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Celtic's Gary Hooper delivers last-gasp win over St Mirren
Ewan Murray at St Mirren Park - 3 years ago

Whisper it, but this was a controversy-free afternoon involving Celtic. It was within seconds of also being a damaging one, Gary Hooper's stoppage-time goal securing victory for the visitors in Paisley. Four days after slipping to defeat against Hearts, Neil Lennon and his players knew the value of victory all right.

"We were brilliant, absolutely brilliant," Lennon said. "I wouldn't have been disappointed to have drawn the game, I'd have held my hands up and said it wasn't our day. I didn't think we nicked it, I thought we thoroughly merited it. Funnily enough, I said to the players at half-time that it might take a 93rd-minute goal to win it."

In truth, the win was just about merited on pressure alone, but not chances created. Lennon's assertions that the performances of two of his players, Shaun Maloney and Ki Sung-Yueng, were "world class" was a further exaggeration.

Celtic's manager confirmed he would be "defending my position", or in other words launching an appeal, over what action comes his way from the Scottish Football Association in response to his sending-off during that Hearts loss. Today, Lennon made a point of saying the referee Iain Brines was "absolutely brilliant".

Celtic had arrived at St Mirren Park looking to exorcise ghosts from their previous visit; a 4-0 defeat in March which ended Tony Mowbray's tenure in stunning fashion. The tame nature of the first half, then, was something of a surprise. Anthony Stokes and Cha Du-Ri headed over the St Mirren crossbar, in the opening period's only chances worthy of the name.

Matters livened up after the interval, with the hosts for long spells as much of a threat as their more illustrious opponents. The St Mirren striker Michael Higdon crashed a 30-yard shot off the crossbar, before his team-mate Gareth Wardlaw forced Fraser Forster into a fine save.

Hooper, Shaun Maloney and Niall McGinn passed up Celtic opportunities. It was the former Scunthorpe United striker, in securing his 10th goal since moving north in the summer, who pounced from close range after John Potter had blocked his initial shot. There remained time for a final St Mirren attack, Daniel Majstorovic supplying a last-gasp tackle to deny David Barron.

"Overall I think we deserved a point," said the St Mirren manager, Danny Lennon. "But both Rangers and Celtic never give in." Speculation was mounting tonight that the Celtic chairman John Reid could be set to stand down at the club's annual general meeting on Thursday.

This is not a news report and may contain views expressed by the author which are not supported by GNM.

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