ANGE Postecoglou hailed the character of his players after an understrength Celtic side returned to winning ways in the cinch Premiership with a comfortable 3-1 win over St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park yesterday.

Postecoglou, whose men were held to a 0-0 draw by St Mirren in a league game in Paisley on Wednesday night, was denied the services of a raft of first team regulars in Perth by positive Covid-19 test results and injuries.

The Greek-Australian coach was without Joe Hart, Scott Bain, Greg Taylor, Callum McGregor and Anthony Ralston as well as long-term absentees Albian Ajeti, James Forrest, Georgios Giakoumakis, Jota, Christopher Jullien and David Turnbull. He handed Greek goalkeeper Vasilis Barkas his first start in five months.

However, a first-half Liel Abada double and a late Nir Bitton strike ensured the Parkhead club picked up all three points at the end of a “chaotic” few days and went into the winter shutdown on a high.

“Overall I am really happy with the players’ attitude and commitment,” said Postecoglou. “It has been a challenging week and we got the job done.

“To be fair, it’s been challenging from the moment I set foot here, it has just been different challenges. That’s what we keep saying to the players, all along we haven’t made excuses or felt sorry for ourselves, we have just got on with the job.

“Every challenge we have had we have, for the most part, overcome. That is testament to the character within the group. Yeah, it was a challenging week, but we’ve had a lot of challenging weeks and challenging games and to the players’ credit they have hung in there.

“The last couple of days have been pretty chaotic as you would imagine with everything that was happening, but we stayed calm through the whole thing and we knew that this was just a different challenge from the other challenges we have had so far and we just had to get on with it.”

Kyogo Furuhashi, Celtic’s leading scorer and the hero of their Premier Sports Cup final win, limped off injured in the first-half, but Postecoglou does not envisage the Japanese striker being sidelined for long.  

“Kyogo should be okay,” he said. “He wasn’t 100 per cent today, but he wanted to give it a go.  I said to him ‘look, if at any stage you feel the need to step off just do that’. That was what he felt.”

“He’s had 12 months of football. He didn’t start in June or July, he started January this year. So there was always going to be a time when we needed to give him a break.”

Postecoglou, who handed teenager Joey Dawson his debut when Furuhashi went off, was impressed with how Barkas, whose previous first team appearance had come in a Champions League qualifier against Midtjylland back in July, performed.

“That’s why these guys train had every day,” he said. “Their opportunities will come. They don’t know when it is going to come, at what point, but they have got to be ready, for themselves as much as anything else.

“It was great for him today to get an opportunity. I thought he did really well for us. He came out for a couple of crosses. He didn’t have an awful lot to do apart from that, but that is why they train hard every day, so they are ready for an opportunity.

“He (Dawson) did a good job as well. The way the team plays, we train in a similar way so that when the boys need to make the jump up, it’s as seamless as it possibly can be. It was good to see him get a run today, and I thought he did well.”