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  • Forrest to the fore as Celts sink Saints

    Forrest to the fore as Celts sink Saints

    By: Mark Henderson on 03 Apr, 2015 21:42

  • Scottish Premiership
    St Mirren Park, Paisley
    Friday, April 3, 2015

    ST MIRREN...

    (Forrest 64, Johansen pen. 79)

    SECOND-HALF goals from James Forrest and Stefan Johansen handed treble-chasing Celtic a valuable 2-0 victory away to St Mirren, extending their lead at the league summit to eight points.

    After being frustrated by the home side in the opening 45 minutes, Forrest finally found a way through after meeting Adam Matthews’ accurate cutback.

    And the 23-year-old made a telling contribution to securing the crucial second goal, when his goalbound shot was handled by Victor Genev, allowing Stefan Johansen to seal the spoils from the penalty spot.

    Anthony Stokes took over the lone striking role at the expense of John Guidetti as the manager made four changes to the team who dispatched Dundee United before the international break.

    Welshman Matthews returned after a month’s absence through injury to line up at right-back, with Forrest and Kris Commons also restored to the side. Guidetti, Efe Ambrose, Nir Bitton and Gary Mackay-Steven all dropped to the bench.

    It only took three minutes for Stokes to serve notice of his threat, the striker controlling a long ball and shooting wide. Operating behind the Irishman, Commons was also finding dangerous pockets of space and he forced goalkeeper Mark Ridgers into early action at his near post with an ambitious effort from an acute angle.

    With the home side devoting their resources to defence, the Hoops had to wait until the 19th minute for their next effort on goal as Commons danced his way into the box and drove into the side-netting.

    It took some quick, intricate passing to unlock the Buddies. From the left, Stuart Armstrong picked out the run of Commons into the area with a first-time ball. The 31-year-old hit the target but Ridgers was equal to his effort, with the rebound hacked clear.

    Craig Gordon has been a virtual spectator at the other end, but he was forced to gather Stephen Mallon’s glancing header on the half-hour mark, though it was a comfortable save for the Scotland internationalist.

    However, his opposite number, Ridgers, had to be at his best to make a sharp save from Forrest after the winger had collected a return pass from Stokes.

    With the breakthrough continue to elude the champions, Gary Teale’s side were growing in confidence and they had a penalty shout correctly waved away as Mallan went to ground in the box, before Yoann Arquin drew a save from Gordon from the resultant loose ball.

    And they had final effort of the half as Kieran Sadlier’s shot from distance was scooped up by Gordon.

    Armstrong curled wide from the angle of the box as Celtic began the second half with greater urgency and purpose. Stokes then tested Ridgers with a low shot after he and Commons had cut path through a ruck of defenders.

    Forrest had been closely monitored by the Paisley side but he finally found some free space to attack in the 53rd minute, reaching the byline and cutting the ball back.

    Although a corner was the only reward, the set-piece fell for Commons at the far post, who smashed a shot into the side-netting.

    While the Bhoys were now playing with greater menace, St Mirren remained alive as an attacking threat, particularly through the adventure of Mallon, whose swerving long-range shot whistled wide.

    An attempt from Stokes spun agonisingly wide via a deflection as Ronny Deila’s side reasserted their control of proceedings – and then the opening goal finally arrived.

    A slick passing move released Matthews down the right and his low delivery was steered home expertly by Forrest in the middle.

    Having established a lead, the Hoops now stamped their authority on the contest and when they doubled the advantage in the closing stages, Forrest was again to the fore.

    Another incisive burst into the box saw the winger unleash a shot goalwards. It’s progress was blocked by the outstretched hand of Genev and referee Alan Muir pointed the spot.

    Johansen stepped up and confidently sent Ridgers the wrong way from the penalty.

    That effectively ended St Mirren’s resistance, and the only question was whether if Celtic could add to their tally as the clock ticked down.

    Forrest flashed a dangerous ball right across the goalmouth, while substitute Gary Mackay-Steven was inches off target with a curling effort as the champions ended a satisfying evening on top, piling the pressure on second-placed Aberdeen ahead of their clash with Partick Thistle tomorrow (Saturday).

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Gordon; Matthews (Ambrose 65) Denayer, van Dijk, Izaguirre; Brown, Johansen; Forrest, Commons (Mackay-Steven 72), Armstrong (Bitton 65); Stokes.
    Not Used: Zaluska, Guidetti, Griffiths, McGregor

    ST MIRREN (4-1-4-1) Ridgers; Naismith, McAusland, Genev, Tesselaar; Goodwin; Dayton (Thompson 78) Mallon (Sanupe 78) McGinn, Sadlier (Morgan 72); Arquin
    Not Used: Wilks, Reilly, Kelly, Gow,

    Website Man of the Match: James Forrest 

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