Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Anthony Stokes inspires as Celtic edge ever closer to title

Celtic 3 St Mirren 0

Celtic's Anthony Stokes receives praise from Charlie Mulgrew

Neil Lennon reserved special praise for Anthony Stokes after the Celtic striker helped take the Hoops to within touching distance of the Scottish Premiership title.

The 25-year-old Republic of Ireland player was on top form as the champions-elect swept past St Mirren after Norwegian midfielder Stefan Johansen scored for the first time since completing his move to Celtic from Norwegian side Stromsgodset in January, with a close-range header from a Leigh Griffiths cross a minute before the interval.

Celtic dominated the second-half with Griffiths grabbing the second in the 61st minute before Stokes made it 3-0 in the final seconds with his 12th goal of the season.

It left the home side with the chance of wrapping up their third successive championship against Partick Thistle at Firhill on Wednesday night, if second-placed Aberdeen drop points at Ross County tomorrow.

Lennon believes Stokes is playing at his most consistent best since signing from Hibernian in 2010.

"There was some great performances and I was delighted with Stokes," said the former Celtic skipper. "I thought his all-round game merited the goal he got at the end.

"I don't think he has scored as many as he would like. He has been prolific in the last two or three seasons. So this hasn't been his best in terms of goals return but for consistency I think it has been his best season."

Celtic's championship win will be emphatic, with the Hoops only defeat, so far, to Aberdeen

Lenon said: "Winning the title is our focus, as is progressing the team and you can see real shoots of improvement as we go along.

"We are playing some really good stuff.

"We probably don't want the season to end even though it has been a very long season

"We were a little bit sloppy with our passing in the first 20 minutes but we always felt we could get in behind them. We just needed to find the right pass and we did. It was a great cross by Leigh and a great run and finish by Stefan."

The Buddies made a decent fist of the first-half but were simply outclassed after the break to leave them in the relegation play-off place, albeit only three points behind eighth-placed Kilmarnock who have played a game more.

Boss Danny Lennon is hoping his side take some comfort from the fact they will not meet Celtic again this season.

He said: "Over the piece Celtic deserved the victory but to lose the goal in the 43rd minute was disappointing.

"I know we went away empty handed but we are taking a lot of positives.

"We have eight big cup finals to play and we don't come against that quality every week."

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