Neil Lennon wants even more from Celtic players

Neil Lennon: Wants to preserve his club's reputation
Neil Lennon: Wants to preserve his club's reputation
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Celtic manager Neil Lennon is looking for improvement when his team travel to Hibernian this weekend despite notching a fifth consecutive Clydesdale Bank Premier League win on Boxing Day.

An overhead kick by ­Georgios Samaras and a well-executed lob by Gary Hooper earned Celtic a 2-0 victory at Dundee and sent Lennon’s side seven points clear at the top of the table.

Hibernian have only taken one point from four games, the latest being a 1-0 defeat at home to Ross County on Boxing Day, but Pat Fenlon’s side remain in fourth place in the SPL standings ahead of tomorrow’s encounter at Easter Road.

Lennon told his club’s official website: “Hibs will be a tough proposition at home. Pat has turned them around fantastically well. Obviously they had a disappointing result yesterday.

“Easter Road is always a good venue and I’m looking forward to the game. I would like to think we would play better than last night and be stronger.”

Lennon may have to shuffle his pack after Charlie Mulgrew went off injured midway through the Dens Park clash, while winger James Forrest is pushing for a start after twice coming off the bench to good ­effect following his return from a hamstring problem.

Lennon said: “We got Forrest on and he opened up the game again. At the minute he’s trying to find his full fitness.

“Without any natural width in the team, there was a bit of an imbalance to the way we were playing at times, but when he comes on you can see the shape and the players looking happier. He gives us an extra thrust as well.”

Regarding Mulgrew’s fitness, the Celtic manager added: “Charlie has damaged a rib or pulled a muscle in the rib area. He was finding it hard to breathe so he will have to be assessed. He was playing very well and had a great first half. That was an enforced change.”

Mulgrew, meanwhile, is hoping Celtic are able to hold on to Hooper once the January transfer window opens. Hooper has been a revelation since arriving at Parkhead from Scunthorpe in a deal worth £2.4 million back in 2010. And Mulgrew said: “Hoops is coming into his prime and is playing really well. As long as he keeps playing well it will be good for us.

“Hopefully there are no bids for him in January. Of course, we want to keep the squad together and I’m sure the manager does as well. Every player wants to play in the Champions League, especially when you get to the last 16, so Gary will be the same. The manager won’t want to get rid of any players.”

Hooper starred at Dens Park in the hole behind the strikers and Mulgrew knows the fans’ favourite has the ability to adapt elsewhere on the pitch as Celtic bid for title glory.

He added: “Hoops can play that role. He’s played it a few times this season. He’s capable of getting goals no matter where he plays on the pitch and is capable of holding the ball up as well.

“It was a great finish. We’ve seen that side to his game playing in a deeper role and so has the manager which is why he’s played him in that role and he’s done it no problem. Even when he’s playing as the main striker, he comes off and his movement is really good.”