Ronny Deila believes he may have found a strike partnership in Leigh Griffiths and Carlton Cole which will allow him to deviate from his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation more often.
Cole marked his first starting appearance for the Scottish champions with a goal in their 3-0 Scottish Cup fourth-round win at Stranraer, partnering Griffiths whose double took his tally for the season to 22.
I’m disappointed we lost the third goal which put a little bit of icing on the cake for CelticBrian Reid
It was a rare deployment of a 4-4-2 formation by Deila and the Celtic manager was satisfied with the outcome.
“There is a lot of talk about us playing two up front but it is all about player types,” said Deila. “Sometimes you need to win the midfield battle first.
“Today we were quite sure we would win that with Stefan Johansen and Nir Bitton in there. It is a narrow pitch at Stair Park and we wanted to pressure them on their 18-yard box. It went well.
“We have tried 4-4-2 before but it hasn’t been the right types to play together before. It is important we can have a plan B, C or even D if we need it.
“I think Carlton did okay. He played well together with Leigh. They scored three between them, so I can’t be very irritated by that. You can see Carlton is experienced and he knows how to score and be a striker.
“Maybe Leigh needed the rest he had when he was out injured recently. I’m happy that Carlton scored as well, because it’s important it’s not always on Leigh’s shoulders. But Leigh is so important for us. He scores goals and works really hard for the team as well. I’m very happy to have him back.
“Is he the best striker in the country? I think so. I haven’t seen players like Steven Fletcher and others outside our league, but Leigh is my dream striker now. I can say that.” Deila was happy to emerge with a comfortable win from a tie which he admitted could have been far more problematic for his team.
“It was a very good performance,” he said. “It is always tough to play away in the early stages of the cup.
“There is everything to lose. We have all been through it before with big problems but today we did it in a very good way.
“We started with a poor first five or ten minutes but, after that, we controlled the game, created chances and put on a good performance.”
As Celtic await their fate in today’s Scottish Cup fifth-round draw, they have been linked once again with a £2 million move for 22-year-old Croatian midfielder Ivan Mocinic of Rijeka during the current transfer window.
“There are a lot of names out there now. Maybe some of the names you have are also on my list,” said Deila. “But I can assure you that there are lot of names you have that I’ve never heard of, as well! It’s too early to talk about names. But I can assure everybody that we’re working as hard as we can and, come the end of the window, we’ll see where we are.”
Stranraer manager Brian Reid was frustrated by the manner in which his team conceded a 2-0 half-time deficit to Celtic but also pleased with their overall contribution, especially that of 18-year-old goalkeeper Max Currie.
“We were disappointed to lose the goals we did,” said Reid. “If you stand off teams at any level, they will hurt you and, unfortunately, that’s what happened at the first two goals.
“We’d have liked to have kept it at 0-0 until half-time and see how it would have gone. Unfortunately for us, the first goal fell to Griffiths and he’s the last player we’d want it to.
“But we gave a good account of ourselves and I’m disappointed we lost the third goal which put a little bit of icing on the cake for Celtic.
“This will do young Max the world of good. He made some good saves. I said to him before the game to make sure that he did the basics right and I’m delighted. It was a good day for him and all the boys and I’m sure they will enjoy going back to work tomorrow!
“We knew Celtic were playing at full strength and that is a bit of respect for us. You see down south that Liverpool changed their whole team – I was hoping Celtic would too in some ways, but I’m actually glad Celtic showed us that respect.”