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Page last updated at 14:21 GMT, Saturday, 22 November 2008

St Mirren 1-3 Celtic

By Andy Campbell

Artur Boruc and Craig Dargo
Boruc (left) collides with Saints striker Dargo in the first half

Celtic strengthened their position at the top of the Scottish Premier League with victory over St Mirren.

Goalkeeper Artur Boruc was fortunate to escape a red card for a late tackle on St Mirren striker Craig Dargo in a goal-less first half.

Georgios Samaras' strike opened the scoring in the 64th minute before Shunsuke Nakamura's fine finish.

Substitute Cillian Sheridan slotted home in the 80th minute and Saints' Jim Hamilton headed a late consolation.

The visitors were looking for their 11th straight SPL win while Saints were without a win in their previous five fixtures.

Mark Wilson made a forceful run down the left-hand side in the seventh minute and found Celtic team-mate Scott McDonald on the edge of the box, but the Australian's shot was deflected wide.

At the other end, St Mirren's Dennis Wyness could not get on the end of strike partner Craig Dargo's teasing low cross.

Mark Howard made an important save for the home side when Celtic full-back Hinkel chased Samaras' lobbed pass before releasing a shot.

St Mirren left-back Franco Miranda then struck the woodwork direct from an in-swinging corner before the Celtic defence cleared.

Moments later, Dargo chased Garry Brady's long pass and headed the ball beyond Boruc before being brought down by the Polish goalkeeper outside the box.

However, referee Willie Collum brandished only a yellow card at Boruc, who was making his return to the first-team following minor knee surgery.

Celtic striker Georgios Samars
Samaras scores his 11th goal of the season to give Celtic the lead

From the resultant free-kick, Hugh Murray's header from Miranda's free-kick was tipped on to the post by Boruc, but the offside flag had already been raised.

Nakamura unlocked the St Mirren defence in the 25th-minute with a lofted pass into the path of Scott Brown, but the Scotland international's lob crept over the crossbar.

Samaras was given the chance to test Howard with a free-kick after McDonald was tripped on the edge of the box by John Potter, but the Greek striker's effort curled beyond the far post.

Loovens was unchallenged as he headed over from Robson's free-kick before Wyness fired over from Will Haining's knock down as the first half ended scoreless.

Celtic captain Stephen McManus made a crucial clearance in the 58th minute when Dargo skilfully evaded Loovens and tried to find Wyness.

The visitors broke the deadlock when Hinkel worked his way deep into the Saints half and centred for Samaras to fire home.

Samaras was also involved in Celtic's second, chipping the ball in to Nakamura, who wrong-footed Miranda before passing into the net with a composed finish.

Sheridan, who had replaced Samaras, got Celtic's third in the 80th minute when McDonald squared into the path of the substitute, who slammed the ball past Howard.

Brown came close with a left-foot shot in the closing stages that went narrowly wide.

St Mirren were given some reward for their efforts when Miranda's high cross was headed past Boruc by substitute Hamilton in the 89th minute.

St Mirren manager Gus MacPherson:
"I thoroughly enjoyed the game, especially that first hour. We were well in the game, playing some decent stuff, creating opportunities and defending well.

"There was plenty to be pleased about, but the bottom line is that you've got to take your chances when they come along and defend properly as well.

"I thought our front two played really well and caused Celtic problems. Andy Dorman looked back to his old self in the first hour.

"If we play in that manner for the remaining games, we'll be okay. We'll pick up points and we'll win games if we play in that manner."

Celtic manager Gordon Strachan:
"We played better than we did last week against Hamilton and we had to.

"I'm not surprised at how well St Mirren played because they played well in the second half against Rangers last week and we don't expect teams to lie down against us.

"We're fortunate that we've got people that can do something different. We're fortunate that we've got good players than can change games and that's what happened.

"The first goal was a fantastic move and the second goal was just a genius at work."

St Mirren: Howard, Ross, Haining (McAusland 81), Potter, Miranda, Murray (Mehmet 77), Dorman, Brady, McGinn, Wyness (Hamilton 81), Dargo.
Subs Not Used: Smith, McCay, Burns, Carson.

Booked: Potter, Murray.

Goals: Hamilton 89.

Celtic: Boruc, Hinkel, Loovens, McManus, Wilson, Nakamura, Scott Brown, Caldwell (Naylor 82), Robson (Maloney 61), McDonald, Samaras (Sheridan 77).
Subs Not Used: Mark Brown, Hartley, O'Dea, Caddis.

Booked: Boruc.

Goals: Samaras 64, Nakamura 66, Sheridan 80.

Att: 7,433

Ref: W Collum

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Celtic's Shunsuke Nakamura and Georgios Samaras 6.94 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

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see also
Boruc deserved red - MacPherson
22 Nov 08 |  St Mirren
SPL photo gallery
22 Nov 08 |  Scottish Premier
SPL as it happened
22 Nov 08 |  Scottish Premier

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