Lennon calling for nerves of steel as Celtic feel the heat
Celtic 1 Dundee United 1: Celtic manager Neil Lennon insists his players need to battle through the anxiety which is part and parcel of life at the pressure-filled Old Firm.
The Parkhead side fell three points behind Clydesdale Bank Premier League leaders Rangers on Saturday after a Sean Dillon injury-time header at Celtic Park gave Dundee United a share of the spoils.
Gary Hooper's 11th goal of the season after 23 minutes put the home side ahead and had Tannadice keeper Dusan Pernis not made a great save from the former Scunthorpe striker just a few minutes later then the points could have been in the bag.
However, as the second goal refused to come, the nerves of the home support appeared to spread from the stands and out onto on to the pitch.
United sensed an opportunity and eventually got the equaliser they deserved, albeit it took until the final seconds of three added minutes before it eventually arrived.
Former Celtic skipper Lennon believes his players have to cope with the pressure which is sure to increase as the season continues.
“That's the expectation level that comes with being at a big club and the players have to live with that and have to get past that,” said the former Northern Ireland international midfielder.
“It's been like that since I've been here and I'm sure it was like it before that.
“It's something we have to deal with when playing for Celtic.
“I don't think it helps at times but I can understand why the fans get a bit anxious as we all do when you are one-nil up with minutes to go.
“I didn't think we were in massive danger and were hanging on.Dundee United forced a few set-pieces but I always thought we were capable of scoring.
“I don't know how many good chances we had but it was enough to win the game.”
Lennon has chopped and changed his central defence all season and at times Thomas Rogne and Daniel Majstorovic looked just as uncertain as the boss’ previous combinations.
But Rogne has no problem with the Celtic fans expressing their frustration from the sidelines and admitted that the three points should have remained at Parkhead.
“The crowd is allowed to get nervous, that is part of being a football supporter, you get nervous and you get happy,” the Norwegian youngster said.
“Of course we hear what they say but I don't think that affected us.
“We should just have seen the game out. It's very disappointing when it is a game we should have won.
“We could have been two, three or four-up in the first half.
But as long as it is only one-nil, there is always the opportunity for the other team to come back.
“You know all they need is one goal, a lucky strike or whatever so you need to be prepared for this and we obviously weren't.”
United boss Peter Houston hopes his players can retain the belief they showed for future visits to both Old Firm clubs.
“I felt that the longer the game went on, the more confident we grew,” he said.
“Going away to play the Old Firm is very difficult and every time you tell your players to be brave and pass the ball.
“On our day we can pass the ball and take it under pressure well and I felt we did that and created chances.
“I just hope and wish we do that in future games at Celtic and Rangers and believe we are capable of taking points.”