CELTIC achieved back-to-back wins for the first time this year as they overcame a late scare to see off a game Motherwell side narrowly at Celtic Park on Saturday.
Here are the main talking points from an afternoon that the champions made heavy weather of after a bright start…
STEPHEN WELSH MAY HAVE A BIG FUTURE
The young centre-half hasn’t taken long to make an impression at Celtic, and he certainly didn’t hang around here when it came to making his mark.
A David Turnbull corner was curled in from the right with a minute and a half on the clock, and the 21-year-old rose highest to head home his first ever goal in senior football.
It was the way he performed his bread and butter tasks at the other end though which earned him a deserved man-of-the-match award, proving a commanding presence in his own box and showing composure on the ball.
He stood up to the physical questions being asked of him by Devante Cole in the Motherwell attack, and showed decent pace at times too when Christopher Long threatened to get in behind.
Given Celtic’s troubles at the back this season, Welsh may feel hard done by that this was just his eighth appearance of the campaign, but having now relegated Shane Duffy to the bench it is hard to see the Irishman displacing him.
“His all-round performance was superb, just the same as last Wednesday night at Kilmarnock,” teammate Greg Taylor said.
“It was difficult for him at the start of the season as it was for us all during that period. We lost a couple of games on the bounce and it was not easy for anyone within the squad.
“But Welshy acquitted himself well in those games and ever since he has come back into the side he has been a breath of fresh air.”
ODSONNE EDOUARD STILL FRUSTRATING, BUT SLOWLY CRANKING INTO GEAR
Celtic fans have been waiting all season for their star man to throw off the shackles and show the talent he undoubtedly possesses on a consistent basis, with flashes of brilliance sprinkled throughout some disappointing displays so far.
There was a fear early on it would be another underwhelming day from the Frenchman as he ran the ball up a cul-de-sac and lost possession, prompting manager Neil Lennon to turn away and loudly lament his forward’s tendency to turn into traffic.
He would spark into life in the second half though, playing a nice exchange at the edge of the Motherwell area and producing a fine finish to grab his fifth goal in four matches, suggesting that old consistency may be re-emerging.
“He works hard every single day and has that top-quality in his play to go with it,” said his colleague, Taylor.
“Odsonne has a personal pride in his performance and he puts it in every day, in training as well as games. That’s certainly all that I have seen from him.”
ALLAN CAMPBELL THE NEXT MOTHERWELL YOUNGSTER TO STEP UP?
Campbell has been quietly working away and improving his game over the last few years, letting others like close friend Turnbull hog the limelight. It is of little wonder though that he too is starting to attract attention.
Motherwell resisted a ‘significant’ bid from Millwall to take him to the English Championship on transfer deadline day, but with his contract due to expire in the summer, the 22-year-old may indeed be moving on to pastures new soon.
It was his goal that unexpectedly made a contest of this match with a shade over 25 minutes remaining, as his deflected effort from the edge of the area bamboozled Scott Bain and flew into the net.
Suddenly, a hitherto passive Motherwell side were swarming forward and creating chances, with Campbell driving them forward from the midfield. So much so, they left Celtic Park feeling hard done by.
“We worked to the game plan well, kept Celtic going down the outside of us and they didn’t create too much,” Campbell said.
“When we got the goal back to go 2-1 I thought we were going to get something from the game.
“We had a good few chances at the end, and all credit to the boys. We dug in and stuck together.
“It just wasn’t our day, but we can take a lot of positives from it.”
CELTIC STILL STRUGGLING WITH SET-PIECES
This point is still being raised after almost every Celtic match, which begs the question of whether it has been raised in training all season.
Their defensive weakness at set-pieces almost cost them dearly again here, with Motherwell coming agonisingly close to snatching a draw at the death as the hosts struggled to cope with simple balls into their box.
A Jake Carroll free-kick was scrambled clear from inside the six-yard area, and then in the dying embers, only an acrobatic Diego Laxalt goal-line clearance from substitute Harry Smith’s header denied the Steelmen a point.
The chopping and changing in the Celtic goal and in the heart of their defence has undoubtedly contributed to a lack of understanding when it comes to dealing with dead-ball threats, and perhaps if manager Lennon maintains the trio of Bain, Welsh and Ajer for a run of games, the situation may improve.
GRAHAM ALEXANDER HAS HIS PLAYERS PULLING IN SAME DIRECTION AGAIN
It was a sad end to a successful era when Stephen Robinson gave up the ghost at Motherwell over the festive period, believing he had wrung everything he could from this group of players.
Perhaps it was simply a fresh voice that was needed, as the introduction of Graham Alexander has certainly perked up the underperforming Fir Parkers.
Their upward mobility in the Premiership was halted here, but the manner of the defeat will no doubt have left plenty of wind in their sails.
If they perform as they did in the closing half an hour here against Kilmarnock on Wednesday night, they would seem a good bet to take home a positive result.
“He’s brought a freshness to it, we’re playing some decent football and the results are coming,” said midfielder Campbell. “We just need to buy into it and keep that going.
“He’s brought that togetherness back into the group, we’re all fighting for each other, and he has some new ideas.
“Everybody at the club knows that before he came in the results weren’t good enough, and we want to get back to the way we were last year, winning games and performing well for the fans.”