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Football | Europe

Neil Lennon © Action Images

Lennon backs Stokes to fire Celtic charge

Celtic manager Neil Lennon says there is more to come from Anthony Stokes after the Irish striker came off the bench to score a goal and set up another in his side's 4-1 win over Kilmarnock on Wednesday.

It was his first goal of an injury-ravaged season that has seen the striker make just five appearances due to a persistent ankle problem.

Joe Ledley had given Celtic a first half lead before Cillian Sheridan levelled minutes after the break.

Adam Matthews restored Celtic's advantage before Stokes, who had replaced Kris Commons, grabbed the third goal after he collected a pass from strike partner Gary Hooper to round Cammy Bell and finish form a tight angle.

The striker then turned provider as he crossed for Matthews to score his second of the night and extend Celtic's lead at the top of the Scottish Premier League to 15 points.

With fellow forward Georgios Samaras limping out the match with a hamstring strain, and speculation continuing to surround Hooper's Parkhead future, his manager knows Stokes may have a big part to play in the rest of the season.

"There is a bit more to come from him but that will come with games," said Lennon, whose side bounced back from their League Cup semifinal defeat to St Mirren on Sunday

"He came on on Sunday and he was just so anxious to do well that that sort of anxiety filtered into his game.

"I had a chat with him tonight and I said 'I know what you can do, just play your football'. I felt he would get in behind the defence with his movement and he did that.

"But it was a great team performance. In the last three home games we have had 12 goals and are 15 points clear now with Inverness getting beat so things aren't too bad."

It was a rare off night for Celtic's top scorer Hooper who missed a host of chances against Kilmarnock.

With the January transfer window about to close Lennon revealed that Norwich City had failed with a third bid for the English striker.

And the Hoops boss said he was confident the hitman would still be at the club until the end of the season.

"Never say never but we had a third bid from Norwich and it was rejected as it was well short," the Celtic manager said.

"We've not put a price on him. If people want to make a bid fine, but they'll have to come forward with the money and then we'll see where it takes us. You never can say but I'm hoping he's here on Friday.

"He is one of my best players and is a fantastic all-round centre forward. The next time we are here we are playing Juventus (in the Champions League last-16) and I think that really appeals to him.

"He is ambitious and wants to further his career eventually but for now he looks pretty happy to me."


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