Dembele defiant before derby

Stand-in skipper Joe Ledley scored twice as Celtic cruised to a
5-0 win over SPL bottom club Dundee at Celtic Park.

Ledley scored once in each half, while James Forrest and Dylan
McGeouch were also on target and Gary Hooper netted for the first
time in six matches as the hosts extended their lead at the top of
the table to 21 points.

The Dark Blues thought they had taken the lead after just five
minutes when Gary Harkins’ free-kick crept in at the near past but
an alert linesman spotted that John Baird had strayed offside.

Neil Lennon’s side soon reasserted their control and were ahead
through Ledley, who captained the team in the absence of the
injured Scott Brown.

Dundee keeper Rab Douglas could only palm an Emilio Izaguirre
cross into the path of Ledley and he slotted home from eight yards

Gary Irvine then pulled off a crucial block to deny Forrest’s
goalbound effort before Hooper came to the fore.

First he fired over following some neat link-up play with strike
partner Anthony Stokes before Douglas palmed away a stinging
effort, with a subsequent low angled drive fizzing just past the

The visitors briefly rallied, with Fraser Forster doing well to
tip a deflected Harkins shot over the bar.

The same player was then denied soon afterwards, his header
bouncing up off the turf before hitting the crossbar.

That was as good as it got for the Taysiders though as they were
reduced to 10-men early in the second half and conceded from the
penalty spot.

Matt Lockwood, only on the pitch for three minutes after coming
on as a half-time substitute, was dismissed on 48 for bringing down
Hooper right in front of goal and Forrest send Douglas the wrong
way with his spot-kick.

Stokes then scuffed an inviting shot past the post but Dylan
McGeouch killed the game off with a header into the top corner
after the impressive Stokes had clipped the ball into the box

Ledley notched up his second goal of the contest when he curled
left-footed into the top of the net after Stokes had laid the ball
off to him, with Dundee struggling to cope (73).

Celtic continued to press and Hooper ended his mini goal drought
in emphatic fashion seven minutes from time, controlling Ledley’s
ball into the box before volleying home.

Boyd, who scored 164 goals across spells with Killie and Rangers
between 2001 and 2010, re-signed before Saturday’s 1-1 draw with
Aberdeen at Rugby Park in the SPL.

“It was great to get him in and it’s great to have that type of
person back in the squad,” said Shiels. “He will be back in with us
on Monday and we will work from there. It’s self-explanatory what
he will bring to us – he is the top scorer of all time in the SPL

“There’s a hunger there and I can see that, I think he’s an
excellent professional who has served the game well and we are
excited about that.”

Kilmarnock were fortunate to claim a share of the spoils against
the Dons. Rory Fallon’s brilliant volley gave Aberdeen the lead
they deserved before Paul Heffernan got Kilmarnock back on terms
five minutes before half-time.

Aberdeen passed up a number of good chances to grab a vital
second goal and were denied a penalty with 15 minutes remaining
when Kilmarnock goalkeeper Cammy Bell appeared to foul Niall McGinn
in the penalty area.

Shiels would not be drawn on the controversial decision, saying:
“I’m trying very hard to discipline myself not to speak about

“I’m not allowed to speak about referees and I’m not allowed to
speak about other teams because they’ll fall out with me.”

Aberdeen striker McGinn was baffled after receiving a yellow
card for diving in the incident.

“In my own eyes and in the eyes of a few of the Kilmarnock
players too it was a stonewall penalty – I think the referee was
the only person inside the ground that didn’t think it was a
penalty,” said McGinn.

“I was chasing the goalkeeper down and he took a bad touch, I
thought I was going to raid him then he brought me down.

“You just have to get on with things, being a professional
footballer you just have to get on with things.”

The Dons now face a crucial encounter against Ross County on
Tuesday evening and the Northern Ireland international believes
they can take confidence from their display at Rugby Park.

“We played well against Kilmarnock and we have to take that into
our game against Ross County,” he said.

“Hopefully on Tuesday we can take our chances.”

The County forward played a big part in his side’s 3-0 victory
over Motherwell at Global Energy Stadium on Saturday, with Ivan
Sproule, Richard Brittain and Iain Vigurs scoring as the Dingwall
cruised to their sixth win in their last eight fixtures.

Morrow said: “We’ve had six wins and two draws in the last eight
games, nearly a third of the season unbeaten so we’re doing

“We’ll keep trying to put the points on the board and see where
it takes us.

“We’ve got good players here and everybody is pulling in the
right direction. We work hard for each other, we’re very united in
the changing room.

“We’re just going about our business quietly. We’ve no
aspirations, this is the first season the club has been in the SPL,
so we’re doing well.”

Looking ahead to Tuesday night’s match against Aberdeen at
Pittodrie, he added: “Aberdeen is a big side, they are probably the
third biggest side in Scotland after the Old Firm.

“We’ll just try and do our best and see where it takes us.”

Morrow was particularly please with his own form as the side’s
lone marksman.

He said: “I played well but it’s a bit of a thankless task up
there on your own.

“That’s six or seven games up there on my own. I’m the only
player on the pitch that is playing against two players.

“You want to be in two places at once at times. You want to be
the one holding the ball up and also the one getting on the end of
the pass.

“You can’t do it, you can’t be in two places at once. But as
long as the team is winning and putting the points on the board I’m

“We’ve found ourselves in a great place with the run we’re on.
The target at the start of the year was survival.

“We’re happy ticking along and see where it takes us. If it’s
top six, then brilliant.”

Motherwell captain Keith Lasley admitted his side were well
below par.

He said: “It wasn’t great but credit to Ross County. The
conditions were difficult but both teams have to play on that and
Ross County played a lot better than we did.

“But the pitch is not the reason we lost the game, we just never
got going. Ross County started on the front foot and we didn’t.

“We just didn’t put anything together. We never passed the ball
well and we never got in behind them. It just wasn’t

Lasley is looking for a reaction before the match against league
leaders Celtic at Fir Park on Wednesday.

He said: “It will be a difficult game, we’ll have to see if we
can get a reaction. But there is no reason why we can’t go and win
that game.

“That’s what we have to focus on now. But we’re going to have to
be a lot better than we were yesterday if we are going to get a

The Highlanders missed out on a cup final date with St Mirren
when they lost on penalties to John McGlynn’s side at Easter Road
last month.

But some form of vengeance was gained with their 3-2 win over
the Edinburgh outfit at Tynecastle yesterday. It was only Caley
Thistle’s second win in eight games but was sufficient to move them
back up to second place in the SPL.

Now Wales international Tudur Jones believes only securing a
runners-up slot to leaders Celtic will soothe the pain of missing
out on their cup final chance.

Tudur Jones said: “It was obviously disappointing to be that
close to a semi-final. So to play Hearts so soon after, yes, it
does play a little part in your thinking.

Asked if closing out second would make up for losing that game,
he said: “I think it would. The league table is established over a
long period of time and finishing second would be huge.

“The achievement for this football club would be massive but we
are a long way off that at the minute. The first target must be to
finish in the top six. If we can achieve that then we can hopefully
kick on again.”

Gary Warren’s headed double and another close-range header from
SPL top scorer Billy McKay provided the points for Inverness after
Jason Holt and Andy Webster had twice pegged the visitors back.

For 20-year-old Holt, it was a bittersweet moment as his
stunning strike ended up counting for nothing. With Hearts now
employing a firm policy of promoting young players, however, he
admits it will be up to him to deal with the disappointment of

He said: “It is good to get a goal but the main thing was the
result but we didn’t manage to get that today, which is really

“It’s a tough time for the young lads like me to try and develop
but it is going to make us better players in time to come. We are
quite a young side but we need to learn from these situations.

“Sometimes it can be hard as we don’t have many experienced
players in the team to turn to but we do have Andy Webster and
Darren Barr, who are always helping us through the games.

“But it’s part and parcel of the game that you need to pick
yourselves up and do your own job.”

The 28-year-old Sierra Leone international came off the bench
for the final half-hour at Carrow Road on Saturday, and helped
secure what could prove a vital Premier League victory with a
powerful header to cancel out Leon Osman’s first-half opener.
Captain Grant Holt then netted a dramatic winner in

Kamara – who left his homeland aged 14 before eventually
migrating to the United States from Gambia and going on to play
football at college – had an unsuccessful trial at Stoke in
December. While Hughton was not able to watch the pacy, 6ft 2ins
forward personally, the Norwich manager saw enough to convince him
to give Kamara his opportunity in the English top flight.

“The ideal scenario means you have been able to go and see the
player, but I was not able to see him play live, although our chief
scout had,” said Hughton, who could yet make a permanent move for
Kamara at the end of the season.

“I have only seen him on DVD, but you have to trust judgements
of your scouts and the people who are giving you references.”

Hughton had initially opted for Luciano Becchio, signed from
Leeds last month, alongside Holt, but after watching the
Argentinian labour for long spells, he called on Kamara to liven up
the attack.

Norwich – without a league win since December 19 and having
scored just once in the last six outings – were at least more
creative yesterday, with Robert Snodgrass’ early angled shot
deflected over.

However, it was Everton who slowly took hold of the match.

Nikica Jelavic forced a good save from Norwich goalkeeper Mark
Bunn before Osman headed in a fine cross from left-back Leighton
Baines on 39 minutes.

The visitors, though, paid the price for not making the most of
their possession in the second half, when they failed to net
another goal which would have killed off the contest.

Everton sat deeper and were eventually broken down on 84 minutes
when Kamara crashed in a header from a corner.

Hughton’s men, though, refused to settle for what would have
been a hard-earned point as Russell Martin’s deep ball into the
Everton box was nodded down at the far post by Sebastien Bassong
and Holt arrived on queue to slam past Tim Howard, souring the
American’s 300th appearance for the Toffees.

“When you are 1-0 down against a top team, you would settle for
1-1, but the difference in this division between one point and
three points is massive,” said Hughton, whose side now hold an
eight-point cushion on the survival battle ahead of next weekend’s
trip to leaders Manchester United.

“It will give the players confidence, they are the ones who have
driven to the end to get the win.”

The Latics have established their reputation under Martinez for
a fluid passing game, however the Spaniard believes the lack of a
harder edge has proved costly this season.

Wigan have kept just four league clean sheets so far this term –
remarkably all of them have come away from home – with the latest a
3-0 win at Reading yesterday that pulled them out of the bottom

Reading had taken 10 points from the past 15 on offer but failed
to get a shot on target as Arouna Kone’s double added to a rare
Maynor Figueroa strike banked the points.

While delighted to grab a first league win of 2013, Martinez was
keener still to stress the importance of his side’s defensive
display as they look to beat the drop yet again.

“I would say defensively it was as good as it gets,” he said.
“Defensively you know you are going to play against a Reading side
that are strong, especially in the dead-ball situations. We dealt
with that really well.

“We have to keep improving but to keep a clean sheet away from
home, especially at the Madejski Stadium, is pleasing.

“Since they’ve changed tactically they have become a very
difficult side to restrict.

“So that clean sheet pleases me as much as any defensive display
this season.

“We have to make sure we replicate this level until the end of
the season.”

Martinez brought Paul Scharner back to the club last month and,
while that raised some eyebrows, the veteran proved how vital his
know-how in a relegation fight could be yesterday.

Most notably the versatile Austrian, who lined-up at centre-back
alongside Gary Caldwell, denied Pavel Pogrebnyak with a
perfectly-timed diving challenge before Wigan had scored.

“That concentration and responsibility in the box was very
pleasing,” Martinez said.

“Our attacking composure and quality was again good. We have
been showing that this season. But we never had that clinical way
of defending and keeping a clean sheet.”

Victory was Wigan’s second on the bounce after they booked their
place in the FA Cup quarter-finals with a 4-1 win at Huddersfield
last weekend.

Those victories have come after the club went to Tenerife for
some warm-weather training that Martinez believes could be a
turning point.

“After the warm-weather training I think we have re-focused,” he

“The first game back was against Huddersfield in the FA Cup. You
have seen a large amount of players representing the club in both

“You can see our competitive edge, a focus and a real
responsibility in the performance.

“It is a matter of keeping a winning feeling and keeping those

“This was the last game in February and for us to be involved in
two competitions is a good position to be in.

“We have to concentrate on winning our trophy in the league
which is staying in this division, and every game is vital.”

The Northern Ireland forward netted the pick of the bunch as the
Light Blues fought back from behind to claim a 3-1 win at Berwick
on Saturday.

Injury problems within the squad meant Little was recently
handed his preferred role of playing through the middle up front
and he has not disappointed so far.

And he hopes he is on the right path to convincing boss Ally
McCoist he should stay there.

Little said: “It’s always been my aim. But there are other
players who can do that role.

“They’ve been unlucky with injuries and thankfully I’ve had a
good run now.

“I’ve stayed injury-free and I’m playing reasonably well so I’m
just happy with that.

“At the start of the season, ‘Jig’ (Lee McCulloch) was playing
up there and he was scoring goals for fun himself so there was no
need to change it.

“I was thrown in because there was nobody else to play the
position at the time and I’m delighted with how I’ve done in the
three games I’ve played up there.

“I just need to keep it going and keep my place.”

An Anestis Argyriou own-goal handed Berwick the lead after just
four minutes before Dean Shiels levelled from the penalty spot.

Little then fired Rangers into the lead on the stroke of half
time with a lovely volley and Sebastien Faure came off the bench to
open his account for the club in the second half.

Little has now netted five goals against Berwick alone this

He said: “I was delighted with the goal but I expect myself to
score goals when I play up front for Rangers so I only did what I
was supposed to do.

“I’m happy to score against anyone. My main aim this season was
to play as many games as I can.

“I’m keeping track of how many games I’m playing more than how
many goals I’m scoring. That’s the most important thing for

Rangers were fortunate to escape with a 1-1 draw from their last
visit to Shielfield at the start of the season, as they struggled
to adapt to life in the Irn-Bru Third Division.

But Little believes the Light Blues have now got to grips with
their new surroundings in the bottom division.

He said: “It was very similar to the last match here, a scrappy

“The weather, the pitch – it’s easy to make excuses and I think
maybe that’s what we did at the start of the season.

“If this game had been at the start of the season, we might not
have gone on to win it like we did.

“That’s the most pleasing thing, that we showed we’ve got the
battling qualities that you need to go on and win a league.

“I think we’re just a bit more streetwise.

“I don’t think there was a feeling that we thought it was going
to be easy in this league.

“But you learn from your mistakes and that’s what we’ve

The pressure is on Spurs to re-establish their four-point lead
over Arsenal ahead of next Sunday’s north London derby at White
Hart Lane.

Last season Tottenham held a 10-point advantage over the Gunners
in February, but they then fell away spectacularly and ended up
missing out on Champions League qualification thanks to Chelsea’s
win in Munich.

Andre Villas-Boas is determined not to let the same thing happen
again this term. His team have been the personification of
consistency in the league, where they are unbeaten since December

They also go in to Monday’s game on the back of a
morale-boosting win over Lyon in the Europa League – and the man
who secured their progression to the last 16 on Thursday night
thinks he and his team-mates are playing at the top of their game
right now.

“We don’t have to fear any team,” said Dembele, who secured a
3-2 aggregate win with a 90th minute equaliser in the Stade de

“People have respect for us. If you’re in a winning mood it’s
important in the league.

“We have two more very important games coming up in the league
so the confidence will stay high and that’s good for us.”

Given the gulf in ability between the two sides, West Ham are
expected to approach the derby cautiously.

Tottenham have struggled at times to break down teams who shut
up shop. They have often had to rely on the brilliance of Gareth
Bale to find come away with three points, but Dembele is confident
Spurs will be able to overcome their rivals on Monday regardless of
the tactics they employ.

“It will be a different game to the Lyon one of course,” Dembele

“Teams always have a lot of respect for us and they drop back so
it’s always difficult, but I think we need to do the difference, we
have to fight for each other as well. It will be a physical game,
for sure, but we are used to it and this is a special match for us
and the supporters too because it is a derby.”

Spurs put in a poor display in the first half on Thursday night,
but regrouped to pepper the Lyon net and finally found the winning
goal thanks to Dembele.

Spurs started the season with a worrying tendency to concede
late on, but they have reversed that pattern in recent weeks,
scoring crucial goals in the dying stages of games against Lyon
(twice), Norwich, Manchester United and Newcastle.

Villas-Boas now hopes the result in Lyon, which set up a last-16
tie against Inter Milan, will inspire his team to victory at Upton

“We’ve been having some great, great results,” the 35-year-old

“After Europa League games we’ve always been good in the Premier
League. I think it puts us in a good position to face West Ham.

“I don’t think it’s a distraction, I think it’s an inspiration
and I hope it can be exactly that against West Ham.”

Although Villas-Boas is keen for talk of their glamour tie
against Inter not to distract his squad, William Gallas cannot help
but think about the meeting with the Italian giants, against whom
Spurs played out two memorable games two seasons ago.

“We played a match against Inter at San Siro [in October 2010]
which we lost, but it’s a place we like a lot because when we
played there against AC Milan [in February 2011],” the Spurs
defender said.

“That game took us to the Champions League quarter-finals. We
know the pitch and the fans well. We’re happy to be going there and
we’ll head out there to get a result.”