Soccer

Celtic’s ‘tippy-tappy football’ driving Neil Lennon ‘nuts’ after another defeat

Celtic manager Neil Lennon admits his team drive him round the bend with their “tippy-tappy football”.

The Scottish Premiership champions saw their hold on the title slip further out of their grasp after a 1-0 defeat by Ross County in Dingwall on Sunday night.

Rangers are now just seven points away from ending Celtic’s nine-year monopoly and the result in the Highlands heightened the prospect of them doing so at Parkhead on March 21.

Celtic had about three-quarters of the possession at the Global Energy Stadium and 20 shots at goal, but only four efforts were on target.

The absence of a clinical edge frustrated Lennon who implored his players to hit the target and move the ball quickly.

They paid the price for some bad misses – Ryan Christie put the ball out of the stadium from seven yards away from goal – while Jordan White scored with a free header from a set-piece.

After falling 18 points behind Rangers, Lennon said: “There are no excuses. It’s not Covid, it’s not a shutdown, it’s not losing players.

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“There’s a couple of injuries here and there but in the main we should have been more comfortable, especially with the run we have been on. Confidence was good.

“But we revert back to playing tippy-tappy football at times. It drives me nuts. I’m sure we’ll get heavily criticised. Whether it’s right or wrong after this performance, it doesn’t matter, it’s the nature of the beast.”

County boss John Hughes saw his preparations for the game thrown into disarray when his probable team suffered a training-ground thrashing at the hands of his fringe players.

But he made the most of the situation by recalling the likes of Blair Spittal and Michael Gardyne as he made four changes in all.

The selection paid dividends as County got off the bottom of the table and leapfrogged Hamilton and Kilmarnock.

Hughes said: “This week is the first time we have been on the grass pitches since I have come to the club, because of the frost and the snow, and I think that has been a massive benefit. You can get out there and coach, and have a practice match.

“We had a practice match on Tuesday and I had roughly picked my team and they got an absolute doing. The boys who are not playing gave them an absolute doing.

“So I had to reward that. That’s why we had guys like Spittal and Midge (Gardyne) coming back into the team, because they were different class in the practice match.

“And the message that sends out to the rest of them: every time they have a practice match on the big pitch, you are playing for a position. That’s the standards we are trying to set at the club.”

PA

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