Flat Celtic leave Lennon feeling the heat

Celtic 0 Hibernian 0
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The Independent Football

The Hibernian fans were typically scathing in their assessment. "You'll be sacked in the morning," they sang as Neil Lennon walked grim-faced up the tunnel here. Their own team's performance had been spirited and so self-disciplined that they had drained the home side of allbut a sense of exasperation, yet the glee came from taunting the Celtic manager.

He is unlikely to become a victim of his team's malaise just yet, but disillusionment is growing in the stands, even if the supporters are loath to turn on one of their idols. Lennon is, instead, being diminished by costly results that have become so commonplace that they are now 12 points behind the leaders, Rangers, and three behind Motherwell in second place, although Celtic do have one game in hand.

Speculation mounted yesterday that Lennon is an increasingly legitimate target for the managerial vacancy at Leicester City, with the odds on his appointment tumbling. He is not yet at the stage of considering that kind of opportunity as a piece of fortuitous timing, but Lennon cannot continue for ever presiding over the demise of Celtic's title challenge.

"I'm not concerned about my position," Lennon said. "There are players who need to stop leaving it to others to carry the team. I'll need to out them, speak to them and get a response. Leicester are a great club and they've spent a lot of money, but I like what I do here. I don't enjoy it when you get flat performances like this, but Celtic is a bigger challenge than most other clubs in the world."

Celtic were subdued by the industry and deployment of a Hibernian team that had every right still to be traumatised by their 4-1 League Cup defeat to these opponents last Wednesday night. Apart from a Gary Hooper shot into the side-netting and an Anthony Stokes effort that Graham Stack, the Hibs goalkeeper, stopped with his feet, Celtic were unproductive.

They could not shake the languor after the interval, although James Forrest did hit the crossbar. Hibs were dogged rather than inventive, but Leigh Griffiths showed the wherewithal to flick the ball up from a free-kick and steer a volley from 25 yards just wide. It was a piece of individual aplomb, but the mood at Celtic Park was one of discontent rather than admiration.

Celtic (4-4-2): Forster; Wilson, Rogne, Mulgrew, Matthews; Forrest, Kayal (Wanyama, 76), Ki (McCourt, 76), Ledley; Hooper (Samaras, 82), Stokes.

Hibernian (4-3-2-1): Stack; Wotherspoon, O'Hanlon, Stephens, Hanlon; Osbourne, Stevenson, Galbraith; Agogo (Sproule, 77), O'Connor (Thornhill, 77); Griffiths (Palsson, 88).

Referee Calum Murray.

Man of the match Stevenson (Hibernian).

Match rating 5/10.