Celtic 1-0 St Johnstone

By Thomas McGuiganBBC Scotland

Anthony Stokes' strike saw Celtic ease to victory against St Johnstone on a comfortable evening for Neil Lennon's men.

The SPL champions, showing seven changes from the side that won the Old Firm derby, started sluggishly.

Stokes struck the only goal from close range after Mark Wilson centred from Dylan McGeouch's short corner.

Mo Bangura came close to a second for Celtic and Murray Davidson spurned St Johnstone's best chance.

Celtic aimed to continue the momentum from last weekend's win against Rangers, while the visitors were looking for a victory to move level on points with fourth-placed Dundee United.

Bangura, who has been plagued by injury since his £2.2m move from AIK in August 2011, looked sharp and linked up well with Kris Commons and Emilio Izaguirre.

And the Sierra Leone international almost touched home a low cross after clever work by McGeouch but Stokes was at the far post to slot home.

Bangura tested St Johnstone keeper Alan Mannus with a 25-yard shot moments later as Celtic looked to double their lead.

St Johnstone's forays forward in the first half were few and far between but Liam Craig fizzed a free-kick narrowly wide of Lukasz Zaluska's goal 10 minutes before the break.

The visitors spurned a great chance to equalise on the stroke of half time; Jody Morris playing in Murray Davidson who saw his shot saved by Zaluska and Kelvin Wilson cleared the danger.

Bangura struck the post after a couple of impressive stepovers inside the penalty area and St Johnstone skipper Morris chipped a great chance wide moments later.

Steve Lomas's side, minus the suspended Fran Sandaza, lacked a spark in the final third in offering support to Cillian Sheridan although they did become more adventurous in the final 25 minutes.

Derek Riordan fed Alan Maybury and his whipped cross into the box was begging to be flashed home but Sheridan failed to connect.

Stokes, with nine minutes remaining, found himself in space on the left and tried to dink a low cross into Bangura's path but St Johnstone repelled the danger.

Substitute Gary Hooper sent a shot inches wide of Alan Mannus's goal in the closing stages as the game became stretched.

Former PSV Eindhoven midfielder Rabiu Ibrahim came on to make his debut and his cross gave Hooper the chance to fire home but his effort was chalked off for offside.

The closing moments were disrupted when referee assistant Raymond White twisted his ankle and was replaced by the fourth official.

However, it failed to knock the hosts off their stride as they claimed victory.

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