Lennon pledges to stay as Celtic strike a defiant tone

Celtic 4 Motherwell 0
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The Independent Football

Neil Lennon appeared to commit his future to Celtic despite a troubled first season in charge at the club. Lennon has been targeted by death threats, parcel bombs and on Wednesday was attacked by a Hearts fan at Tynecastle.

Yesterday their hopes of overtaking Rangers at the top of the SPL were emphatically dashed by events at Rugby Park, but with the Scottish Cup final against Motherwell to come next weekend, Lennon struck an optimistic, and characteristically defiant, note.

Goals by Gary Hooper and Georgios Samaras had the game tied up by the interval before substitutes Shaun Maloney and Paddy McCourt added to the one-way nature of the afternoon as the game turned into something of a tribute to Lennon from the home support.

Afterwards the Celtic manager said: "This isn't the end, this is the beginning. The reason I took this job was to win silverware. We're disappointed but we've got one more piece of silver to win."

The Northern Irishman then pointed the finger at the Scottish game for the trials he has faced over the last few months. He said: "I think a lot of people in the game here need to have a good look at themselves in the mirror."

But he took time to praise Celtic's supporters and added: "They've been magnificent all season. We as a club have nothing to reproach ourselves for. Whether it be the board, the fans or the players. They've dealt with a lot of issues with great dignity."

News of an early goal for Rangers dampened the enthusiasm inside the stadium and it took half an hour for Celtic to break through as Hooper scored from close range. In the 40th minute Samaras then had the easy task to slide the ball home from 12 yards after being set up by Charlie Mulgrew.

Second-half strikes from the lively Maloney and McCourt completed a one-sided afternoon accompanied by persistent chanting from the home support in favour of Lennon.

Celtic (4-4-2) Forster; Wilson, Loovens, Majstorovic, Izaguirre (Maloney, h-t); Forrest (McCourt, 66), Brown, Sung-yeung, Mulgrew; Hooper, Samaras (Juarez, 75). Substitutes not used Zaluska (gk), Cha, Rogne, Murphy.

Motherwell (4-4-2) Hollis; Saunders, Hutchinson (Page, 66), Carswell, Hammell; Humphrey (McHugh, 71), Gunning, Hateley, Jones; Forbes, Jeffers (Casagolda, 74). Substitutes not used Randolph (gk), Jennings, Murphy, Pollock.

Referee A Muir

Booked: Celtic Forrest; Motherwell Carswell.

Man of the match: Hooper

Attendance: 57,294.