A goal drought across four starts is hardly dehydration territory for any striker. Yet, Leigh Griffiths needs to net for Celtic at Motherwell this afternoon to avoid a parched run in his plundering unknown for almost four years.
Griffiths has failed to net in his last three outings for his club – a first for the season. During this run, he also drew a blank when handed only his second Scotland start for the recent friendly win at home to Denmark. Not since the closing months of 2012, when he was on loan at Hibernian, has Griffiths racked up as many starts without scoring.
When the 25-year-old bagged his 26th Premiership strike and 35th goal all in this season at Firhill a month ago, the talk was of the predator going on to claim 50 goals, and eclipsing the league record total of 35 in the four-decade Premier era held by Henrik Larsson and Brian McClair. Now the focus has switched to Griffiths’ non-scoring, even if his season would be a superb one if he didn’t do so again before the end of the campaign.
Celtic manager Ronny Deila hopes Griffiths hasn’t become burdened by the prospect of making history, and rejected that the latest bout of stuttering by his team of late – the scoreless draw at Dens Park following a last-gasp 1-0 win at Rugby Park a fortnight ago – is evidence of the over-reliance of the single central striker in Celtic’s 4-2-3-1 system.
“You can’t do anything about history,” Deila said. “The only thing is to try and do the things you have done and succeeded with and keep your head into tasks and do the right things on the pitch. You will then always get your chances and when you get to the end of the season you can count up and see if you have made history – but whatever happens, he has made a record for himself [with a highest goal total for a season]. He just has to keep hungry and keep focus on what he can do.
“He has gone a few games [without scoring], but he has come with chances. If he wasn’t making chances I would be worried but he had one very big chance and three or four others that we could have got something out of. I have seen his left foot for a very long time now and I know that if he continues to get chances he will score goals. I have said to everybody to keep doing the same things, stay calm and things will happen.”
Motherwell’s battle for a top-six spot goes to the final pre-split game but defender Stephen McManus is simply glad to be free of another fraught season finale.
The Steelmen finished second-bottom last year and had to beat Rangers in the two-legged play-off to ensure survival. Another struggle has ensued under Mark McGhee, but a run of six wins out of seven games has taken Well into fourth place and they need at least a point against the league leaders to guarantee a top-six place place.
McManus, however, welcomed the tension that comes with trying to finish in the top half. The 33-year-old said: “After the start we had and where we were at certain times of the season, sitting third bottom, second bottom, you would have taken staying in the division.
“But when you get so close to something you want it even more and we would love to finish in the top six.
“It would be a great achievement but if it is not to be for whatever reason, when we walked off the pitch against Kilmarnock we would have taken where we are now.”