Top Line Summary

  • Convincing display against Livi
  • Reo Hatate the difference maker 
  • The return to form of Matt O'Riley
  • A settled squad - finally
  • Being in the best possible shape to face Rangers

Everything that Celtic assistant John Kennedy said after their 3-0 away win against Livingston...

How delighted were you with that performance?

It was very good. As everyone knows, coming here especially on a day like today when the sun is out and drying the pitch up, can be difficult.  But the boys were very good, very professional. We didn’t give Livingston very much at all in terms of territory or getting into our box which is always important here. And in our attacking play, we stuck at it. In the first half, we could have scored - we got into some great areas and maybe the final ball wasn’t there or things got blocked. But we showed that calmness, which is important at this time of year. It’s easy to get dragged into panic mode and think that you need to go chasing a win, but we stayed with our performance, stayed with doing the same things. We were relentless and eventually, it breaks for you. That’s what happened and we came out convincing winners.

How important was Reo Hatate today?

He was on it right from the first minute and he has been in training, which is why the gaffer thought to get him in the team quickly. He’s been terrific the last few weeks. He came back in good condition and worked hard. We had the game last week to give him some minutes and he was really good, so it was time to unleash him. I think you can see what he brings to the team, and even when he came off, Paulo came on, gave us a bit of buzz and got his goal. The squad is taking shape. Cam has another 90 minutes under his belt and with Reo back in we’ve pretty much got a full bill of health. We’re in good shape going into the run-in, but for us, it’s just about focusing on performance and maintaining that level.

How much are you looking forward to having a settled team at last?

It’s been a challenge but that’s part of football. It happens sometimes, and it’s affected our rhythm and our performances sometimes. But in the last period, we’ve been very good. We’ve given away one or two cheap goals which has kept other teams in games, but our attacking play has been really good. It’s been very good from our front players, the way we supply them and then the end product with us scoring a lot of goals. It’s just about staying on that. But even today, the defensive part of the game was very good. If you allow Livingston to get up into your half and get balls into your box, that’s when the trouble stops. But we stopped that at the source, which was what Kyogo, Daizen and Nick did at the front end. Our midfield worked in and around that then the boys at the back dealt with anything that came along. That’s a crucial part. Everyone thinks that when you come to Livingston it’s all about going and breaking them down. That’s very much part of it, but for us, it’s just as important how we defend against that, how we press to stop them giving us difficult moments. At the same time, it forces mistakes and gives us chances, which we got a couple of in the first half as well. As a performance as a whole, it was pleasing.

READ MORE: Celtic instant analysis as Hatate and Kuhn both sparkle

Can Hatate be the difference maker?

I think that’s always the case with your best players. He’s shown that, in terms of big games and big performances. He’s obviously not fully up to speed but I think we can see today that he’s in pretty good condition, and it’s just the confidence he brings to the team as well. He plays with that composure. Even on a difficult pitch, you can see how he brings calmness to the game. He sees the passes which the front players thrive on and he gives us a slightly different dynamic. It’s important to have him back. It’s just about getting him through the week now, getting him that extra bit fitter going into next week.

How do you feel are shaping up for the massive game next weekend?

The injuries have hampered us but the squad are looking good, you see it in training, you sense it in training, the numbers are starting to come back up, the quality's starting to come back in, and the standard starts to rise. Outwith the Hearts game, when we went down to 10 men very early, we'd scored 17 goals in four games and we've scored another three today, so in that respect it's very pleasing. Obviously, we want to stay on top of our defensive game and not slacken off, and if we do that we get performances like that where we dominate games and give nothing away. That's always the objective, to have that level of performance.

Is it good to see that Matt O'Riley looks to have rediscovered some of his early season form?

He's been crucial for us this year, especially when Callum comes out, the dynamic changes slightly. Even Tomoki today, in terms of the physicality he gave us, the number of times he picked up second balls or broke up attacks, he was really good and that allowed Matt and Reo to get involved further forward. It's a good dynamic. We've got good options in there now so that will be crucial in the run-in.

You are back at the top of the league are you in the best fettle to take on Rangers?

Yes, I think we are, if you look at the way we're attacking and our control, especially today. Our attacking game has really clicked the last little while, especially with having the front players and even Nic coming into the equation. Initially, he had a period off, he came in kind of unfit but you can see he's now up to speed and Yang's back from suspension. We've now got options. It's not just the starting players, it's what comes in behind that. We basically changed the front three today and the second front three was still strong. We've got lots of options and everybody will contribute. 

Can you look forward to this game? Is it like any other game?

It's like any other game. We just have to approach it the same as we have done and not get involved in the emotional side. Sometimes that can be a burden so for us it's about focusing on our training and making sure we're prepared for the game.