DANNY Lennon has spent the week puzzled by the media critic-ism heaped upon his St Mirren side following last Saturday’s 2-0 Clydesdale Bank Premier League defeat to Celtic at Parkhead.
St Mirren were pilloried for their defensive set-up after they left with nothing when they succumbed to goals either side of the interval by Victor Wanyama and Gary Hooper.
Ahead of tonight’s SPL clash with Motherwell in Paisley, Lennon claimed that his team, sitting second bottom of the table, were judged by double standards against the champions.
He said: “The team that loses a late goal with that approach deserve everything they get and we deserved everything we got last week. But yet, when Celtic lose 2-1 to Barcelona in the 90th minute, they are unlucky, but it was the exact same gameplan [we had] and we were in the game until the 85th minute. And, in terms of finances, Celtic are a lot closer to Barcelona than St Mirren are to Celtic.
“I know reporters have to write something and they have decided not to concentrate on Celtic’s 2-0 victory, they want to have a dig at us. But I will ask anyone in the media: How many times has my team played like that? We went there with a gameplan and it worked fantastically well for us, they didn’t cut us open in open play, they scored with two set plays and where we let ourselves down was when we had the ball.”
Skipper Jim Goodwin also tried to put his side’s performance at Celtic Park into context. “I read a lot of reports and I was really disappointed with some journalists’ comments,” he said. “We have young boys like John McGinn, who is on peanuts compared to the likes of Victor Wanyama and Scott Brown, whom he was trying to compete against.
“Celtic did it against Barcelona and everyone is praising them, saying [Celtic manager] Neil Lennon is a tactical genius and praising the commitment of the players and we go and do the exact same thing and are vilified. Maybe it’s because we lost the game. If we had come away with a goalless draw then they might have said St Mirren had done great, or jumped on Celtic, but it seems to be one rule for Celtic and one for the rest of us.”
Lennon is looking forward to playing second-placed Motherwell under the lights and hopes it will mean a boosted home crowd.
The former Cowdenbeath manager said: “I think it was a good shout putting the game on a Friday prior to the last weekend before Christmas. That weekend has been recorded as the worst for attendances.
“Last season when we had a great 2-1 win against Rangers we were actually over 700 season tickets down, so that shows you.
“That is 25/30 per cent of the 2500/3000 season tickets that we have and that is major. I have been to a couple of Friday night games and there is a terrific atmosphere and the games have been open and entertaining.
“Motherwell have done fantastically well and find themselves second top but we are hoping we start to accumulate points over the festive season.”
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall has told his players to take nothing for granted when they visit Paisley.
The Steelmen moved into second spot behind Celtic last week when they came from behind to win 3-2 at Hibernian, their fourth successive league victory on the road.
However, while his players have looked far more potent away from the environs of Fir Park this season, and Saints sit second-bottom of the table, McCall said: “I reminded the lads today that we were flying at this time last year, winning five [away] on the bounce and went to Hearts on Christmas Eve and put in a very poor performance [to lose 2-0].
“So, just because we are going well and playing well away, it doesn’t mean to say you just have to turn up and think you are going to win the game. I think we showed that at Hibs. The first 45 minutes wasn’t great, although the second 45 was obviously a massive contrast to that.
“So the players are well aware what is needed and we have to keep focused game by game. St Mirren are probably in the position no-one would have expected them to be in.
“In Danny Lennon’s defence he has been without two of his key players, Darren McGregor and Paul McGowan, so it has been a tough time for them. But, if you look at the quality they have, they have good experienced players allied to the likes of Kenny McLean.
“Gary Teale is capable and big Steven Thompson up front, I could go through a few who are all capable. They certainly have enough quality to start picking up points and it will be a tough game, there is no doubt about it. As always with us, we give respect to the opposition but I always have great belief that, if our players can play at their maximum, we can go anywhere and win a game. “
McCall will get another close look at St Mirren’s John McGinn, the 18-year-old midfielder whom he first came across while doing his coaching badges. The former Bradford City manager said: “I like the boy McGinn who they have brought in. I did a coaching session with him a couple of seasons ago on my pro-licence and I remember him standing out.
“Both Motherwell and St Mirren sent under-19 boys down so different people could coach them and do different aspects of it and I actually coached St Mirren for half a day. He certainly stood out for me. He has a great attitude and he has pushed himself to the front and is a first-team player.
“I always look out for him. He played in the under-20s this season and now he has kicked on into the first team and I hope his career keeps going, obviously apart from tomorrow night.”