THE infamous 2-0 defeat that Celtic suffered at the hands of Ross County in the Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden back in 2010 didn't prevent Neil Lennon from being appointed manager on a permanent basis for the first time.

This disastrous loss to the same opponents by the same scoreline at Parkhead in the second round of the Betfred Cup, though, looks set to bring Lennon’s second spell in charge to an ignominious end.

The Northern Irishman was under intense pressure going into the match following a dire run of results that had seen his side fall 11 points behind Rangers in the Premiership and lose their chance of progressing to the knockout rounds of the Europa League.

He desperately needed a decent performance and a comfortable win to silence the growing number of supporters who were demanding his removal. What he got was another disjointed display and embarrassing reverse.

Celtic’s previous domestic cup defeat had come way back in the April of 2016 when they were beaten on penalties by their city rivals Rangers in the Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden. Their record-breaking 35 match winning run in knockout competitions was finally halted in the most miserable circumstances imaginable.

It was also the first time since way back in 1958 that Celtic, who had been beaten at Parkhead by Rangers, AC Milan and Sparta Prague since the October international break, had suffered four successive losses at home. The man responsible will almost certainly pay the price with his job.

The Glasgow club have an opportunity to complete a fourth consecutive treble in the rescheduled Scottish Cup final against Hearts next month. But there won’t be another clean sweep of trophies for them this season following this abject humiliation. It looks very much as if their long reign as the dominant force in the country is nearing an end.

The Scottish champions dominated the 90 minutes against opponents who have struggled this season and had not won against a top flight club in eight games. Once again, however, they lacked imagination and ruthlessness in attack and were disorganised and porous at the back. They could have no complaints about the final outcome.

Christopher Jullien was unfortunate to give away a penalty eight minutes before half-time for a foul on Ross Stewart. However, referee Kevin Clancy made the correct decision. The centre half had inadvertently clipped the heel of the striker as he attempted to clear a Josh Reid delivery into his six yard area. The forward calmly stroked the spot kick beyond Vaslis Barkas to put the visitors ahead.

Celtic laid siege to the County goal thereafter. Albian Ajeti hit the inside of the right post before half-time, Kristoffer Ajer tried his luck from long range, Odsonne Edouard hooked over and substitute Mohammed Elyounoussi headed wide. But Ross Laidlaw wasn’t seriously tested from kick-off to the final whistle.

With six minutes of regulation time remaining disaster struck for them. Coll Donaldson flicked on a Reid corner and Alex Iacovtti was allowed to ghost in and nod beyond Barkas. The Highlanders deserve enormous credit for their performance. They executed Stuart Kettlewell’s game plan to perfection and reaped the rewards.

But their moment of glory was overshadowed by the escalating crisis at Celtic. There were no fans inside the empty stadium due to coronavirus restrictions. But those who had gathered outside made their displeasure well known at the end.

Lennon, whose men had slumped to a second straight 4-1 defeat at the hands of Sparta Prague in the Czech Republic on Thursday night, made no fewer than four alterations to his starting line-up in an attempt to produce an improved showing.

Out went Scott Bain, Elyounoussi, Callum McGregor and Olivier Ntcham and in came Vasilis Barkas, Nir Bitton, Tom Rogic and Ajeti.

He also switched his formation and reverted to the 3-5-2 set-up that had served him so well in the second half of last season but had proved less effective earlier this term. Bitton, Ajer and Jullien played in defence with Diego Laxalt and Hatem Emhamed outside them. But the changes made no difference.

Lennon had stated that he was looking for far more from Barkas, his £5m summer signing who had not been sighted since the 3-1 defeat to Milan last month, in the build-up to the match. A confident punch clear from the 13-tmes capped 26-year-old at an early corner suggested that he was determined to contribute. But he had little to do.

Not that his opposite number Laidlaw was troubled greatly either. The home team controlled possession but struggled to create any clear cut chances. Edouard and Ajeti were ineffectual against a side who played with a five man backline and a deep-lying midfield four.

The contributions of experienced and highly-paid personnel has left much to be desired this season and once again yesterday several important first team players failed to deliver. They have to shoulder much of the blame for what has unfolded in the East End in recent months. It is clear a few are keen to move on and are not giving their all.

But that now appears distinctly like it will be an issue for whoever is brought in as manager, not Neil Lennon, to sort out.