CELTIC manager Neil Lennon was pleased with a ‘brilliant win’ for his side although he admitted they had to work hard for their 2-1 victory over Partick Thistle.
In their first meeting with the Jags in nine years, the Hoops prevailed in the Glasgow derby at Firhill to extend their lead at the top of the Scottish Premiership to six points thanks to goals from Georgios Samaras and Amido Balde.
And Lennon was relatively happy with the display, telling BBC Scotland: “We had to dig it out in the end. We were sloppy, I felt, at times and if it wasn’t for our finishing we would have been out of sight at half-time.
“I think Scott Fox has made three great one-on-one saves from [Anthony] Stokes and twice from [Teemu] Pukki and at 1-0 Partick Thistle are always in the game and they are a good team.
“But I didn’t think we started the second half well at all and for fifteen minutes we were on the back foot due to our own sloppiness more than anything else. They got the equaliser but our reaction again was good.
“I was trying to get Amido [Balde] on before they scored but thankfully we got him on and he scored a brilliant goal, that’ll do him the world of good and it’s fantastic for us.
“It is a brilliant win, absolutely brilliant.”
Portuguese striker Balde has started just once in the league so far since joining from Vitoria Guimaraes in the summer but the 22-year-old came off the bench to net his second goal for the club, breaking forward and roll the ball home.
Lennon added: “We know where he is and the level he is at. He knows where he is in terms of the development and he is going to play a lot more as the season progresses.
“We just work our way with him. In training he has had to be patient but you can see the attributes he has.
“He’s still got a bit of work to do in terms of his hold-up play but he’s definitely got goals in him and he gives us a different dimension when we play him.”
Despite collecting the three points, Celtic lost scorer Samaras and left-back Emilio Izaguirre through injury in the second half.
“Emilio (Izaguirre) has obviously got a bit of concussion. He got a bang to the head making a fantastic block at a crucial time in the game.
“He can’t remember the running shot with his right foot which he put over the bar but I quickly reminded him of it but he’s OK hopefully. After a couple of days rest we’ll see how he is but he may be a doubt for the weekend,” Lennon said.
“It’s always a worry when he looked wobbly in the legs and obviously he’s gone down and you can see it is an immediate concern but he’s sitting up in the dressing room and he’s OK. He’s just a bit woozy at the minute.
“Sammy [Georgios Samaras] has a got a deep gash on his knee. It’s been stitched up now so again he will be a doubt for the weekend.”
Celtic remain unbeaten in the Premiership after 10 games, winning eight, with Lennon quick to dispel thoughts that the Hoops should romp to the title again in the absence of Old Firm rivals Rangers.
“It’s not always going to be champagne football and you have to respect the opposition because Partick Thistle can play a little bit and they had their tails up after a great win last week.
“They’ve had no midweek games so they’ve had a free week where their energy levels are probably higher than ours.
“But I’ve got to give great credit to the players. It wasn’t pretty at times, at times our football was good. I thought we deserved to win over the 90 minutes,” he continued.
Celtic do not play again until next Saturday against Jackie McNamara’s Dundee United at Parkhead before travelling to Amsterdam to face Ajax in the Champions League, giving the Hoops the whole week to prepare and get key players back to full fitness.
Former Bhoys skipper Lennon added: “The midweek break is welcome for us. We’re patched up at the minute. We were down to ten men with ten or eleven minutes of the game to go.
“Hopefully Charlie [Mulgrew], [Derk] Boerrigter and [James] Forrest will be back and we missed a little bit of width in the team today.
“That’s through bad luck more than anything else and getting those three back in for next week that will give us extra dynamism going forward as well.”