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Neil Lennon determined to turn Celtic slump around as gap to Rangers grows

Celtic v St Johnstone – Scottish Premiership – Celtic Park
(Image credit: Andrew Milligan)

Celtic manager Neil Lennon admits they have made it “very, very difficult” to haul themselves back into the Scottish Premiership title race after a 1-1 home draw with St Johnstone.

But Lennon has no doubts that he remains the man to turn their alarming slump in form around.

Rangers moved 13 points clear on Sunday after a 4-0 away win over Ross County, who had knocked Celtic out of the Betfred Cup at Parkhead seven days earlier.

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Celtic have now won just twice in 12 matches in all competitions and only once in five league games to leave hopes of a 10th consecutive league crown hanging by a thread.

When asked if he doubted he could turn their form around, Lennon said: “No, I don’t doubt it, I know these players.

“There is definitely a lack of confidence there, a lack of confidence in themselves as individuals and each other. We need to get that back because they can play, they proved that last season.

“But this season it’s been a struggle for them. Whether it’s a lack of attitude or desire…. there’s bits and pieces that I see now and again that I can’t really change overnight, but I want to.

“As far as the season goes we are making it very, very difficult for ourselves to get back into it.”

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Lennon, who first joined Celtic 20 years ago to the day, added: “I have got to be realistic. I wouldn’t say it’s over but we are making it more and more difficult for ourselves and we need to start winning games and winning them well.”

The cup loss against County sparked angry protests outside Celtic Park but Lennon retained the backing of the club’s power-brokers.

But, after losing four goals and a two-goal lead against Milan on Thursday, Lennon admitted Celtic lacked penetration and urgency against a St Johnstone side who extended their unbeaten run to 11 games.

Celtic created more chances after a flat first half but Zander Clark made some good stops and Saints substitute Chris Kane slid in to convert Stevie May’s low cross in the 79th minute.

Mohamed Elyounoussi levelled with a looping header four minutes later but Celtic could not find a winner.

Celtic goalscorer Mohamed Elyounoussi shows his disappointment with the result

Celtic goalscorer Mohamed Elyounoussi shows his disappointment with the result (Andrew Milligan/PA)

With fans gathering outside Celtic Park again, Lennon said: “I understand their frustrations. We are not playing well, we are not getting the results we should be getting.

“There’s ways and means and some fans are more irate than others but at the minute I would agree with them that the performances don’t merit the quality that we have.

“If that’s on me, then so be it. If there is going to be a change, then so be it, but I will not stop working to try and get it right.”

When asked whether the latest setback might change the views of the board and major shareholder Dermot Desmond, Lennon said: “I can’t answer that and I don’t want to pre-empt anything. I want to keep working and turn it round.

St Johnstone manager Callum Davidson

Saints boss Callum Davidson had mixed feelings about the result (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“We need a bit of swagger back in the team which is missing right now. Some players aren’t fit enough and that’s been the case for a long time. Some players are just not in good form.

“They need some respite at some stage and they need some support from me, but it’s a two-way thing. The players have got to play better. We are trying everything we can to get those performances right.”

St Johnstone manager Callum Davidson had mixed emotions after losing the lead but gaining another point.

“It’s a really tough place to come and we were missing two or three key players,” he said. “But to get a point is a little bit bitter-sweet.

“We go 1-0 up and Zander makes a couple of great saves to keep us in the game. To take a point at Parkhead, I am delighted for the players.”