Hooper return restores pair's understanding up front, says grateful Stokes

Anthony Stokes feels his partnership with Gary Hooper has progressed so well that he instinctively knows where his fellow Celtic striker is running.

The Irishman's brilliant overhead volley against Hibernian on Saturday was his first goal from open play since the 9-0 victory over Aberdeen on 6 November. The stunning strike, which followed his penalty in the 3-0 victory, coincided with Hooper's return following a four-week absence with an ankle problem.

Englishman Hooper finished off a Stokes cross to grab the opener at Easter Road, and the Republic of Ireland striker was relieved to have his partner back after several games as a lone striker.

"It's quite tough up front [on your own]," Stokes said. "I wouldn't be the strongest in the air. I'm not bothered, if the gaffer plays me up front on my own – I will put in a shift and try as hard as I can. But Hoops coming back makes it a lot easier for me because I've got someone to play with up there.

"I think I have a very good understanding with him. In a way we are different players but the runs we make are very similar. I've always a fair idea of where he is on the pitch so it makes it easier for me."

Celtic host Aberdeen again on Saturday in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League in the first of three matches against the Dons in 11 days.

But Stokes is not banking on another rout, with Aberdeen having won four games and drawn one since veteran management team Craig Brown and Archie Knox took charge. "I think it's going to be a completely different game," Stokes said. "I have watched them over the last few weeks and their form has completely turned around.

"We are just going to have to approach it like we do any game and show them full respect."

Celtic midfielder James Forrest has lost his appeal against the red card he picked up against Hamilton earlier this month, the Scottish Football Association confirmed.

The SFA's review panel yesterday dismissed the claim for wrongful dismissal submitted by the Parkhead club after their player was ordered off in the match at New Douglas Park on 12 January.

Forrest will now serve an automatic one-match suspension, with 12 penalty points added to his disciplinary record.

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