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Anthony Stokes hits winner as Celtic edge into final

By Lisa Gray

Anthony Stokes paid tribute to James Forrest for setting up the dramatic extra-time winner that booked Celtic's place in the William Hill Scottish Cup final.

The Irishman had the final say after an enthralling encounter with Dundee United at Hampden ended all square at 3-3 after 90 minutes.

Stokes – who was thrown into the action with 13 minutes of regulation time to go – grabbed the decisive goal when he connected with a lovely cross from Forrest and directed a header into the back of the net.

The striker said: "I was delighted to get the goal. That was the plan going on, I wanted to score in a tight game like that. I was pleased to get the goal and, more importantly, the result.

"Any player who comes on wants to be positive.

"As a striker, I'm always thinking about getting myself in positions to score. The ball from James was exceptional and it was just a tap-in in the end."

The Hoops will battle Hibernian for the trophy on May 26, after the Edinburgh side fought back from three goals down to seal an unlikely 4-3 victory after extra-time against Falkirk on Saturday.

Hibs suffered an agonising defeat at the hands of city rivals Hearts in the final last year.

But, having endured their own share of Hampden heartache recently, Stokes insists Celtic will have just as much incentive to claim the silverware.

And asked what to expect from former club Hibs, he added: "No doubt they will be on song for the final so it's going to be a very tough game. They've had a decent enough season. They started off very well and slightly tailed off towards the end of the season.

"But it's a cup final and everybody is up for it."

Celtic are now within touching distance of the Scottish Premier League title and Stokes would love to make it a domestic double on top of an impressive Champions League run.

He said: "It's been a great season so far. You are judged on what you win at the end of the season. We are in a great position in the league and hopefully we can wrap that up on Sunday.

"We've got a final to look forward to now that we are very confident about."

Meanwhile Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell has confirmed that the Parkhead club will today vote for league reconstruction while claiming the status quo is "not palatable".

All 12 Scottish Premier League clubs will meet at Hampden to vote on the proposals which includes a move to a 12-12-18 league structure – with it then splitting into 8-8-8-18 after 22 games – the move to a single league and a redistribution of monies.

It requires an 11-1 vote to progress but St Mirren chairman Stewart Gilmour has indicated the Buddies will vote against the proposal vote.

There remains uncertainty about Ross County's position but Lawwell told Celtic's official website: "We are coming to the end of the process and it's either change or the status quo. When you look across over the wall, if it doesn't happen, then what is the flip side? And the flip side is it stays the same. That, to me, is not palatable.

"From Celtic's point of view, come Monday night if it doesn't go through, we'll be disappointed because we put a lot of work into it and we see it as the right thing for the game."

Belfast Telegraph

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