Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 December 2014

Celtic 3 St Mirren 1

Georgios Samaras
Georgios Samaras

Tony Mowbray is hoping in-form Aiden McGeady can help breathe life into Celtic's ailing Europa League hopes when Hapoel Tel Aviv visit Parkhead on Wednesday night.

The Republic of Ireland midfielder was a stand-out in Saturday's 3-1 home win over St Mirren which took the Hoops two points clear of Old Firm rivals Rangers at the top of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League, albeit the Ibrox men have a game in hand.

After St Mirren defender Chris Innes had turned Scott McDonald's shot past his own goalkeeper Paul Gallacher, McGeady set up Georgios Samaras for number two and then crossed for McDonald's second-half clincher.

The Celtic boss will today turn his attention to a more difficult prospect, beating the Israeli side who are top of Group C with nine points while the Parkhead men languish at the bottom with two points, both having played four games.

To qualify, Celtic have to win against Hapoel and then beat Rapid Vienna away while looking for second-placed Hamburg to lose both their remaining fixtures.

It was to that unlikely end that Mowbray replaced McGeady with Niall McGinn with a couple of minutes remaining on Saturday.

“I took him off to make sure he wasn't injured,” the former West Brom and Hibernian manager said.

“Aiden McGeady is an extremely talented individual, as we can all see, and a very important player.

While McGeady all but picks himself for the Hapoel game, Mowbray will once again wrestle with the ongoing dilemma that is striker Marc-Antoine Fortune.

The £3.8million summer signing from Nancy has failed to shine since arriving in Scotland and has scored just twice in 10 appearances, a double in a 5-2 home win over St Johnstone in August.

After drawing another blank against Dundee United last week, Fortune was demoted to substitute for the visit of the Paisley side. He replaced Georgios Samaras after 65 minutes and may feel relieved that the two good chances he missed in the closing stages of the game did not do any damage to Celtic's title hopes.

Mowbray is well aware that the spotlight shines more intensely on Fortune with each passing week.

Referee Steve Conroy will be glad that his embarrassing gaffe with seconds remaining at Celtic Park was rectified before any lasting damage was done.

When Innes handled in the box to concede a penalty, Conroy flashed a yellow then red card at the Paisley defender who trooped off. However, after a period of confusion, the former Gretna player was recalled when the official realised he had not booked him earlier in the match.

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