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Lennon insists Celtic have not lost their focus

By Ronnie Esplin

Neil Lennon denied Celtic's defeat against Hibernian at Easter Road on Saturday was a “reality check” for his players.

The Hoops' six-game winning run in all competitions came to an end when they lost 1-0 to Leigh Griffiths' fine early strike.

It was the champions' first defeat in Leith in four years and once again hinted that Lennon's men, still six points ahead of Inverness with a game in hand at the top of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League, struggle occasionally to retain their domestic focus in the absence of a title challenge from traditional rivals Rangers, now playing in the Irn-Bru Third Division.

However, ahead of the visit of Motherwell tomorrow, the Parkhead boss said: “We didn't need a boot up the backside, that was not a reality check.

“There was no complacency from what I could see.

“I would take the same intensity of performance and the desire.

“There was a real hunger to win the ball back, there was a real hunger to win the game, it just didn't drop for us.

“The players will be highly motivated for Motherwell, it is another big game for us.

“There are a lot of teams playing well and scoring goals in the SPL.

“Stuart McCall has done a brilliant job, with the squad he has got, it is underestimated sometimes, but they are very attractive to watch and they are a dangerous team.”

The former Celtic skipper is hoping to have defenders Charlie Mulgrew (rib) and Adam Matthews (ankle) back for the visit of the Steelmen.

Midfielder Kris Commons (thigh), winger James Forrest (hamstring) and striker Anthony Stokes (ankle) remain out but Lennon is hoping the forthcoming winter break — where the Hoops will spend part of the time in Spain — will allow them to recover.

He said: “The break will be nice when it comes. It will be for the injured players more than anyone.

“Forrest, Commons, Stokes, we will have those players back hopefully by the time the Hearts game comes around and the squad will look a lot stronger.

“Hopefully Mulgrew and Matthews will be okay for Wednesday, we will see how they are.”

Meanwhile, Hearts have been found guilty of breaching Scottish Premier League rules over a failure to pay bonuses and appearance monies.

A meeting was held at Hampden yesterday to consider two charges relating to the Clydesdale Bank Premier League club's payment of bonuses.

A statement from the SPL read: “The sub-committee found the club guilty of breaching SPL Rules A6.21 and A6.22 in respect of a number of players.

“The club remains subject to the existing registration embargo, which will continue in effect until such time as the SPL board is satisfied that the remuneration default is no longer ongoing.

“However, the decision of the sub-committee today was that the club should be made subject to further restrictions on the registration of players.”

The restrictions relate to how and when Hearts can sign players.

Despite winning the William Hill Scottish Cup in May with a 5-1 win over Edinburgh rivals Hibs, Hearts have endured a torrid 2012 off the field.

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