The Celtic manager had three reasons to be grateful to Griffiths after originally placing him on the bench. Kilmarnock threatened to spoil Celtic’s attempt to go eight points clear of nearest challengers Aberdeen when they opened the scoring through Darryl Westlake shortly after half-time.
Kris Commons’ equaliser two minutes later after 58 minutes was the signal for Deila to turn to Griffiths, who up until then had been kicking his heels on the bench without even a Tunnock’s teacake for company.
The striker scored his first with his head seven minutes after coming on and added two more with his trusty left foot in the last ten minutes to make sure of the victory. Celtic now need only four more wins to secure the title.
“He was fabulous,” said Deila of Griffiths afterwards. “You can’t do any better than three goals. His contribution was excellent. He could be a kicker in American football – he’d be very good, I think.
“We said at the break we needed to take more risk and get behind them,” he added. “With Leigh coming on we had a lot more movement and we opened them up and got our goals.
“He and John [Guidetti] played well together today and that’s something to think about when we play with two strikers.”
As for the league, Deila expressed the hope that Celtic are able to wrap up the title before 10 May, when they face Aberdeen at Pittodrie. They have three games before then – two against Dundee, and one against Dundee United.
“We could win it before Pittodrie, hopefully we will,” he said. “It’s possible – if they lose a game and we win we can do that. We want to win the title as early as possible and today was a very important win and we’re in to a very important week. If you can get into the last five games eight points ahead we have a very good chance.”
Kilmarnock manager Gary Locke admitted his side had no answer to Griffiths, whose second goal in particular was unstoppable. “Our season won’t hinge on Celtic at Parkhead,” he said, with Kilmarnock currently seven points clear of a relegation play-off place. “We have five big games coming up and we need to make sure we win a few of them.”
Meanwhile, in the Championship last night, Myles Hippolyte put Livingston ahead against Rangers at Almondvale but Marius Zaliukas immediately equalised. After the a 1-1 draw, which saw his side go above Hibernian into second place in the Championship, Rangers manager Stuart McCall said he understood the Edinburgh club’s fury over the end of season fixture debacle that saw the SPFL schedule his team’s final game a day after Hibs play theirs.
McCall acknowledged that the scheduling could give the Ibrox side an advantage.
He said: “First and foremost we have not asked for the game to be changed. But, if Hibs are complaining then rightly so, I would be doing the same. I think every game on the last day of the season should be played at the same time but we have been told by the TV. Maybe it’s the case that the other games could be moved to the Sunday as well. If I was in Hibs’ position, I would be annoyed as well.
“If the game definitely has to go ahead on the Sunday then why can’t we all move to Sunday? I would be happy with that. Every game should be at the same time and I would imagine that, in the next 48 hours, something like that will happen.”
Lions manager Mark Burchill was upset not to get more than a draw from a game that could have lifted his side off the bottom. He said: “We were disappointed to lose the goal so quickly. If we had got over four or five minutes then I think Rangers would have run out of ideas.”
And he was annoyed that a first-half efort by Hippolyte was chalked off for a foul on Rangers keeper Cammy Bell. “I think we all know it was a goal, let’s be honest. That’s why I was so disappointed. But we are five games unbeaten and the boys are giving everything.”