If Wednesday night’s win against Hearts at Tynecastle was a show of team unity and defiance in the wake of Brendan Rodgers’ departure, then this evening’s Scottish Cup win away to Hibernian was the predictable reminder that this team are unstoppable.
Two days’ training, only one with the full squad, gave Neil Lennon and his team just enough time to become acquainted but perhaps not enough to become fully comfortable with each other.
A sloppy first half threatened to make the big takeaway from this frantic cup match one of frustration and confused football. Tasked with being more direct, the starting eleven could not find the cohesion necessary to really put pressure on this in-form Hibernian side.
Nonetheless the new manager’s influence on proceedings was clear to see.
A half-time team talk had the Hoops far more focused and concentrated after the break. The mistakes became fewer, the passes became more incisive and a change in role for James Forrest resulted in a stunning goal that was worthy of winning any cup tie.
Forrest was unshackled in the second half, given license to drift inside to try and impact the game in a more central position. Picking up the ball 30 yards out, he shifted the ball onto his right foot, made space for himself over a short distance and pinged a beauty into the top corner past a helpless Ofir Marciano.
The 27-year-old now has a 15 goal haul this term and is rapidly closing in on last year’s total of 17. His influence has been incredible this season and after a quiet period in December and January, he has burst into life as one of our biggest goal threats once again.
After he had his say the win was almost inevitable and roared on by a noisy away end Scott Brown blasted in a beauty to double our advantage and put progression to the semi-finals beyond all doubt.
Having struggled to hit the back of the net for nearly two years prior to his current burst of three goals, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Peter Lawwell has written in a substantial goal bonus to the contract that prevented his exit to Australia.
This week threatened to derail our entire season but it looks like, if anything, the actions of a snake have unified a support and steeled the minds of Celtic stars desperate to prove that our unprecedented success of the last few years was not all down to the man that left us for Leicester.
On Tuesday night the treble was in doubt, now it is very much on, and credit must be given to Lennon, John Kennedy and Damien Duff for guiding abandoned players through the fire into a mindset that will make it very difficult to topple us now.
Rodgers may be gone, but the song remains the same.
“Cups are not won by individuals but by men in a team who put their club before personal prestige.” – Jock Stein