Neil Lennon leapt to the defence of Christopher Jullien after the giant defender’s spot kick blunder cost Celtic victory in Kilmarnock.
Admitting the £7million signing looked ‘rusty’ against Killie’s man of the match Nicke Kabamba, the Parkhead boss believes a 1-1 draw after a poor display could still turn out to be a valuable point in the quest for ten-in-a-row.
Confirming plans to step up his transfer activity this week, central defence was flagged up as a growing area of concern after Jullien gifted Alex Dyer’s side a penalty just 13 minutes after a Ryan Christie free-kick had placed Celtic in the driving seat.
‘I think he’s rusty,’ said the Celtic boss. ‘He’s a slow burner, he was the same this time last year.
‘The more games he gets, the better he will become. He’s disappointed but that’s not the reason we dropped two points today.
‘We weren’t good enough in the final third at times with all the play we had. I’m frustrated. We got off to a good start and then gave away a poor goal from our point of view.
‘Then we dominated the second half but didn’t find the answer.
‘We knew Kilmarnock would do very well here, defend with a low block and two banks of four. Our final ball wasn’t good today and that’s something we need to work on.’
Seven days after thumping Hamilton 5-1 at home Celtic struggled to create chances against a disciplined and rugged home side who fully deserved their point.
‘The pitch is really really dry. Kilmarnock flooded the centre of the box as well.
‘Maybe that little bit of extra sharpness isn’t there in the second game of the season.
‘Lots to work on, lots to get better on. I know what I’ve got with these players and it may turn out to be a decent point at the end of the day.’
While new £5million keeper Vasilis Barkas made his Hoopes debut Lennon confirmed striker Leigh Griffiths is the subject of a club probe after images emerged online of the striker attending a party which appeared to exceed allowed numbers under government rules.
‘The club are conducting an investigation. I’m not convinced it’s a big issue, so hopefully it will be resolved in a couple of days.
‘He’s not fit, he’s got a calf strain at the moment, so he would have missed the game anyway.’
Admitting he still needs players to improve the squad, Lennon’s personal intervention could resurrect a one year loan deal with an option to buy for West Ham’s Swiss attacker Albian Ajeti later this week.
‘We are working away on a few things,’ he admitted.
‘The squad is a little bit light compared to what it was at the end of last season, so I would yeah we are looking to bring a couple of bodies in.
‘I thought my goalkeeper was excellent today.
‘He was a concern before the game because of a new environment, making his debut, and I thought to handled it very very well and he was unlucky not to save the penalty in the end.’
Celtic were drawn against Icelandic champions KR Reykavik in the first qualifying round of the Champions League before kick-off in Kilmarnock.
With the Icelandic season suspended due to a Covid spike, KR need dispensation from the authorities to play the one-off tie in Glasgow.
Lennon admitted the game could still be moved to a neutral venue by UEFA adding: ‘Hopefully it will be at home and we are not sure yet if the game is going to be at a neutral venue or not.
‘Hopefully it will be at Celtic Park and we’ll be delighted if it’s at home. That’s all we can ask for really. We’ll take it from there.’