Celtic coping without fans, says boss Neil Lennon

Chance to go top will be enough motivation against Livingston

Celtic manager Neil Lennon. Picture: Ian MacNicol/Getty
Celtic manager Neil Lennon. Picture: Ian MacNicol/Getty

Celtic manager Neil Lennon praised his players “adaptation” to fanless football games following last night’s 2-1 victory over St Mirren.

He admitted that the empty stadiums necessitated by the Covid-19 pandemic have altered the dynamics of performances, but believes the win in Paisley will provide its own motivation at the weekend in giving the Scottish champions the chance to go top of the table when hosting Livingston.

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“It’s difficult because there are no supporters,” Lennon said after a success secured by a second goal in two games from Shane Duffy and a stunning header from James Forrest, that followed St Mirren taking the lead three minutes in through Lee Erwin. “I think it’s really difficult for them, especially at a big club like ours. But they are adapting to the environment as well as anyone.

“You get a head of steam up in a game and normally you get the atmosphere crackling. It gives the players a lift and there is none of that at the minute. If the goalkeeper makes a great save, the crowd get up. You win a corner and it’s an important facet of the game. We are missing all that at the minute. So there is a bit of adaptation, no question. Subconsciously that is a big miss for them. It’s not an excuse but we are adapting as best we can and as well as anyone. “[The chance to go top of the league] is one we are looking forward to, they are working hard. We have set them some targets now for this block of games before we break up for the internationals. We had a great win at the weekend, we won 5-0, but we were ragged. There was none of that tonight. Our intensity off the ball was very very good and that gave us good control of the game, albeit that we didn’t get five goals tonight. In terms of the shape and the attitude of the players it was a lot better tonight.’

On an evening when Odsonne Edouard had a penalty saved by the impressive on-loan Hearts keeper Bobby Zlamal, St Mirren manager Jim Goodwin was left despairing over John Beaton rejecting an appeal over a Duffy handball in the box. It reaffirmed his belief that VAR is a must for Scottish football.

“I am disappointed that we didn’t get a penalty,” he said. “I am not for one minute suggesting Shane Duffy deliberately handled the ball, but he definitely did handball it and stopped the ball going through to Richard Tait who would have had an opportunity to put the ball in the net. Maybe the conversation we should be having is ‘where are we going to find the money to get VAR’.”

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