Lennon smiling again after thumping win


Soccer:Neil Lennon was able to joke about the controversial penalty awarded against Celtic and saved by Fraser Forster following the Hoops’ 6-2 thrashing of Dundee United in their Clydesdale Bank Premier League encounter at Parkhead.

The champions responded well to losing an 11th minute goal to Tannadice midfielder Stuart Armstrong with efforts from Efe Ambrose, Kris Commons and Joe Ledley. However, at 2-1, the visitors were handed the chance to draw level when referee Bobby Madden surprisingly pointed to the spot after Celtic defender Adam Matthews tackled Gary Mackay-Steven, but Forster saved from United skipper Jon Daly.

Commons grabbed his second from the spot 10 minutes into the second half before Anthony Stokes notched a double to complete the rout, with Johnny Russell scoring late on for the Taysiders.

There were suggestions later that Madden had awarded the penalty for tugging, which was not lost on Lennon. He revealed yesterday that Celtic would be seeking “clarification” over Spanish referee Alberto Undiano Mallenco’s performance during the 3-0 Champions League home defeat by Juventus on Tuesday night, when he allowed some blatant manhandling of the Hoops players to go unpunished.

The Celtic boss laughed when he said: “I wish Bobby had been refereeing on Tuesday night. It was never a penalty. It is a great recovering tackle. I’ve seen it again. I think he (Bobby) said he tugged his shorts or shirt but he didn’t, he recovered brilliantly and won the ball cleanly, there was no contact. We scored six goals and it could have been a lot more.

“I think the players, off the back of Tuesday, wanted to put in a strong performance. That’s not easy, they would have been hurting, but they picked themselves up very well and some of their football was fantastic. We went out and played like a Champions League team today.”

Lennon over-ruled Stokes, who had wanted to take Celtic’s penalty, which the striker had won by being fouled by Tannadice defender Barry Douglas.

The former Celtic skipper said: “Yes, I sent the message on through Adam. Anthony was going to take it but I wanted Kris to take it as he had scored the last two. I was sitting there thinking, ‘Oh God if he misses it I am going to get pelters (abuse)’. but thankfully he didn’t.

“Stokesy wants to score goals and I was delighted with his performance and his two goals, but that is Kris’s job at the moment.”

Stokes is back in Lennon’s plans after recovering from an ankle injury which has disrupted his season.

The former Hibernian striker’s contract is up in the summer, but when asked if he would like to keep the 24-year-old at Parkhead, the Hoops boss said: “It is up to Anthony. If he keeps playing like that then it is not a difficult decision at all.

“I have always liked him, he is an important player and he is a goalscorer. There are aspects of his game he needs to improve on, he knows that but when he puts his mind to it he can be a very good player and he showed that today.”

Reporters were warned off asking Stokes about his contract situation, but he admitted he was under instruction to give the ball to Commons for the penalty.

“By all accounts the gaffer was losing his head on the sidelines so I am glad Kris took it in the end,” he said. “The gaffer wanted a reaction after Tuesday. Any time there is a defeat or a draw, we have to bounce back and I think we did that. That’s me scored three. I just want to score as many goals as I can until the end of the season and have an impact on the team.”

Jackie McNamara was “disappointed” after suffered his first defeat as United manager following wins against Rangers and Hearts.

The former Celtic defender said: “I was disappointed with the goals we lost and they obviously got a lift from us missing the penalty.

“I thought their keeper had a few good saves but the goals we lost were soft.”

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