No more slip-ups, warns Smith

McDonald ends Celtic's 23-year wait for festive glory at Ibrox while Boyd misses big chance to silence critics
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The Independent Football

Celtic yesterday claimed a first win at Ibrox in the Old Firm festive fixture since 1985 to move seven points clear at the top of the Scottish Premier League and leave the Rangers manager, Walter Smith, conceding his side now have "no margin for error" if they are to win the title.

"We have a situation where we effectively have to go the rest of the season unbeaten [to stand a chance]," said Smith, whose Rangers team had not lost at Ibrox in the SPL in 2008 until yesterday. "And we'll have to improve dramatically [on this form] for that to happen."€

Celtic's Australian international striker, Scott McDonald, scored the only goal. Rangers' leading scorer, Kris Boyd, with 18 goals from 18 starts before yesterday, had the best chance for the hosts, shortly after half-time, but was thwarted in a one-on-one with Celtic's goalkeeper, Artur Boruc.

This match was seen by many fans, both pro-Boyd and anti-Boyd, as a chance for the Scotland forward to either silence his critics for good or show once again that he just does not have what it takes on the big occasion. But Smith sprung to his player's defence, saying: "It's impossible for a striker to score from every oppor-tunity that falls to him."

Smith was slightly less forgiving about the ease with which his defence allowed McDonald time and space to unleash his match-winning shot. But again he stopped short of overt criticism. "You always look at goals you lose and hope your team had defended better," he said. "Celtic had less of the possession and fewer chances but were more clinical when it mattered.

"I felt that we started the game well, and edged a tight first half. There were not many clear chances but we were on top territorially and in the area. Celtic's goal changed the whole complexion of the game and then they sat back and restricted us to veryfew opportunities."

With a full programme of matches in England this afternoon, there were no games yesterday, although that did not prevent Sunderland from taking decisive action by appointing Ricky Sbragia as their permanent replacement for Roy Keane, on an 18-month contract. The Scot has presided over two emphatic wins and a draw in the Premier League since stepping into Keane's role on a caretaker basis.

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