However, at pains to stress his team was well beaten by their visitors Martindale praised highly, he also admitted their three-point advantage over Rangers at the top of the table has him intrigued by the nip-and-tuck title race. A contest he believes could pivot on the Glasgow rivals’ derby confrontation at Ibrox on April 3.
“I don’t think we deserved a lot more from the game but two big decisions went against us, which led to two goals,” Martindale said. “That’s the disappointing aspect. The first one was a blatant bye-kick. Bobby [Madden, fourth official] and the linesman were telling Nick [Walsh, referee] it was a bye-kick but the corner goes against you. You still have to defend the corner a lot better than we did.
"For the second goal, there is a handball by [Tom] Rogic in the middle of the park, Nick is standing watching it and we don’t get that. Again, we still have to defend the area better than we did. So you find yourself 2-0 down. I don’t think these decisions changed the result, but they changed the dynamics of the game.
“You need everything to fall in your favour. When they lead to goals, it highlights those decisions. There may have been decisions in the game that went my way [but] when it’s blatant decisions that go against you and lead to goals, it highlights the officiating. I’m genuinely not blaming Nick. He’s not the reason we got beat. We got beat because Celtic were better than us, pure and simple. But it is frustrating.
"We managed to get a goal back, which gives you a wee bit of light at the end of the tunnel. But on reflection Celtic were very good on and off the ball. Their transitions were very good. That was more like the Celtic we saw at the start of the season. I thought they came here with a point to prove and they proved that point.”
On the title race, Martindale added: “But I do now think [with the way everything is shaping up at the top] the next Old Firm game is going to be a defining moment for the league this season. But we have a highly competitive league…yes we have. Even from a Livingston point of view it’s fascinating and exciting to see who is going to win the league. Overall it’s a highly-competitive league and from a marketing point of view that can only be positive for Scottish football.”