Scott Brown, the Celtic captain, was irked that Jon Flanagan escaped a red card at Ibrox yesterday afternoon for the use of an elbow but was reluctant to use it as an excuse in the aftermath of a second limp Parkhead performance at Ibrox this season.

Central to the narrative the last time these teams met six weeks ago, Brown could have had another telling contribution to yesterday’s theatre after he went down in the box following Flanagan’s liberal use of an arm.

Yet, it says everything about Celtic’s performance that regardless of whether referee Kevin Clancy made the wrong choice as he went for yellow rather than a legitimate red that the likelihood is that Celtic’s numerical advantage would have been insufficient to claw back a game that was gone from them after just 109 minutes.

And while Brown, whom Neil Lennon claimed was targeted by Rangers in the last game at Celtic Park, was frustrated at the leniency shown to Flanagan there was also an honesty in his assessment of just what Celtic got from the game.

“Yeah, another one to the face,” said Brown. “Surprisingly, somebody didn’t see that again. He [Clancy] said it was a yellow because it didn’t hit me in the face. But it’s part and parcel.

“There’s always a linesman there who can see it from the corner flag. There are two people there, both said they didn’t properly see it, so it’s a hard one for them.

“But, at the end of the day, it wouldn’t have changed the outcome. Rangers were better, we didn’t start well, we didn’t follow our game plan, didn’t press as hard as we could, didn’t play as well as we should.

“I don’t think it would have changed the outcome of the game. We didn’t deserve to win today, Rangers played better than we did.”

The job Lennon will have between now and the Scottish Cup final will be in lifting the spirits of the Celtic players to get them over the line in their pursuit of a unique treble treble. The Parkhead side looked like a team who have run out of steam at Ibrox but Brown has insisted they will lick their wounds before they attempt to claim a third successive clean sweep.

“I think Rangers deserved the victory more than we did,” he said. “We didn’t compete, we didn’t press as well as we could have done. But for us, now, it’s about how we look forward.

“We’ve got a cup final to look forward to, Hearts in the final game of the season – and the chance to pick up a trophy. We’ve got to put smiles back on everyone’s faces. Yesterday wasn’t the best – but we’ve got a chance to win a treble.”

While Celtic’s concentration will lie in ensuring there is a final push as they prepare for Hampden, quite how this defeat is interpreted further up the chain is interesting. Ronny Deila’s Celtic tenure came to an end following a Scottish Cup semi-final defeat to Rangers in April 2016 with the board’s aggressive reaction overseeing the arrival of Brendan Rodgers to kickstart a rebuilding exercise.

A similar procedure is expected this summer in terms of player recruitment although it remains to be see who is in the dug-out to take charge of that.

“We’ve got a lot of players leaving, guys out of contract as well,” said Brown. “We’ll need to see who’s in charge and see what he’s going to do.

“Whatever manager comes in, I’m sure he’ll bring quality. I’m sure he’ll have been watching the last five or six games, whether that’s Lenny or somebody else.

“And I’m sure, if the gaffer’s in charge next season, he’s already got his players he’s looking at – and it will be the same for anybody else coming in.”

There is a feeling that this result will be damning for Lennon’s credentials of getting the job on a permanent basis. For Brown, though, there was a case to be made for the interim manager who took over the reigns in unusual circumstances following Rodgers’ swift departure from the club in February.

“We’ve got Neil here. He’s been fantastic since coming in,” said the midfielder.

“It’s our first defeat since we played here the last time. So you look at the season we’ve had, it’s been fantastic. The season is not based on one fixture, one game. It’s based on how well we’ve played all season.

“We’ve dominated the league for the last eight years. We need to make sure we continue to do that in the cup final – and next season as well. It’s never great getting beat.

“The lads are disappointed but we need to go again on Sunday – and we’ve got a cup final to look forward to.”