Berwick Rangers 0 - 2 Celtic: Lennon's men tough it out in cross-border raid
• Freddie Ljungberg, right, gets away from Berwick duo Elliott Smith and David Greenhill, middle. Picture: SNS
Cup-tie football has proved problematic for Lennon since taking charge of the club but the potential hazards presented by this cross-border assignment were avoided. On the day Freddie Ljungberg made a quiet debut for Celtic, a 17th minute goal from his compatriot Daniel Majstorovic set them on their way to a functional but merited victory.
Club captain Scott Brown, who replaced the tiring Ljungberg just after the hour mark, sealed Celtic's passage to tomorrow's fifth-round draw with a late second goal. On a difficult playing surface, it was a case of a job efficiently done for Celtic, while the Third Division side could take considerable pride from the competitive and committed nature of their display.
Had Berwick not seen a strong penalty claim rejected in the opening moments, then this might have proved a more testing day for Celtic, but there could ultimately be no quibbling at the final outcome.
Majstorovic's goal drew the sting from a bright start to the tie by the home side and dampened the atmosphere which the PA announcer, whose broad Northumberland twang reminded Celtic they were in another country, had done his best to stoke up beforehand.
"Let's hear you, we're on the telly," he exclaimed, leaving no-one in any doubt how excited Berwick were to see the Sky Sports trucks trundle into town. The attendant cheque for 82,500 would be the source of just as much enthusiasm in the Shielfield boardroom as the club's efforts to ensure the match went ahead paid dividends.
The home supporters were relocated to the main stand for this one, a source of disgruntlement for some of them as their usual lodgings in the old shed on the other side of the ground were occupied by the visitors.
Celtic had returned 200 of their allocation of 3,000 tickets on Friday night but their fans were in good voice following last week's Old Firm triumph.
Despite the gulf of 36 league places between the teams, the SPL leaders had to survive some uncomfortable early moments as Berwick troubled Lennon's back four with a direct and energetic approach. Celtic were certainly fortunate not to concede a penalty kick after just two minutes when Steven Notman looked to have been illegally impeded by the combined attentions of Charlie Mulgrew and Thomas Rogne on the right of the area.Referee Calum Murray and his assistant Keith Sorbie were unmoved by the Berwick appeals and an early opportunity to ask a serious question of Celtic slipped away from the underdogs.
In the four previous meetings of these clubs down the years, Berwick had never scored, let alone come close to emulating their seminal victory over the other half of the Old Firm. They had the ball in the net here after seven minutes but the lively Darren Gribben, who ensured Rogne and Majstorovic were fully occupied all afternoon, was flagged offside before his neat lob beat Lukasz Zaluska and nestled in the net.
Joe Ledley might have eased those early jitters for Celtic had he not headed a Mark Wilson cross wide during the opening exchanges but they only had to wait until the 17th minute for the assurance provided by the opening goal.
Fraser McLaren conceded a free-kick wide on Celtic's right flank with a clumsy challenge on Wilson. Mulgrew initially failed to beat the first defender with the set piece but produced a terrific delivery when the ball came straight back to him. Berwick goalkeeper Mark Peat and central defender Andy McLean were both indecisive as the ball dropped towards them and Majstorovic cashed in, taking it on his right foot and lashing a close-range shot into the roof of the net.
The goal settled Celtic who suddenly found more time on the ball. It allowed Ljungberg to show glimpses of his ability, notably with a terrific defence splitting pass to Georgios Samaras who should have set James Forrest up for a tap-in but failed to find his team-mate in the six-yard box.
Failure to find the net on this ground signalled the end of his Rangers career for striker Jim Forrest back in 1967, so his young namesake could console himself there would be no such repercussions when he missed a glorious chance to double Celtic's lead in the 33rd minute.
Paddy McCourt and Samaras combined neatly to set him up but Forrest delayed his shot too long, allowing Peat to come out and make a solid close range save.
Samaras did not seem to find the spartan surroundings conducive to reproducing the stellar form which speared the other Rangers at Ibrox seven days earlier and the Greek's day was cut short when he limped off to be replaced by Anthony Stokes before the interval.
The PA announcer retained his sense of optimism during the break, offering the view that it had been difficult to distinguish which team performed in the SPL, and the slender nature of Celtic's lead certainly offered encouragement to Berwick who began the second half with renewed zeal.
A loose passback from Mulgrew almost let Notman in for an equaliser, Zaluska racing smartly off his line to spare the left-back's blushes, and Celtic then required a McCourt clearance off the line to prevent Berwick making the most of a corner kick during a burst of pressure which saw their fans find their voices again.
But Celtic, while never able to find any sustained fluency, were generally comfortable enough as they saw the job through. Berwick hopes were finally extinguished eight minutes from time. Beram Kayal, as impressive as any Celtic player on the day, picked out Brown on the right of the penalty area and he drove a low right foot shot across Peat into the corner of the net.
Berwick Rangers: Peat, Smith, McLean, McLeod, Thomson, Notman, Currie, Greenhill, McLaren, Little (McMullan 68), Darren Gribben (Brazil 76). Subs not used: McCaldon, Ewart, Ponton.
Celtic: Zaluska, Wilson, Rogne, Majstorovic, Mulgrew, Forrest, Kayal (Crosas 84), Ledley, Ljungberg (Brown 64), McCourt, Samaras (Stokes 36). Subs not used: Forster, Juarez.