There could be some surreal occasions at Celtic Park before this season ends. With Celtic assured of reclaiming the championship, supporters and players would be forgiven a drop in intensity.
The cut and thrust of competition has been removed from the summit of the Scottish Premier League, an unusual circumstance in recent times. Celtic's lead over Rangers – which now sits at 23 points – means they must find fresh forms of motivation. For now, the continuation of a superb domestic run seems to fuel the fires of Neil Lennon and his players. That record now sits at 20 domestic wins in a row, with 17 successive victories secured in the league. The fascinating prospect of Celtic heading to Ibrox on 25 March to seal the title remains alive.
Dispassionate onlookers will be particularly interested in the level of atmosphere and standard of football at this venue as Rangers try to emerge from their troubled state. There has been no immediate dip in either, although the notion that the novelty of a lack of competition from across the city will soon wear off on Glasgow's green half is widely perpetuated. We are still a long way short of finding out, whatever the truth of that theory.
When Motherwell visited, it was Celtic's bullish second-half showing that kickstarted a hitherto tame affair. Gary Hooper scored the game's crucial goal, handing the league leaders a win they merited. There have been spells on this winning run where Celtic have performed to a far superior level than was the case here, although Motherwell's firm level of resistance is partly responsible for that.
Rangers' widely publicised troubles should not mask what wider credit is due to Motherwell for their achievements already this season.
The fact Stuart McCall has guided his side into third place is notable enough, without Motherwell being so close to Rangers that a 10-point deduction for the Ibrox club triggered what now looks a meaningful race for second. McCall's annual budget sits at less than £2m, which highlights the excellent work of the manager as well as the gap in resource between Scottish football's leading clubs.
Motherwell duly played their part in an even, if flat, opening half. Charlie Mulgrew slammed a shot only narrowly wide of the visiting goal after 14 minutes, with Hooper only inches away from latching on to a rebound from Motherwell's goalkeeper Darren Randolph shortly after. A Celtic penalty claim, seconds before the interval, looked to have merit as Tim Clancy handled.
The breakthrough Celtic had increasingly threatened arrived within 15 minutes of the restart. The Motherwell defending – which had otherwise been somewhat combative – was chronically lax in allowing Georgios Samaras to chest an Adam Matthews throw-in right to Hooper. The striker, completely unmarked, drilled home a low finish without, for whatever reason, offering any form of celebration at all. Hooper was more animated when denied by a Shaun Hutchinson tackle, five minutes later.
By this stage, Motherwell were offering precious little in attack. Henrik Ojamaa went to desperate levels to change that, the Estonian rightly booked for a blatant dive inside the Celtic penalty area.
Celtic never came particularly close to doubling their lead. There was never any strong sense that they needed to. A Lennon tantrum over a dubious offside flag – Samaras seemed to be in his own half when a pass was played to him – was the most newsworthy act of the closing stages. The manager is not lacking in impetus; Celtic's results prove the same applies to his players.