Celtic lack real swing

Football: Celtic 1 (Van Hooijdonk 27) Motherwell 0 Attendance: 35,370
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THREE points are all that really matter at the end of 90 minutes. But while this result will keep Celtic in touch with Rangers, it will do little to convince anyone they can win the championship.

To be fair, they may still have been suffering from the Old Firm derby on Wednesday night. But, looking at Rangers' scoreline, they hardly struggled at Falkirk.

Celtic dominated from start to finish and the statistics show they had a huge percentage of possession, camping in Motherwell's half. However, their problems are there for all to see. Results which ended as draws last season have been transformed into victories but, in the case of a penalty box striker, the song remains the same. They haven't got one.

As for Motherwell, they show the symptoms of a team on the slide. Struck by injuries, this is a side devoid of confidence. And goalkeeper Scott Howie's nerves and careless mistakes are spreading fear throughout the team.

Celtic started the first half as they finished the match on Wednesday, on the attack and looking for a goal. It took only two minutes for Andreas Thom to exhibit his devastating pace as he flew past Brian Martin to deliver a perfect cross into the penalty area, but no one was there to capitalise. It was a theme that continued as the game declined.

Celtic had all the possession and, with Collins and Thom both operating down the left, the Motherwell defence met considerable problems down that flank. The danger, however, was confined to outside the area, as, for all their possession, there was little to provoke the token oohs and aahs from the stands.

The goal after 27 minutes was a much-needed tonic. It was the young full- back Jackie McNamara who delivered the penetrating ball, which found Phil O'Donnell racing into the penalty area. Howie came to meet the ball, but fluffed it. Intelligently, O'Donnell fed the ball back to Pierre van Hooijdonk at the edge of the box. He skewered the ball through the Motherwell defence and past Martin, trying to clear on the line.

McNamara left the field eight minutes later with a suspected broken jaw after he tussled with Andy Roddie on the ground. Roddie was booked and Peter Grant came on at right-back.

Ten minutes after the break, Celtic should have widened the gap. While Motherwell dithered in defence Boyd dispossessed Paul Lambert and strode into the penalty area where Thom - square of him - was screaming for a pass which would have given him a great chance. Boyd instead shot wide of the post.

There were long-range efforts from Collins and Thom, but they were moments of hope which quickly disappeared. The humiliating substitution after 67 minutes of the disgraced Roddie, who only came on in the 21st, brought the biggest cheer of the half.

As for Motherwell it took them up until the 80th minute before they realised they still had a chance to grab a point. Rab McKinnon first-time shot from Lambert's cross sparked the warning signals, and Celtic needlessly spent a nervous last 10 minutes. It was Howie who made the last important act of the game, producing a fine save to stop Van Hooijdonk.