GAVIN Strachan tonight claimed that off-field events have affected the Celtic players’ confidence – but admitted there could be no excuses for dropping vital Premiership points for the second time in six days.
The Parkhead club, who were missing 14 players as a result of the positive Covid-19 test that Christopher Jullien returned on Sunday after the controversial trip to Dubai, were held to a 0-0 draw by Livingston at home this afternoon.
Rangers, who have played two games more than their city rivals, can pull 23 points clear at the top of the league table if they defeat Motherwell at Fir Park tomorrow afternoon.
Celtic 0 Livingston 0: Neil Lennon’s men hand Rangers the chance to go 23 points clear
First team coach Strachan, who was in the dugout against Hibernian on Monday, took charge of the side again in the continued absence of manager Neil Lennon and assistant John Kennedy, who are both self-isolating.
He confessed that Celtic were lacking in belief and conceded the youth players who had been given an opportunity to show what they were capable of had failed to step up.
“It was a tough afternoon,” he said. “Livingston are playing really well and imposed their style of play more than we did.
“We expect a bit more and were disappointed with the first-half performance. We had a bit more control in the second half, but wanted more shots at goal. With events that have gone on, the players’ confidence has probably been affected.
“It shouldn’t have done really. Obviously the situation isn’t ideal, but we still had more than enough to put in a better performance than we did.
“There was certainly a lack of match fitness of certain players which probably means they are not as sharp as what you would like them to be. But the big frustration for me is that we didn’t impose our style of play on the game.
“There were moments when Livingston’s left back was trotting over to the other side of the pitch to take the throw in. Their style of play can break things up a little bit. But we couldn’t really get our momentum and tempo we wanted.”
Strachan added: “What the situation gave us was people to stake a claim, have an opportunity, and you are looking at who really stood out. There was a couple of decent performances, but probably not so much standout ones.
David Martindale: I’m disappointed Livingston didn’t pick up all three points at Parkhead
“The driving force was Callum McGregor. I thought Tom Rogic acquitted himself very well today in a completely unfamiliar role as a No9. Tony Ralston came in. He has not kicked a ball all season. Tony is a very honest and good professional and he gave his all. He tired towards the end.”
Asked about Celtic’s chances of winning their 10th consecutive Scottish title in the 2020/21 campaign, Strachan said: “It is very very difficult. In a normal football season I would say to you that it’s going to be very, very tough, but the way the world is just now you just never know.”