Lennon and Smith happy with response to adversity

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The Independent Football

Neil Lennon praised his Celtic players for coming from behind for the first time this season in the Scottish Premier League to beat Kilmarnock 2-1 at Rugby Park yesterday.

It was Lennon's 13th successive SPL win as Celtic manager – his fifth this season – but it came only after Conor Sammon had given Killie a shock lead after just seven minutes, the first goal the Hoops had conceded in the league this season.

However, Celtic reasserted themselves and just before the break, Anthony Stokes, on for the injured Paddy McCourt, was brought down by Frazer Wright and Daryl Murphy scored with the penalty.

Stokes converted an Emilio Izaguirre cross from close range in the 52nd minute for his first goal since signing from Hibernian and in the end the visitors ran out easy winners to keep them joint-top of the table alongside Rangers.

The Celtic manager was far from pleased at how his side started the game, but happy at the way they turned it around. "We were wasteful in possession early on, and ill-disciplined in our defensive shape at times," he said. "The goal was preventable, we got rolled in midfield and Glenn Loovens turned his back and Sammon got across him and tucked it in.

"Sooner or later we were going to concede a goal and it was the reaction that we were looking for and we got that. I'm delighted that we showed a lot character and as the game wore on, we got stronger and stronger.

"I thought we totally dominated the second half but it's always difficult to break a team down when they set up defensively like that."

On Saturday, Rangers thrashed Dundee United 4-0 at Ibrox and manager Walter Smith was relieved his side maintained their 100 per cent league after a tough midweek game against Manchester United in the Champions League.

"The Champions League games are ones, for us, where you need to expend a lot of energy," Smith said. "There is mental tiredness as well because you need to keep a level of concentration for a hell of a long period so you always concern yourself a little.

"Last season, we dropped a number of points after coming back from Champions League games and you are aware of that aspect. So we are delighted with the way things turned out today," Smith added.