Celtic maintained their three point lead at the top of the table overcoming a stubborn St Mirren 2-0 to recover from a tough week where they exited the Europa Conference League to Norwegian champions Bodo/Glimt before dropping their first points in the league since the last time they faced St Mirren in late December.
Like that game in December St Mirren made their intentions clear from the off with new manager Stephen Robinson setting his team up in a low block and looking to time waste at every opportunity, a recurring theme from SPFL teams coming up against Celtic this season.
Ange Postecoglou made one change to the starting lineup that laboured to a 0-0 draw in Edinburgh at the weekend, with Matt O’Riley replacing Tom Rogic.
After an initial bright start with a couple of half chances, which included St Mirren centre-back clearing off his own crossbar, the rest of the half descended into the familiar pattern we have seen from Celtic games in recent weeks. Lots of possession against a disciplined defence with not much else happening apart from fans getting increasingly frustrated.
The best chance of the first 45 fell to Liel Abada after nice work down the left from Jota and Taylor. The left backs low cross was missed by Maeda with Abada coming in behind but could only side foot straight at the keeper.
When up against such a disciplined side as St Mirren, who were showing no intention of attacking, the team needs more from the creative players but that was in little supply as Jota continued his worrying slump in form since return from injury.
The second half looked to be settling in to the same pattern until the 54th minute when Abada showed a nice bit of skill out on the right which drew a foul and a booking for Scott Tanser. The resulting free kick brought the opening goal to much relief. A nice delivery into a dangerous area saw Starfelt’s header blocked and fall nicely for Cameron Carter-Vickers who volleyed high into the net from six yards out. Celtic score from a set-piece!
Ange made a triple change on 65 minutes to freshen things up with Hatate, O’Riley and Abada being replaced by Bitton, Rogic and Forrest. All three looked tired which could be a cause for concern as the games continue to come thick and fast.
St Mirren remarkably continued to waste time at 1-0 down.
Lovely play from Rogic and Forrest on the right created space for the excellent Juranovic on the overlap who only had to slide it across to Maeda for a tap in to settle the game but he woefully overhit the cross.
The three points were, thankfully, secured minutes later thanks to the captain in what is becoming a rare Callum McGregor goal. Again the threat was started on the right with the ball eventually getting to Juranovic who’s floated cross was met by the head of Jota which similarly to the opener was blocked, with the rebound breaking invitingly to the onrushing McGregor who fired low to the keepers left.
Ange was happy with the three points and praised the home form this season, telling the BBC: "We dominated the ball and it's hard when the opposition sits so deep. I thought we were solid, we stayed composed and did what we had to do to wear down the opposition.
"It's how most teams set up against us and the important thing for us was not to get sidetracked by any anxiety.
"We've been unbelievable at home this year, the way we've controlled games."
Celtic Exchange Man of The Match: Josip Juranovic
The stadium announcer awarded motm to Carter-Vickers so honourable mention to the big man, however, Juranovic was excellent throughout providing a constant threat with his overlapping runs and at times looked our best attacking outlet (apart from that dreadful cross).
Celtic’s next match
Next up for Celtic is a visit to the dreaded ‘Spaghettihad’.
This has been looming large in the distance for fans and is finally here. How we’ve got to a situation where a trip to Livingston is met with dread is a mystery. Just win, Celtic.
WATCH EPISODE 59 0F THE CELTIC EXCHANGE WEEKLY: