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Celtic's Johan Mjallby lauds James Forrest's influence

By Ronnie Esplin

Celtic 2 Hearts 0: Celtic assistant manager Johan Mjallby welcomed back fit-again James Forrest, claiming his clinching goal in the Hoops' 2-0 Scottish Premiership win over bottom-side Hearts at Parkhead on Saturday showed just how important a player he is to the champions.

With the first-half goalless and the league leaders struggling to break down a resolute Jambos side still smarting from the 7-0 Scottish Cup thrashing when the two sides met at Tynecastle at the start of the month, the Scotland winger, back from a hamstring complaint, replaced midfielder Nir Biton at the interval.

Top scorer Kris Commons eventually got the breakthrough in the 63rd minute with his 13th goal of the season before clearing a Dylan McGowan header off the line in the dying moments.

And Forrest made sure of the points in injury-time with a well-taken goal on the break as Neil Lennon's side extended their unbeaten league run to 16 games this season.

Mjallby is hoping the former Celtic youth player can put his injury troubles behind him for the rest of the season.

"When James Forrest came on for the second-half he gave us the spark and I think we controlled the game," he said.

"He was always a threat for us.

"A fit James Forrest will always start every game but it is hard keeping him fit this season.

"We need to try to keep him fit and have him more involved in the team because he is a special player for us."

While glad to see Forrest back in action, the former Celtic defender acknowledged that midfielder Joe Ledley and forward Georgios Samaras could be on their way out.

Both players' contracts are up at the end of the season with manager Neil Lennon admitting at the pre-match press conference on Friday that he is bracing himself for their departure.

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