The game Celtic can’t forget about, at their peril. Before a potentially league-defining Derby comes a tricky Boxing Day trip to see some Buddies.
You wouldn’t think there would be anything to worry about. St Mirren are 9th, 33 points behind the champions. In any case, in domestic matches that matter, Lennon has only dropped points in 5 out of 34 and only in 2 league games this season.
Yet, under Goodwin, St Mirren are the classic ‘hard to beat’ side. There has been the odd stumble – 3 goal home loss to Motherwell and what now looks like a freak 5-2 reverse at basement club Hearts. Otherwise it is mainly 1 goal games or draws.Listen to the latest episode of the award-winning A Celtic State of Mind
Only Motherwell have as settled a side as the Paisley outfit. There are no real stars, although goalkeeper Hladky is 6th in the league in allowing 31% of on target shots in.
Their most creative player is midfielder Mullen, who averages 0.43 scoring contributions per 90m. Obika has 5 goals and no one else has more than 2. With 0.79 goals per game they are the league’s lowest scorers (15). Remarkably, they have taken the 4th most shots (208) but only 33% are on target – the league’s lowest.
Pressing midfield shooters will be key. Their paltry 7% shot conversion is also a league low. St Mirren have given up 210 shots – only 2 more than they have taken.
Three of their four wins have come at home, but the last two have seen 6 goals conceded. With their main men Stephen McGinn and Mullen missing lately, this may be a good time to play them. But they are resilient. St Mirren have yet to give up points from ahead.
Celtic have been in grinding form lately. Almost impeccable results glossing over the performances. There is a sense of a team playing within themselves, doing just enough over a testing period.
Whatever configuration of Edouard, Christie and Forrest plays, with 51 scoring contributions between them in 18 games – almost 3 per game – Celtic should eventually find a way.
Celtic to grind it out 1-0 and Christie to score again.
Alan MorrisonWatch Professor Willy Maley with A Celtic State of Mind