Celtic 2 - 2 Inverness CT: Terry Butcher and Maurice Malpas chemistry working wonders again

AS unfashionable as it may be in the currently odious climate threatening to suffocate Scottish football, let's focus first on a feelgood story.

For while much analysis of events at Celtic Park on Saturday will inevitably centre on the increasingly glaring failings of Neil Lennon's side as they lost further ground in the title race, nothing should diminish the credit due to Inverness Caledonian Thistle for their latest outstanding performance on the road.

Now unbeaten away from home in league football for a full calendar year, the Highland club's rise to fourth place in the SPL is a rich reward for the work carried out by their management team of Terry Butcher and Maurice Malpas. Both men have encountered difficult times when branching out on their own in recent years but as a combination they seem to have a potent chemistry which is proving as effective now at Inverness as it did during their spell together at Motherwell.

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Like the 1-1 draw they achieved at Ibrox four weeks earlier, there was nothing freakish or fortuitous about the point Butcher's men secured in the east end of Glasgow. It did owe a considerable amount to Celtic's defensive frailties but on the balance of play, no fair-minded observer could dispute Inverness were worth their share of the spoils.

Their recovery from 2-0 down was a tribute to the resilience and spirit Butcher has instilled in his team who often perform like a personification of the big man himself. Richie Foran, whose goal sparked the Inverness comeback, also operated under Butcher at Motherwell and is relishing a second spell under someone who has become a mentor. "The gaffer and Maurice have been excellent," said the Dubliner. "His pre-match team talks are brilliant. They range from all sorts. He can give you a lift and he knows who to pin against the wall or to put an arm around.

"He's pinned me against a wall in the past and you have to take it like a man. He knows how to get a positive reaction from players. His man-management skills are brilliant and he's a pleasure to work for.

"Today he just told us to get out there, have no regrets and make sure we didn't lose that unbeaten away record. Don't throw it away, that was basically it. We have come back from 2-0 down at a tough venue to keep it going and we are buzzing.

"It's a marvellous achievement for the club and it's great to be part of it.The chairman was in after the game congratulating us on it. We congratulated him as well, because we are all in it together at this club. Inverness is a small city and the run we are on right now is great for the place."

Foran also observed that Inverness had benefitted from a notably subdued atmosphere inside Celtic Park which looked more sparsely populated than even the official attendance of just over 46,000 recorded.

"It was a bit flat the whole game, both with their supporters off the pitch and their players on it," added Foran. "That gave us a lift, we got at Celtic and got what we deserved in the end."

Despite struggling to find any great fluency throughout the afternoon, Celtic looked to have taken control of the match when Ki Sung Yeung, their most accomplished player, turned and beat Inverness goalkeeper Ryan Esson via his right-hand post with a precise low shot from the edge of the penalty area seven minutes before half-time.

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Paddy McCourt, who had replaced the injured Shaun Maloney after just nine minutes, doubled Celtic's lead with a magnificent solo effort 20 minutes into the second-half. The technically blessed Northern Ireland international displayed breathtaking footwork to dupe both Ross Tokely and Grant Munro before wrong-footing Esson and stabbing home a right-foot shot from seven yards.

It ought to have been an impregnable position for Lennon's team but the vulnerabilities which had been evident all day, as the manager's switch to a three-man central defence of Thomas Rogne, Daniel Majstorovic and Jos Hooiveld failed to enhance the reputation of any of the trio, were dramatically exposed in the closing stages.

Lennon later used phrases like "slapstick" and "calamitous" to describe his team's defending at the Inverness goals and few would dispute his choice of vocabulary. A ludicrous mix-up between Majstorovic and Rogne allowed Foran to nip in and beat Fraser Forster via the woodwork to make it 2-1 in the 70th minute, a goal which set Celtic nerves jangling. Seven minutes from time, Celtic were statuesque at the back when a Jonny Hayes corner was directed towards goal by Adam Rooney's overhead kick. The ball was probably going in anyway, but Inverness skipper Grant Munro made sure with a close-range header.

The jeers which rung around Celtic Park at full-time condemned a capitulation which means Lennon's team have now dropped 10 points in their last seven league games since the present refereeing controversy began.

Whether that has distracted them from the task in hand on the pitch or not, too many of the players the manager recruited in the summer are failing to meet required standards.Lennon had no complaints about Luxembourg referee Alain Hamer on Saturday, despite a disallowed Daryl Murphy goal which TV pictures indicate should have stood.

Instead, he focused his ire on his players, condemning them as "not mentally strong enough" and conceding that he is "obviously not getting the right message through to them".

That is a significant concern for Lennon and one which will be shared by the club's supporters. If not addressed successfully, the momentum in this championship race could shift irretrievably beyond Celtic sooner rather than later.