Celtic 1-2 St Mirren: Neil Lennon and his team stuck in life-sucking loop - Andrew Smith's verdict

Celtic are caught in a life-draining loop.
Celtic's Odsonne Edouard makes it 1-1. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)Celtic's Odsonne Edouard makes it 1-1. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
Celtic's Odsonne Edouard makes it 1-1. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

First, they will deliver a pathetic performance – and the first home loss to St Mirren since April 1990 was a classic of this season’s calamitous kind. Instantly, the focus will fall on Neil Lennon being removed from position. Inaction on the front will then follow, and everything will remain as was until his side serve up another shambling showing. It remains to be seen if this is the cycle, if this can continue to be the cycle, following a 2-1 defeat by a Celtic team that appeared as if it was struggling even just to find the motions to go through.

And the tone of Lennon’s post-match suggested, more than ever, that he recognises there is a disconnect, a dysfunctionality, within the squad that is beyond solving by him. Not for the sake of a title out of reach for months, but just to prevent some final three-month freefall that could have ramifications for beyond this sorry season.

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There has been much talk of legacies this week in the aftermath of the announcement that Peter Lawwell will be replaced by Dominic McKay as the club’s chief executive in July. Lawwell’s legacy, and that of Lennon, inevitably and rightly will be tarnished by the manner – and not just the fact – of Celtic failing to make a fist of going for a record tenth straight title. Yet, at least the club could announce what is perfectly understood in going public over the fact that Lennon remains in place to give the board time to identify and recruit a new manager. In effect, a Lawwell-style announcement is required for the Celtic manager.

The club appear completely rudderless on and off the pitch. And it seems the collective brain freeze afflicting all those in positions of power, whether in footballing or executive roles, precludes the decisiveness demanded. Factors beyond Lennon’s control have helped diminish Celtic to the status of a mid-table Scottish Premiership. No question, though, that the excruciating nature of the 2-1 defeat, Celtic’s third and first to other than Rangers in this ruinous Premiership season, was all on him. Which is saying something when considering almost comical aberrations from Shane Duffy that contributed to the visitors’ first-half goals.

Whenever they are confronted by opposition not scrapping at the bottom of the table, Celtic perform in a manner that would cause the uninitiated to question whether they were mid-table team. The Paisley club certainly are that now and were excellent in executing a smart game-plan. But mere competence would have blunted their eagerness to exploit Celtic on the flanks with a 3-5-1-1 formation that simultaneously allowed them to squeeze spaces in midfield. A strategy that Jim Goodwin had made no secret of pursuing in pre-match interviews.

The Duffy disaster zone gave St Mirren all the impetus they needed to survive a second-half swamping by Celtic in which, for all their possession and territorial advantage, they consistently found themselves stuck in the mud. It is hard to fathom how Duffy, a reliable Republic of Ireland captain, could be reduced to such a liability when not so long ago he was voted Brighton’s player of the year as the just promoted club retained their place in English top flight.

It should be said that, Odsonne Edouard and David Turnbull apart, no Celtic players produced pass mark displays. It was notable that Leigh Griffiths, who was completely off it, did not reappear for the second period. However it must be said that Brighton-loanee Duffy sailed close to a minus mark. The 12th-minute opener followed him sending a weak header into no-man’s land, before he lost Dylan Connolly through appearing in two minds. That allowed the wide man to drive down the right before sending in a cut-back Kristian Dennis drove in, with his shot going through Scott Bain. You could only feel for Duffy over how dismal he was made to look in the 38th minute when he turned his back on a ball chipped into the box as he was shadowing Ilkay Durmus. He seemed to completely run away from the Turkish forward as a good touch set up the St Mirren man to finish smartly.

Sandwiched between those two goals, was a sublime 25th-minute equaliser from Edouard entirely out of keeping with the desultory dross that Celtic served up throughout so much of the opening period. A driving run from Callum McGregor down the left channel led to him flipping over a cross that, with one touch, the Frenchman took round Conor McCarthy, and with another, he dinked into the far corner. Duffy, by his own efforts, fashioned a huge chance to atone for his earlier errors in added time when he rose superbly to deliver a netbound header that Jak Alnwick somehow managed to claw away.

It would have been ill-deserved for the raggedness Lennon acknowledged his team, which he chopped and changed, had exhibited across an impoverished display. There have been so many of these across this armageddon of a season for Celtic, but it seems they will be never-ending. When it comes to legacies, what matters most is what reverberates down through the years from the mushroom cloud that has laid waste to Celtic as a football force in these past seven months.

Celtic: Bain, Ajer, Bitton (Welsh 46), Duffy, Taylor: Soro (Christie 62); Turnbull (Johnston 81), Elyounoussi (Ajeti 62), McGregor, Edouard, Griffiths (Rogic 46).

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St Mirren: Alnwick, Fraser, McCarthy, Shaughness:, Connolly, MacPherson (Obika 74), Erhahon (Tait 85), McGrath, Durmus; McAllister (Doyle-Hayes 62); Dennis (Brophy 62).

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