WITH Rangers moving to within three points of them at the top of the Ladbrokes Premiership table with their 4-0 defeat of St Mirren at Ibrox on Saturday, the pressure was well and truly on Celtic to beat St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park yesterday and restore their six point lead.

Tommy Wright’s side certainly made life difficult for Brendan Rodgers team in a close encounter and it looked at one stage in the second-half that they might earn a draw and pick up a point.

But a James Forrest goal in the 78th minute and a Timothy Weah strike late on secured a hard-fought victory and three important points for the visitors. So what did we learn from an incident-packed afternoon in Perth?


This may not have been a vintage display by the double treble winners. They were certainly the better team over the course of the 90 minutes and deserved their triumph. But they can play so much better.

Had Matty Kennedy or Tony Watt converted one of the chances the home team created in the opening hour – and the latter should really have headed home a cross by the former early in the second-half – then the final outcome could have been altogether different.

Good teams, though, grind out results when they are not at their very best and that is what Celtic did yesterday.

The losses of Mikael Lustig, Odsonne Edouard and Forrest were far from ideal. Indeed, the visitors had to play the final 10 minutes with 10 men because they had made their three substitutions. However, they stuck to their task doggedly and got their rewards for doing so. The display augurs well for what promises to be a close title run-in.

“It was a really good demonstration of our persistence and quality in the game to play so well against a team who are very difficult to play against,” said Rodgers afterwards.

“We had everything thrown at us in terms of injuries and what not. But the game went how we thought it would go. We had to be patient in our game, but still play with intensity. I thought we had really good tempo in our game. We created chances and kept a clean sheet which is equally important.”


Celtic would have enjoyed a far more comfortable afternoon had it not been for the heroics of St Johnstone keeper in the second-half. He denied Oliver Burke twice, Jozo Simunovic twice, Odsonne Edouard and Scott Sinclair in rapid succession. Is there a better shot stopper in the Premiership at the moment? He is up there with anyone.

Tommy Wright, a former Northern Ireland goalie, was unsurprised by the showing of his star performer. “It was no different to what he does for us every week,” he said. “He maybe made more saves because it was Celtic, but he has made big saves for us all season. Since he’s been in the first team I’ve been really pleased with him. He’s turning into a top class goalkeeper.”


Jeremy Toljan may not have featured in a first team game for Borussia Dortmund this season, but the right back, who was signed on loan by Celtic in the final hours of the January transfer window on Thursday night, impressed.

He took over from Lustig at the start of the second-half and had an immediate impact. He set up Burke for a shot at goal after playing a neat one-two with Forrest just three minutes after coming on. He created another excellent scoring chance for his team mate shortly after that.

The 23-year-old looked dangerous whenever he got on the ball and carried out his defensive duties competently. If this is how well he performs just three days after arriving in the country then how good will he be when he has a few more training sessions and games behind him? It was an encouraging start.

“You can see what he is, a modern day full-back,” said Rodgers. “He’s calm, composed, athletic and serves the ball well. It will take him a few games to get his game legs back, but you could see in that little cameo of 45 minutes the confidence he has in his game.”


The United States internationalist had, with two goals in his first four appearances, made quite an impression since joining Celtic on loan from Paris-Saint Germain last month. But his showing yesterday after coming on as a replacement for second-half substitute Edouard was his best to date. He set up Forrest for the opener and then sewed the win with a strike of his own late on.

The 18-year-old’s first touch after Scott Brown’s long ball upfield into the St Johnstone box was sublime and highlighted his technical ability. It allowed him to skip clear of Joe Shaughnessy and square the ball to Forrest. He showed his athleticism by breaking up the park and netting the second.

“Absolutely brilliant,” was how Rodgers summed up Weah’s contribution afterwards. “He’s 18 years of age and he’s loving every minute of his life here. He’s here for a purpose and his purpose is to learn and develop, get some games in his legs and make the impact that he has been making.

“He’s a great kid to work with. He’s always up for his training and for the games whether he starts or he comes off the bench. He’s always ready to make that impact. His ability for the first goal – his movement, touch and cross – and then for the second his speed were impressive. “


This result came at a cost for Celtic. Ryan Christie, Edouard, who had just recovered from an abductor strain, Forrest and Lustig all picked up injuries. With Filip Benkovic, Dedryck Boyata, Leigh Griffiths, Olivier Ntcham and Tom Rogic already out, it was the last thing the manager needed. Kristoffer Ajer, too, was ruled out of the league meeting with Hibernian in midweek after getting red carded for a professional foul in injury time.

Rodgers has an embarrassment of riches, the strongest squad in the country by far. Weah can play up front, Nir Bitton can come in in midfield, Burke can be deployed out wide and Jack Hendry can be called on at the back. But he is missing a lot of key men as we near an important stage of the season.