Celtic’s hunger for goals in thrashing of St Johnstone pleases Neil Lennon

The champions recorded their biggest win since an identical scoreline against Motherwell in 2016.

By Press Association Published: 4 August 2019 - 9.49am

Celtic manager Neil Lennon was delighted to see his team’s hunger for goals as they began the Ladbrokes Premiership season with a 7-0 thrashing of St Johnstone.

The champions recorded their biggest win since an identical scoreline against Motherwell in Ronny Deila’s final match in charge in May 2016.

Ryan Christie set up Mikey Johnston for a ninth-minute opener before scoring a hat-trick and Odsonne Edouard and substitutes Olivier Ntcham and Leigh Griffiths completed the rout.

Celtic had only scored more than two goals on one occasion between the time Lennon took over from Brendan Rodgers in late February and the end of last season, and he had spoken about his desire to see them play with more attacking intent.

Lennon said: “I think there are more goals in them. There’s a belief when they play like that, take their chances and shoot and create.

“We weren’t tippy-tappy, we were far more purposeful against a team who can be dogged and difficult to break down.

“What pleased me more than anything is we got a good early goal and built on it, we didn’t take our foot off the pedal.

“You are always looking for more but if we can get the wee man (Griffiths) up to speed, what an asset he is going to be.

“There’s goals from Odsonne, goals from (James) Forrest, goals from (Scott) Sinclair and (Callum) McGregor and that pleases me.

“We look a threat at set-plays. So we are not just one-dimensional at the minute. I like the variation in the way we play.”

Christie admitted confidence played a part in the early shots that sailed into Zander Clark’s net but added: “That and the fear of getting told off I don’t do that. The manager has said he wants me to shoot on sight if I get a chance.

“He is never going to shout at me if I take it on. I’m delighted to hear that.”

St Johnstone’s dismal afternoon followed on from a poor Betfred Cup campaign that saw them lose three times but manager Tommy Wright was far from downbeat.

“I’m still confident going into the season,” he said. “I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t be. I’ve got the experience to deal with it and we’ll deal with it.

“Believe it or not I’m in pretty good fettle. We experienced a 6-0 last year and we went on an incredible run after that so it’s up to us to work hard this week and bounce back.

“And we have got to learn from it. There was a severe lack of leadership out on the pitch and that’s something that has to be addressed.”

Wright has been linked with a move for former Dundee striker Kane Hemmings but he is wary about any deal after the last-minute collapse of a bid to re-sign Stevie May from Aberdeen.

“I would hope a striker would be in next week but with the week I had the other week with the May thing, I won’t hold my breath because that proved anything can happen in football,” he said.

“He had done his medical, he was away with two polo shirts and a tracksuit – we will actually have to ring him and get them back off him – and he was in the team to face Brechin. That’s how close it was.”