Strachan able to shrug off striking issue

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The Independent Online

Gordon Strachan, the Celtic manager, refuses to be concerned by the latest injury and disciplinary problems disrupting his attack.

Celtic moved 19 points clear of Rangers at the top of the Scottish Premier League on Sunday with a 2-1 victory over Inverness Caledonian Thistle. The win, however, came at a cost to Strachan's squad with the strikers faring particularly badly.

A training ground injury had ruled Maciej Zurawski out of the trip to the Highlands, while Craig Beattie, starting alongside Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink for the second consecutive game, lasted only until half-time when he was substituted due to another hamstring problem.

His replacement, Kenny Miller, played only 15 minutes before being taken off with a hip injury.

To add to Strachan's concerns, Vennegoor of Hesselink was then sent off after receiving two yellow cards, the second for leaving the field to celebrate his last-minute winner with Celtic supporters.

Strachan said: "That was just something that we had to deal with.

"On Thursday we had four smashing strikers fit and ready to go," he added. "By 4pm on Sunday, we had three injured and one with a suspension coming up. But we don't make a big song and dance about it."

Strachan again finds himself thwarted in his season-long quest to find an ideal strike partnership. With the defenders Bobo Balde and Gary Caldwell still out with long-term injuries, and Steven Pressley suffering from a back problem, the Celtic squad could be tested fully in the weeks ahead.

Strachan said: "I see other teams having two or three injuries and it's a crisis. At times, we have been without six or seven players and that can be a problem."

Vennegoor of Hesselink's second yellow card still rankles with the Celtic manager. The referee Iain Brines explained on the Scottish Football Association's website why the second caution was necessary.

Brines reported: "I had no option to show the card. The player ran off the pitch and over the track to the terracing boundary where he was surrounded by spectators, some of whom ran from other areas of the terracing. "

But Strachan remains unimpressed. He added: "I said to my staff that I would go home and watch the French or Italian football on television, see players celebrating behind the goal and nothing will be done about it.

"I've seen people run 20 yards behind the goals, leap up on to a fence, swinging a strip above their head and the referee just ushers them back on to the pitch.

"We are so officious in Britain. But I liked my players' discipline on Sunday," Strachan added.

* Celtic last night completed the signing of Scotland midfielder Paul Hartley from Hearts. The midfielder, 30, signed a two-and-a-half-year contract in a deal thought to be worth more than £1m.

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