Hoops' McCourt driven to entertain
Paddy McCourt knows he must keep scoring great goals in order to persuade Celtic boss Neil Lennon to give him a starting slot. McCourt delivered another magic moment against Hearts at Parkhead on Saturday. A freak neck injury picked up when celebrating his winning goal at Inverness in the first Scottish Premier League game of the season meant the winger has returned to the bench in recent weeks. But, with Celtic leading through goals by James Forrest and Shaun Maloney, the substitute wrapped up a 3-0 victory in the dying seconds with a wonderful goal, dinking the ball over Marian Kello after a trademark solo run. The mercurial Irishman recognises that, with Celtic top of the SPL with four wins out of four and no goals conceded, he faces a battle for a starting slot. "Coming on and scoring goals won't do me any harm," the former Derry City winger said. "The competition in the wide areas and up front is really strong and it is driving everyone on. "There are probably four or five strikers who think they should be playing every week and maybe three or four wingers as well. "I'm sure when the manager sits down on a Friday or Saturday to pick the team he has a few headaches but that is better than struggling to pick 11 players. "I started the first game but picked up an injury and James and Shaun have started the last few games. "But I think it would be a bit stupid to knock on the door when we have won every game and haven't conceded a goal yet." The Northern Ireland international is well aware that the Hoops fans expect to see some brilliance when he takes to the field. "The expectancy is something I thrive on," he said. "I always get a buzz when I hear the reception when I come on. "I know people are there to see me entertain and that is the strongest part of my game so if I can keep producing goals and chances for the team then hopefully that will be good enough." Lennon was as pleased with the clean sheet as with the chances his side created and converted in what was his 12th SPL victory in succession. The Irishman admitted there were aspects of the performance he was not happy about, one of which must have been the performance of skipper Scott Brown. Lennon, though, claimed he had substituted Brown on the hour mark because the midfielder was struggling after his exertions for Scotland against Lithuania and Liechtenstein. "Scott was just a wee bit sloppy in possession at times and he was probably feeling the effects of two games in a week," the former Celtic captain said. "We have got good quality on the bench and we just needed to pep things up a little bit and so we brought (Georgios) Samaras and McCourt on. "Scott's general fitness is very good. He's probably just suffering from a bit of mental fatigue as well. "It's been a tough couple of weeks, not just for him, but for all the international boys." Meanwhile, Jim Jefferies is facing a touchline ban after being sent to the Celtic Park stand in the first half by referee Willie Collum. The Hearts boss was seething that Daryl Murphy had not been flagged offside when he ran through to set up Forrest's goal. He also claimed the visitors were denied a penalty at 2-0 down when Celtic defender Emilio Izaguirre clashed with David Templeton. Jefferies has reported Collum after claiming that the referee spoke to him "like a two-year-old" at the interval. The former Killie boss said: "My record is good but I will probably get banned."
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