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Celtic see off Thistle 1-0 in Glasgow derby; Ross shine Motherwell blank St Johnstone to stay second

GLASGOW, Jan 1, (AFP): Celtic started 2014 with a narrow 1-0 win over Partick Thistle in the Glasgow derby to maintain their 11-point lead at the top of the Scottish Premiership. After early chances for Teemu Pukki and Kris Commons for the home side, Thistle began to cause problems for Celtic with Fraser Forster producing a string of saves to deny Stuart Bannigan, Chris Elliot and James Craigen. However, it was the Hoops who took a 39th-minute lead when Joe Ledley expertly dispatched a low shot beyond the outstretched Scott Fox from 20 yards out. In a quiet second half Charlie Mulgrew had an effort ruled out for offside before Celtic survived a late scare when Adam Matthews had to clear a shot from Thistle substitute Steven Lawless off the line.

It is the third consecutive 1-0 win for Celtic, who are still unbeaten 19 games into the league campaign and haven’t conceded in their past seven domestic matches. Nevertheless, Celtic manager Neil Lennon said it had been a flat performance from his side. “We looked tired and we lacked a spark particularly in the final third,” he said. “There were some good bits of play but I, and the supporters, expect better. However, it is a win and obviously a clean sheet as well.” Meanwhile, Thistle manager Alan Archibald thought his side deserved something from the game. “I thought we did enough in the game and created enough chances to at least get a point,” said Archibald, whose team were beaten 5-1 at home by Motherwell at the weekend.

“It’s frustrating but the results will come and I’m just delighted to get a good response and reaction from them after such a disappointing result against Motherwell the other day.” Things could have been different if Thistle hadn’t been denied on a number of occasions in the first half by Forster. Stuart Bannigan stung the palms of the English ‘keeper with a fierce strike before Forster produced a fantastic save to keep the scores level as his reflex stop kept out a bullet header from the diving Elliot. Thistle threatened again minutes later as Craigen connected with Gabriel Piccolo’s delivery into the box but Forster dived to turn his header round the post.

However, with half-time looming Celtic took the lead through Ledley. Efe Ambrose cut in from the right and squared the ball to the Welsh midfielder who lashed a low angled shot into the bottom left-hand corner from 20 yards. Mulgrew had the ball in the net again in the 58th minute when he collected a Commons pass and fired the ball past Fox but his effort was ruled out for offside. Pukki then shrugged off two Thistle defenders to get away a shot from the edge of the box that the ‘keeper turned round the post. Thistle were screaming for a penalty on the hour mark when Ledley appeared to push Elliot to the ground after he turned inside him in the box but referee Kevin Clancy waved away their protests.

Thistle’s attacks had been limited in the second half but substitute Lawless came close to grabbing an 85th-minute equaliser when his low shot through a crowded penalty box was blocked on the line by Matthews. Elsewhere, Motherwell stayed second with a 4-0 win over St Johnstone, Aberdeen came from behind to defeat Dundee United 2-1 at Tannadice and Ross County triumphed in the Highland derby against Inverness Caledonian Thistle with a 2-1 win at the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium.

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