis-Angol.

By then, top-scorer Commons had missed the chance to make it goal No.29 for the campaign when he saw the erratic Gunnar Nielsen guess correctly and dive to turn away his spot-kick.

It required Anthony Stokes to give the Hoops a foothold in the game with a goal just before the break, then a short, sharp rollicking from Lennon in the dressing room to kick Celtic into gear.

The goals from Georgios Samaras, Stokes and sub Leigh Griffiths - it seemed inevitable the enfant terrible would get in on the act - appeared to have given Celtic all three points.

But, more slackness, this time from Emilio Izaguirre, allowed Sutton to make it 3-3 in injury-time and ensure the Hoops did not have a happy return to action.

All of which begged the question to a clearly-annoyed Lennon, does it take defenders longer than other players to get going again after they have been given some down time?

"I have no idea, but it looked like that on Saturday, from our two centre-halves, in particular," was the instant and heart-felt response.

"I thought we were very sloppy in the first half.

"We corrected that after the break and played pretty well in the second half.

"Look, I can't be over-critical. Efe and Virgil have had a fantastic season, but I just wasn't happy about the manner of the goals we conceded."

The price paid was not only a couple of dropped points -which means Celtic can't match the record of 103 set by the Hoops side of 2001-02 - but have also lost the chance to set a new record for the least number of goals conceded in a league campaign, which remains 18.

Sutton's late equaliser took this term's tally to 19 as they shipped three in a domestic game for the first time.

LENNON said: "The record for least number of goals conceded in a league season has gone now, and they have only themselves to blame for that.

"You can't just walk out there and be as sloppy as we were. You have to be switched on, and Motherwell had a lot to play for on Saturday."

The fact is that, with the title safely wrapped up and about to be delivered back to Celtic Park on the final day of the season, while Aberdeen, Motherwell, Dundee United, St Johnstone and Inverness battle it out for the Europa League spots, all the other teams in the top six have more to play for, in tangible terms, than Celtic.

"Of course they have," Lennon concurred. "We have nothing to play for, really, other than trying to get to the 100 points mark for the season, which we can still do.

"That's all we have left, as well as Kris Commons trying to get to 30 goals and Anthony Stokes trying to reach 20.

"Obviously, I want to finish the season strongly, as you could see by our second half performance at Fir Park, which I enjoyed.

"In the end, the dressing room was disappointed that we didn't win."

Lennon had done all in his power to avert this downer descending on his side, which saw 20-year-old midfielder John Herron make his first start as an auxiliary right-back.

THE manager revealed: "I told them before the game, if you come away from Motherwell having lost, you will say to yourself immediately, 'Look, it really doesn't matter.'

"But, when you get home that night, it will eat away at you and you will realise it does matter.

"Wherever you play, and regardless of the circumstances, you are champions and you have to play like champions."

Of course, it was not all bad. Indeed, when Celtic did hit their stride, there were vivid reminders of why they are 25 points clear of the pack and already looking forward to another Champions League qualifying campaign.

He firmly believes the players have an obligation to the fans to try to win and entertain at all times and said: "I made that clear to the players beforehand.

"Now, I don't think they deliberately go out there to play as they did. It's just a psychological edge that is missing a little bit.

"But, they corrected that second half, and it ended up a pretty good game for the fans to watch."

Lennon added: "I thought there was some decent play attacking-wise in the first half.

"Then, in the second, it was just total domination and we should have won the game."