Celtic struggled to breakdown an organised Hamilton Accies team reduced to ten men for almost the final hour of the game.
Having reached the interval level pegging (an Edouard free kick cancelling out a header from the physically imposing Ogkmpoe, who impressed for the home team), the Bhoys endured a frustrating afternoon until Jullien got himself on the end of a Christie cross twelve minutes from time to volley expertly past Southwood.
At times, the home goalmouth resembled a scene from The Alamo, and a further goal from Edouard and an injury time strike from Forrest put a deserved gloss on the score-line. But this was a nerve-jangling afternoon for the Celtic support and a tougher test lies ahead on Wednesday just a few miles away at Fir Park.
Still, a seven point lead at the end of January (albeit having played a game more than the club in second place) is more than most dared hope for at the turn of the year.Listen to the latest episode of the award-winning A Celtic State of Mind
Another game down in Celtic’s historic quest for nine league titles in-a-row, and there are just 14 games to go.
This was a flat performance from Celtic on Hamilton’s astroturf pitch, but Neil Lennon energised his side with the introduction of Ryan Christie, Jonny Hayes and Tom Rogic, and I can see a couple of the subs starting our next game against Motherwell on Wednesday night.
It was nice to see young Stephen Welsh – recalled from Morton after several stand-out performances – performing so well. The vitality that Scott Brown, Jonny Hayes and Odsonne Edouard bring to the team is also invaluable. As for Leigh Griffiths, improvement in his performance can be seen game by game.
Hamilton have to be commended for their structure in the first-half. They took the lead from a corner which was poorly defended at the front post.
Celtic were given an opportunity to get back into the game when Jamie Hamilton saw red for pulling down Leigh Griffiths just outside the box. Odsonne Edouard pulled one back after a tremendous free-kick. For the majority of the second-half, it was very lacklustre up until all three subs were on the park. They no doubt made a difference, especially Ryan Christie and Jonny Hayes.
The lead was taken with both men involved in setting up the big Frenchman Christopher Jullien. The champions then punished Accies with Edouard and Forrest getting in on the act.
Another vital three points to create a bit of space at the top of the table.
Today was one of those games where you just have to leave with the three points, and Celtic managed that.
Overall, the performance was a bit flat and disjointed compared to recent games, but when it mattered, the big game players stepped up and won the match.
Another three points in the bag in the hunt for 9-in-a-row.
Celtic always find a way to make it difficult, and for long spells of this game, that’s exactly what it was. Relief at full-time with a far less comfortable result than the scoreline suggests.
A debut was handed to Stephen Welsh, recalled from Morton only a week ago, and the youngster fitted in like he’d already made over 100 appearances.
There was little he could do about the opener, however, as once again Celtic fell behind from a set-piece. Ogkmpoe met an Alston corner to give Hamilton the lead after 25 minutes. This is a massive weakness for Celtic, as we are now into double figures for the amount of goals conceded from set-pieces this season.
Odsonne Edouard’s performance showed the hints of his brilliance with a beautiful free-kick after Accies were reduced to 10.
Level at half-time, the next goal was going to be absolutely crucial and boy did it take forever to arrive. Eventually, though, some lovely footwork from the midfield got the ball wide to Christie, whose cross was prodded home beautifully by Christopher Jullien.
That seemed to open the floodgates and, only minutes later, Odsonne Edouard linked well with Tom Rogic to cut through the Hamilton rearguard and slot home his second goal of the game.
Edouard had the chance to secure his hat-trick, but the Frenchman turned human as he missed a sitter at the back post. Into injury time, and Celtic made it four when Griffiths played in Edouard who selflessly laid the ball off for Forrest to wrap up the victory.
Overall, a great weekend for the Bhoys, as they extended their lead at the top of the table to seven points, but a stronger performance will be needed on Wednesday night at Fir Park.
All roads lead to Motherwell on Wednesday – it’s one down, 14 to go.
Hamilton and Celtic took to the field today at the Fountian of Youth Stadium with the champions looking to take another step toward 9-in-a-row. The hosts were in need of anything in their quest to retain their Premiership status. The Accies came out swinging.
They set out to frustrate and bully Celtic wherever they could. Ogkmpoe and Moyo were proving to be a real handful for Jullien in particular, while Celtic struggled to create any meaningful chances at the other end. The feeling that this might be another ‘Livingston’ was not helped when the home side took the lead through an Ogkmpoe goal.
The lead lasted ten minutes until Jamie Hamilton hauled down Griffiths. Edouard converted the resulting free-kick, and Celtic set about trying to capitalise on the red card given to the Hamilton defender.
Celtic had a lot of possession and pressure from then on, with Greg Taylor, more than most, seeing a lot of the ball. But despite the growing stranglehold the visitors had on the game, they could not find the goal to get them into a winning position.
Hayes and Christie came on as the second-half progressed. A combination of strong and direct running from Hayes and and pinpoint passing from Christie contributed to unlock a tiring Hamiton defence. All of a sudden the goals came and Jullien, Edouard and Forrest were all able to plunder the Hamilton defence.
A deserved victory for Celtic in the end, but not without some sticky moments.Watch Kevin McKenna with A Celtic State of Mind