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Page last updated at 22:20 GMT, Tuesday, 4 May 2010 23:20 UK

Celtic boss Neil Lennon relieved after derby victory

Celtic interim manager Neil Lennon
Lennon tasted victory in his first Old Firm match in charge of Celtic

Interim manager Neil Lennon admitted relief after overseeing a 2-1 victory against Rangers in his first Old Firm match in charge of Celtic.

Asked if he had enjoyed the game, Lennon replied: "I didn't. It's a relief it's over.

"It was a great performance from the team, I'm really proud of them and they did everything we asked them to do.

"It's a good night for the club. It's important to win your Old Firm games. Over the piece, we deserved to win it."

Lee Naylor's deflected free-kick and Marc-Antoine Fortune's header sandwiched Kenny Miller's equaliser for Rangers in an open encounter at Celtic Park.

"We got a wee bit of luck with the first goal - it got a deflection - but I thought we were good value for our money and we were sloppy with the ball at times, which is frustrating because we're better than that," said Lennon.

"Rangers, a good side, scored a good equaliser but the response was magnificent. Naylor, I thought was magnificent all night, sent a great ball in and Fortune just outmuscled Steven Smith and it was a great header.

"We had one recognised centre-half and Mark Wilson's come in and been brilliant for us. Each to a man, not just the 11 that started but the subs as well, they all made a massive contribution.

"Fortune, I thought, worked his socks off all night. I'm delighted he scored because he deserved it for his contribution for the team in the last few weeks.

"It's unfair to single players out because, as a collective, we couldn't have asked any more of them.

"We hadn't won (an Old Firm derby) this season so it was nice to salvage something from the season and I think the supporters have gone home happy and that's very, very important because they stuck with the team.

We've been identifying players and going to look at players. Even tonight, against a very good, strong Rangers team, there's room for improvement

Celtic interim manager Neil Lennon

"The atmosphere was incredible, an Old Firm game under the lights. It was frantic, which Old Firm games are, but I'm delighted we got the positive result that we wanted."

The win keeps Lennon's 100% league record intact and the caretaker boss is delighted with the way the players have responded to the Scottish Cup semi-final defeat to Ross County.

"They've dug deep in the last month or so and I think they've shown the supporters that they are good enough to be here," Lennon said.

"I asked them to prove me wrong and they've done that.

"They've won seven games in a row in the league. You can't ask any more than that really."

Lennon was animated on the touchline as the match swung from end to end.

"It's not nice," he said. "I tried to keep as calm as I could at times but some of the decisions were dubious.

"I'm sure Walter would say the same thing but the most important thing is winning and the boys can enjoy their night tonight."

Celtic are expected to wait until the end of the season before deciding whether Lennon is to be appointed on a permanent basis but the former club captain has already formulated plans to revamp the squad.

And when asked about his interest in Scunthorpe striker Gary Hooper, Lennon told BBC Scotland: "I can't tell you that, it's confidential.

"We've been identifying players and going to look at players.

"I think, even tonight, against a very good, strong Rangers team, there's room for improvement."



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see also
Celtic 2-1 Rangers
04 May 10 |  Scottish Premier


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