After another disappointing result for Neil Lennon, the Celtic manager’s critics are multiplying alongside growing concern within the Celtic support. The club haven’t won a match in over 270 minutes of play and with an away tie in the Europa League this coming Thursday against Lille, that winless streak looks set to continue.
Sunday’s match at Pittodrie was not short of goals or drama. It went from one extreme to the other and right to the death.
Aberdeen took the lead from the spot after Olivier Ntcham fouled Lewis Ferguson in the box just before the interval. Celtic equalised early in the second half after some fine individual work by vice captain, Callum McGregor.
Not much later, Ryan Hedges put the Don’s ahead for the second time. As big a blow as this was, Celtic showed character and levelled through substitute, Leigh Griffiths in the 76th minute.
Within a couple of minutes, Mohamed Elyounoussi was fouled by Tommie Hoban in the Aberdeen box. The resultant spot kick was converted by Ryan Christie to give Celtic the lead with twelve minutes remaining.
It was not to be Celtic’s day though. In the second minute of added time, McGregor fouled Connor McLennan in the Celtic box and Ferguson fired past a static Scott Bain for the second time to draw level.
The final whistle blew just over a minute later. It was a sore one for Celtic having been so close to victory after showing some real determination.
After a lifeless defeat to Rangers the week before, the game against Milan on Thursday was a marginal improvement, but only in the second half after Lennon eventually changed tactics and personnel. Even though that one was as second successive defeat on home soil, there was some evidence of character which was sorely missing from the Glasgow derby.
Despite the draw at Pittodrie, there was further evidence of that determination. The kind of characteristic that has seen Celtic dominate the domestic game for so long now.
The Champions fell behind twice and drew level twice at Pittodrie. Having managed that, Celtic then got their noses in front front for the first time in three games, only for victory to be snatched from them right at the death of this league encounter.
If Celtic had lost this game I think the wagons would be circling. Indeed, many will be wondering how much time Lennon has left to steady the ship and get this season back on course.
Having avoided defeat and walking away with a draw, there is one simple task for Neil Lennon and his players. To out together an unbeaten run in the league.
The distractions of European football must now play second fiddle to domestic duties. That means ensuring you don’t risk players you will need for the weekend at the expense of injury or dare I say it, covid-19.
I don’t think I’ve ever thought that way in all my years as a Celtic fan. European nights have always been moments to savour, especially in the last two decades, but right now this side must get their mojo back.
The league is all that matters. Anything else is a bonus.
When confidence is low, errors happen. If Celtic can start stringing results together they can gain some confidence and begin to stamp out the errors.
There is no other solution here. Neil Lennon will not walk away from this nor will he be shown the door.
Peter Lawwell and Dermot Desmond put their names to his permanent appointment when they seized the moment at Hampden Park in 2019. Things will have to get a lot worse before there is any contemplation of an exit.
This season is not over but Celtic are not out of the woods either. The challenge is for everyone at the club to pull together.
Whatever happens in Lille matters little. I would rather Celtic kept a lineup in mind for the
delayed Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden next Sunday.
Even then I would not be overly disappointed if we lost that so long as we keep out players fit. After that we’re home to Sparta Prague before resuming league duties some two weeks from now away to Motherwell.
By that stage, Rangers could potentially be nine points ahead at the top of the league, but we’ve been here before haven’t we? Celtic would still have two games at hand and the objective remains the same.
Neil Lennon must keep on pushing forward. It is a difficult period in a season with high expectations.
We haven’t played with the type of verve we saw from January onwards last season. It also hasn’t helped that we’ve had a large amount of our top players in key positions out.
Some players who should be more than capable haven’t been at their best either. Defensively we’ve looked sloppy, invited pressure and failed to deal with even the simplest of threats.
The games won’t get any easier but we can emerge from this. An eventual acceptance by Neil Lennon to switch formations is a good start.
Even with a weakened squad, guys like Tom Rogic and Leigh Griffiths have breathed a bit of life into this team. The return of Ryan Christie after a brief absence has demonstrated his value to this side.
The whole team and coaching staff have to stick together. Exorcise the mistakes and push on.
We’re only in October and there’s still a long way to go. This is far from over.