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Football | Europe

Neil Lennon © Action Images

Lennon hails Celtic's supporting cast



Celtic manager Neil Lennon hailed the performance of his squad players as they helped his side close in on the Scottish Premier League title with a 5-0 win over 10-man Dundee on Sunday.

Forty-eight points separate Lennon's league leaders from basement club Dundee and the Hoops manager took the opportunity to rest several key players as he made five changes for the match.

Dylan McGeouch and Thomas Rogne were handed rare starts while Australian international Tom Rogic got a chance off the bench.

And they grabbed their chance to shine with a superb second half showing that extended Celtic's lead at the top of the table to 21 points as they move to within four wins of retaining their title.

The visitors had a fifth minute Gary Harkins free-kick strike ruled out for offside before Joe Ledley took advantage of an error from Rab Douglas to give Celtic a 13th minute lead.

Dundee defender Matt Lockwood came on at the break but the defender's appearance was limited to just over three minutes after he was sent off for hauling down Gary Hooper in the box, with James Forrest converting the penalty.

The visitors then collapsed and McGeouch headed in a 57th minute header before Rogic set up Ledley for his second in the 73rd minute.

Hooper then finally ended his four-game goal drought as he fired in a fabulous fifth in the 83rd minute.

Lennon hailed his side's home form after they scored six against Dundee United last weekend.

"I'm really pleased we got five goals again. That's 23 goals in our last five home games so we're really starting to turn it on at home," Lennon said.

"I was able to use some of the squad today and I was pleased with everyone's contribution. It was a good all round performance and a clean sheet. There was better sharpness about us in the second half.

"I was pleased with Dylan McGeouch. It was a great goal and I was pleased with his performance. That's two really good 90 minutes he has put in for the first team now so I was really pleased with him.

"Tom Rogic is a development player who we also think has a lot of potential.

"They came through that game ok so we look forward to Wednesday's game against Motherwell now."

Lennon also revealed he hopes to tie up Welsh midfielder Ledley on a new long-term deal after the stand-in skipper shone in the win.

The former Cardiff City player, who has just over a year left on his contract, has scored four times in as many games and his manager said talks have started to extend his current deal.

"He was great and deservedly got man-of-the-match. Joe is a very important player for us and he's proved that over the years," Lennon said.

"He's talking about staying on and I would like to do that if I could. I wouldn't say it was at an advanced stage. It is preliminary talks and we will go back to his representatives later on in the year."

It was the first match in charge for Dundee's new interim manager John Brown, who played for the club in the 1990s before moving to Rangers.

The 51-year-old was a shock appointment following the dismissal of Barry Smith in midweek, with his only other managerial post at Clyde coming to an end in 2009 after less than two years in charge.

Dundee first team coach Ray Farningham took the team for the match at Parkhead and, although admitting it had been a difficult week for the club, urged the supporters to back Brown, whose side languish 15 points from safety at the bottom of the SPL.

"It's been very difficult for everybody - the staff and the players - but they're professional footballers and they've just got to get on with it," he said.

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