Domestic double still on track

Posted by Andy Muirhead

AP Photo/Lynne CameronAnthony Stokes led Celtic into the semifinals of the Scottish Cup with the winning goal in the first half against St. Mirren.

"I'm delighted. We deserved to win the match. We played really well in the first half, it was a great result. The equaliser was a comedy of errors again, we have to stop doing that. We gifted them the goal but our recovery was excellent. Psychologically it gives us a huge lift going into Wednesday and it keeps our season really competitive now as well. St Mirren played very competitively but it was our day today. There might be a few bumps and bruises after that but nothing serious. We'll have Charlie back for Wednesday as well." -- Neil Lennon

Celtic secured their place in the semifinal of the Scottish Cup with a 2-1 win over St.Mirren thanks to goals from Joe Ledley and Anthony Stokes, with an Esmael Goncalves goal being sandwiched between the two.

- Match report: St. Mirren 1-2 Celtic

At the end of the day, the goal of qualifying for the semifinal was the most important factor. It maybe wasn't pretty or comfortable for Celtic -- especially in the second half -- but St.Mirren failed to capitalise on defensive lapses at the back from Celtic.

James Forrest was the man of the moment for Celtic as he gave Paul Dunnett a torrid time in the first half. He crossed for the first goal as Ledley headed home from close range with ease. And he provided another cross for Stokes to head home at the back post. Two assists, two goals. Hopefully he stays injury free as his creativity and guile on the wing gives Celtic that added threat which at times has been missing when he is not in the side.

Despite off-the-field issues, Stokes' return has been a welcome boost for Celtic at a time when they looked stale and lacking creativity up front. His return from injury has given Celtic some fresh impetus up front -- but still not at a level that many Celtic fans think they should be at. The Parkhead side have an option to extend Stokes' contract for another year, and given the distinct lack of quality up front with Georgios Samaras, Gary Hooper and Stokes -- Celtic should keep him at the club. Who else are they going to rely on? Miku or Mohamed Bangura? God help us.

Once again with Celtic though, defensive issues reared their ugly head, none more so than the one in which St.Mirren scored. A punt up towards the Celtic box was latched onto by Emilio Izaguirre who headed it up into the air only to see him head it over the approaching Fraser Forster who should have called for the Honduran to leave it. But that defensive mix up saw Goncalves finish possibly his easiest chance he will get for the Paisley side.

Something needs to be done about the defending on offer at the club. Johan Mjallby and Danny McGrain, who are part of the first team coaching team, were top class defenders but whether they are passing on their wisdom or not is subject to debate; the defenders look very vulnerable at times.

It is somewhat ironic that Saturday also saw the birthday of one of the greatest Celtic defenders, captain Billy McNeill. He is a defender and captain that all are held against in comparison and while it is unfair to do so, the current crop are nowhere near McNeill's level.

How can you solve a problem like Celtic's defending? No, it's not another Andrew Lloyd Webber reality TV show -- just a headache for Lennon to solve and solve it he must.

The same issues time and again pop up: A failure to convert their many chances coupled with poor defending at the back. Celtic need to iron these out before they face Juventus on Wednesday night in Turin, otherwise it could be another 3-0 for the Old Lady, or worse for Celtic. But who else would we rather be playing against? East Stirlingshire, Berwick, or how about Stirling Albion?

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