Hartson keeps nerve as double helps Celtic return to summit

Celtic 2 - Aberdeen 0
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The Independent Online

Celtic moved back to the top of the Scottish Premier League courtesy of a 2-0 home win over Aberdeen thanks to a John Hartson double yesterday.

Celtic moved back to the top of the Scottish Premier League courtesy of a 2-0 home win over Aberdeen thanks to a John Hartson double yesterday.

Celtic are two points clear of Rangers with 89 points from 36 games and two matches left. Rangers beat Hearts 2-1 at Ibrox on Saturday to move on to 87 points.

Hartson, Scotland's joint Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year, struck twice in the second half to take his tally to 30 this season.

"It was important that we won today," Hartson said. "It was a bit nervy out there, first half especially, but we kept going and in the end we could have won four or five-nil. I had a chance right at the end but I will settle for two."

His team-mate Chris Sutton added: "I thought we deserved it although there were a couple of hairy moments in the first half. But we have no divine right to win any game. There has been a lot of talk about whether we will blow it or not but we play tough teams every week and we are the ones who have to go out and do it. It is not an easy job and hopefully we can hang on in there."

Hartson, the Wales forward, opened the scoring after 47 minutes as he bundled home at the back post with defender Andy Considine helping the ball on its way after a free-kick by Alan Thompson. Sutton held play up well in the 71st minute before dragging the ball across goal for Hartson to tuck in a simple second.

The Celtic manager Martin O'Neill played down talk of his side being within touching distance of retaining the title.

"I don't know how you can say that because we are away twice now," he said. "We are no longer at Celtic Park for a start - some of the boys in the dressing room may think that's a good thing. But we go to Hearts, which is exceptionally difficult, and then Motherwell.

"I have never found it easy at any of the two particular grounds. But all we do know still, after Sunday afternoon's affair, is that it is still in our hands."

"I knew Aberdeen would be a handful all afternoon and it was up to us to get the first goal and if we could do that I felt we could go on to win the game," O'Neill said.

"We got it just after halftime and went on to get the second which was an absolute gem, to be perfectly honest. It was a bit frenetic in the first-half...and it was a matter of being patient as much as anything else.

Goals: Hartson (47) 1-0; Hartston (71) 2-0.

Celtic: Douglas, McNamara, Varga, Balde, Laursen (Beattie 45), Agathe, Petrov, Lennon, Thompson, Hartson, Sutton. Substitutes not used: Marshall, Valgaeren, Lambert, Maloney, Wallace, McGeady.

Aberdeen: Esson, McNaughton (Blaha 65), Diamond, Anderson, Severin, Hart, Considine (Dempsey 67), Mackie, Byrne (Winter 83), Muirhead, Clark. Substitutes not used: Preece, Adams, Foster, Macauley.

Referee: J Underhill.

Attendance: 59,498.

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