LEIGH GRIFFITHS says he thought his first half strike against Rangers was in all the way as he rued the save from ‘world-class’ Allan McGregor that denied him the chance to give Celtic a deserved lead in the Old Firm derby.

Griffiths and his teammates were left kicking themselves after failing to turn their dominance into an advantage at Ibrox, ultimately losing the game following Nir Bitton’s red card and Callum McGregor’s unfortunate own goal.

But while Griffiths was adamant that Bitton’s red card – wrongly given in his view - changed the course of the match, he says that Celtic only have themselves to blame for the 19-point gap that now exists between the sides.

That could have all been so different had his 25-yard curling effort found the top corner in the first half during Celtic’s spell on top, but Griffiths wasn’t surprised to see his former Scotland teammate reach up to somehow claw the ball onto the outside of the post.

“I thought it was in,” Griffiths said. “But he is a world-class goalkeeper. That’s what he brings you – he wins you points.

“I couldn’t have hit it any sweeter. He got his fingertips to it and it’s hit the post. Listen it was a chance for me and I never put it away. We train hard this week, reflect and be ready for Hibs next Monday.

“It was [an opportunity missed]. Because first half was the best we have played all season. And I don’t think have Rangers have had a shot on target all game.

“It’s disappointing but it’s the games at the start of the season that have killed us to be honest. The start of the season was not good enough. If we had been putting in performances like that we would not be in this position.”

Griffiths’s feeling of regret over the way Celtic played between mid-October and early December are only heightened by the way they are now performing, having belatedly hit their straps.

“It’s not just the first half performance today, we have been playing really well over the past few weeks,” he said.

“First half we were unlucky not to be a couple of goals ahead. At half-time we regrouped and went out to play the same way.

“I think the red card changed the game. We hadn’t played well in the first few months of the season but then we started gathering momentum at the start of December.

“Today we were feeling confident and played well – until the sending off I thought we were the much better team.

“Again, the red card changes the game completely and Rangers are on the front foot from then.

“For me I think it’s soft. He has got a long way to go, Kris Ajer is coming round covering too. But it’s done now and we can’t do anything about it.

“Whether it’s right or wrong it’s down to him [the referee]. Only he can come and explain his decision but for me it is soft.”

Despite the huge gap to Rangers at the top of the Premiership, Griffiths says that nobody in the Celtic dressing room is prepared to concede that their 10 in-a-row dreams are now over.

“Listen we will keep fighting until the end until it’s mathematically impossible for us to win the league,” he said.

“We will go away we will reflect on it, work hard and prepare for Hibs.’

“Losing any game is tough to take. We dominated the game, especially first half. But if you don’t take your chances you are not going to win games.

“The boys are all hurting in there.”

Nobody, according to Griffiths, was hurting more than Bitton, who was left to reflect on his contribution to the defeat after being caught wrong side of Alfredo Morelos.

But Griffiths says that his disappointment is shared among the squad, and that his teammates will pick him up as they now travel to Dubai to prepare for the second half of the season.

“He has not said much,” Griffiths said. “And all the boys down there are devastated about the result.

“I’m sure he’ll tell us his thinking behind it.”