Celtic’s ability to grind out win has Lennon delighted
St Mirren 0 Celtic 2: Neil Lennon praised his side's character after Saturday's hard-fought 2-0 win at a blustery St Mirren Park ultimately took Celtic four points clear of Rangers at the top of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League.
The weather could hardly have been less conducive to good football with both set of players battling valiantly against driving wind and rain for most of the afternoon.
Nevertheless, it was an entertaining game and on-loan Hoops keeper Fraser Forster showed why Lennon wants to sign him on a permanent deal from Newcastle with a string of good saves before second-half goals from winger James Forrest and skipper Scott Brown extended the visitors' winning run in the SPL to 12 games.
The result became more significant later in the day when Rangers could only draw 1-1 at home to Aberdeen.
“I think the players have a lot of pride in this run and want to maintain it for as long as they can,” said the Celtic boss, who now turns his attention to next Sunday's Scottish Communities League Cup semi-final against Falkirk at Hampden.
“They showed great character. You aren't always going to play scintillating football, there are times when you have to show character and resolve and they did that.”
The two points dropped by wobbling Rangers strengthened further Celtic's chances of wresting the title back from Ibrox.
Comparisons between the respective Old Firm squads as a guide to who will be eventual champions undoubtedly favours the Parkhead club and the strength of Lennon's bench was evident when the visitors needed a boost with the game goal less.
Striker Anthony Stokes and midfielder Kris Commons both came on just before the hour mark to give the Hoops an injection of quality which Lennon acknowledged.
“Kris has been out for a while but he has been working hard in training and he is looking more and more like himself again,” said Lennon.
“Stokesy and Gary Hooper linked up very well when Anthony came on and made us better which is what you want your substitutes to do.”
Forster made his best save from Buddies midfielder Paul McGowan after the break, a reaction block to thwart the former Celtic player who had redirected right-back David van Zanten's shot towards goal from close range.
McGowan recognised the almost inevitable outcome when opportunities are squandered.
He said: “We had a couple of chances and they are chances that you have to take against Celtic.
“It was just one of those days, Forster had a couple of great saves and obviously the goals killed us. That's why they are top of the league.”