Why Celtic's performance in 2-0 win over St Mirren won't concern the league leaders

The stylistic high bar that Celtic have set themselves at their best this season means it can be possible to get too hung up on the artistic merits - or otherwise - of Ange Postecoglou’s men.

Yet, with the finishing line in the cinch Premiership not so distant anymore, all that matters for the league leaders is simply surmounting the hurdles in front of them.

In that sense, their 2-0 success at home to a St Mirren that sought to stifle them as Hibs had at Easter Road at the weekend, would have been judged perfectly acceptable by the home denizens. Even if it took them until 11 minutes of the second period to breach the visitors’ defence - and required a rare goal from centre-back Cameron Carter-Vickers to end almost three hours of football without a goal. Their goal was never threatened, and with Callum McGregor finding the net for the first time in three months in the 81st minute, they experienced no anxieties in retaining their three-point advantage over Rangers.

With only nine league games remaining, it is what you do not the way that you do it that counts for would-be champions. Irrespective of the fact Postecoglou craves his team producing pep and panache. Following their lethargy down Leith way, there was certainly enough of the former, even if the latter is proving elusive in more than brief snatches.

Callum McGregor celebrates scoring Celtic's second in the 2-0 win over St Mirren. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

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The Australian would maintain it isn’t easy to produce winter-warming football when oppositions opt for blanket defence, and certainly Celtic made heavy weather of fashioning clear cut opportunities in the first period, with Daizen Maeda again struggling to find his radar in deputising for the illness-absent Giorgos Giakoumakis. With Jota and Liel Abada also making little headway towards goals in the opening period, it felt as if it might take something of the unusual to find a way through the visitors that new manager Stephen Robinson had set up to be dogged and determined.

So it proved with the rarity of a set-piece goal in Celtic’s favour. Greg Tanser cementing Abada in the right-hand corner afforded an opportunity for Jota to swing over a free-kick. And when that popped up in the air after Carl Starfelt and Alex Gogic challenged for it, the USA international displayed the deftness of a striker to swing a straight leg at the ball and volley high into the net.

The Spurs loanee’s first goal for the club since his September debut, it proved a night for players rediscovering their scoring touch when McGregor also got in on the act with only his third goal of the campaign.

With St Mirren beginning to wilt, Josip Juranovic was able to cause chaos in the box with a cross flipped over from the right that led to a Jota header being blocked and falling to the Celtic captain. He seized his moment by stepping on to the loose ball and drilling it beyond the helpless Jak Alnwick.

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Celtic's Jota and St Mirren's Connor McCarthy battle for possession. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

It is only two months ago Celtic were six points behind in the table. To find themselves in their current position, as the result of a 23 unbeaten league run in which they have now bagged 18 wins, is what matters more than any dip in performance levels.

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