ANTHONY Stokes has praised Efe Ambrose for his seamless return to the heart of the Celtic defence.
The Nigeria international has not always been a first choice centre-back under manager Ronny Deila but took over from Jason Denayer after the 19-year-old Belgian picked up a foot injury during the home game against Dundee last month.
Ambrose helped the Hoops to their third successive shut-out in Saturday’s 1-0 Premiership win at Motherwell where Stokes’ goal maintained the Hoops’ three-point lead over Inverness at the top of the table.
The Irishman claimed a big part of the Parkhead side’s recent results are down to the defence, and Ambrose in particular.
“Efe has come in and done very well,” Stokes told Celtic’s official website.
“Obviously Jason has a niggle at the minute but we have that quality in the squad.
“If someone is injured or is lacking form someone can step in and take their place - and Efe has been outstanding. They have (all) been doing very well.
“We have been strong at the back and Craig Gordon has been immense since coming in.
“We have momentum at the minute, winning games and we’re keeping clean sheets as well.”
Stokes believes his third goal in five games was a result of Celtic’s high-tempo pressing game which Deila continues to preach.
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The Fir Park side were stunned by the ferocity of the visitors’ start to the game and in the sixth minute, after attacking midfielder Stefan Johansen intercepted Fraser Kerr’s pass before rounding keeper Dan Twardzik, the Republic of Ireland forward handed his seventh goal of the season gift-wrapped.
Stokes said: “When Stefan Johansen took his touch, I knew he was wide enough that he would have to square it. It was an easy enough finish in the end.
“The way we’re playing at the moment is different to how we played in the past.
“We have one striker up front but everyone has been given a licence to get forward - the wingers, midfielders.
“It’s a case of pressing higher up the pitch and trying to get as many runners in the box as possible.”
Celtic’s seventh successive league win stands them in good stead for their final Europa League Group D game on Thursday night against Dinamo Zagreb in Croatia - the Parkhead club are already qualified for the knock-out stages - and for the festive period.
“We always go out with the mentality of trying to win every game,” he said.
“Confidence is high at the minute and momentum is good.
“We haven’t set a target. We just want to pick up three points in every game.”
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