Wilson takes pride in Celtic's much-improved defensive steel

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The Independent Football

Celtic full-back Mark Wilson believes his side's previously-maligned defence deserve more credit for their record this season. Celtic have only conceded 18 goals in their 33 Scottish Bank Premier League matches, 10 less than leaders Rangers.

Manager Neil Lennon has been praised for assembling a goalscoring outfit thanks to signings such as Gary Hooper, Anthony Stokes and Kris Commons. But he has also restored confidence in the club's defence despite having to experiment at the back before Charlie Mulgrew and Daniel Majstorovic settled in as first-choice centre-backs.

Wilson has produced arguably his best form in a Celtic shirt in recent months while Emilio Izaguirre has been outstanding at left-back. Fraser Forster has impressed in goal when called upon but has been well protected in most games, something Wilson is proud of.

"Everybody loves attacking football and scoring goals but in the last few years, there has always been so much criticism thrown at the defence, and how it isn't good enough," Wilson said. "Now they are keeping a good record, it's very rarely spoken of."

Wilson's resurgence following a series of injuries has coincided with a marked improvement in Celtic's defensive record. They have only conceded five goals in the 15 SPL games Wilson has started since the turn of the year, two of which were penalties. The 26-year-old, whose form earned him a Scotland debut in the February victory over Northern Ireland, feels the increasing solidity has helped the attacking players.

"If you have confidence in your goalkeeper and your back four, it definitely gives the boys up front a licence to try and express themselves and score a goal here and there," Wilson said. "It takes the pressure off them a wee bit. They obviously understand that we aren't going to concede many goals.

"But it's not just the back four and the goalkeeper. It comes throughout the team and the midfielders must take a lot of credit for it as well as they stop a lot of attacks before they get to us."

The former Dundee United player added: "I take a lot of pride in clean sheets. As I said before, throughout the years I have been here, there has always been a lot of criticism labelled at the defence and I have been part of it.

"You have phone-ins and newspapers saying the defence is shocking etc. So you take a lot of pride in clean sheets and for keepers it's even better, of course. Big Fraser has been terrific and big Lukasz [Zaluska] as well when he has come in. The saves they make are obviously more important than the four guys defending."

Celtic next put their defensive record to the test against Dundee United at home on Sunday. They could be four points behind Rangers, who play Motherwell 24 hours earlier.