Lennon takes blame for dropped points

GLASGOW (Nov 3, 2013): Celtic manager Neil Lennon says he should shoulder the blame for his side's failure to beat Dundee United following a hard-fought 1-1 draw at Parkhead on Saturday.

The Hoops needed a last-gasp goal from Charlie Mulgrew to earn a point that preserves their unbeaten start to the Scottish Premiership.

Dundee United looked to be heading for their first win at Celtic Park since December 1992 thanks to a first half strike from Stuart Armstrong.

However, Mulgrew popped up two minutes into stoppage time to head Emilio Izaguirre's cross past Radoslaw Cierzniak to keep his side five points clear of Inverness Caledonian Thistle after 11 games.

With one eye on Wednesday's crucial Champions League clash with Ajax and with a number of players ruled out through injury Lennon rung the changes against United, who hadn't won in their previous 38 attempts at Celtic Park.

And Lennon says his side's flat performance was down to his team selection.

"I should take the criticism if there is any coming our way as I pick the team. I wanted to use the squad for this game with obviously a huge game on Wednesday in mind," he said.

"I made four or five changes today and that's not ideal but players need game time. Amido Balde needed it and it's only Darnell Fisher's second game and he can be pleased with the way things are going for him.

"I know some of them are a little bit short because of the injury problems we've had but Mikel Lustig came through it ok, Beram Kayal will be fit and Kris Commons will be fit so we'll be a lot stronger for Wednesday night and there will be players who will be fresh.

"It's good that we can give these guys a bit of a break but what I want is the squad players to come in and do better.

"There was a little bit of disjointedness about our performance today but I accept that it was my fault not theirs.

"We have had a heavy, heavy load of games but I'm not using that as an excuse.

"The only excuse or criticism is my team selection so don't blame the players today."

Lennon was proud of his side's spirit that secured the last-gasp equaliser and sees them become the first Celtic side in a decade to complete the first quarter of a season unbeaten.

However, he admits their profligacy in front of goal is causing him concerns ahead of their clash against Ajax.

"We were a bit flat and certainly in the final third we need to do better because we had umpteen chances. We had three off the line in the first half and we had so much possession and dominance in the second half," Lennon said.

"We were sloppy but again that will come down to my team selection.

"We keep giving teams encouragement and the amount of chances that go begging is very frustrating at times.

"We looked a little bit pedestrian at times. I don't know if there is a tiredness creeping in but they looked like they were lacking in sharpness and a bit flat-footed at the back at times as well.

"We had 20 attempts at goal and 10 corners; we've got to do better. We keep flashing balls into the box and I always see an opposition defender getting there first and that's something we need to do better with. We need to be braver in the final third and just a little bit more patience and creativity at times as well.

"But we can't have every game perfect. We made the changes when we needed to and we got the goal that we deserved." – AFP