Sutton looks to go on run
Sun, 21 Apr 2013 14:58:00
Celtic captain Scott Brown insists the Hoops have not had an easy ride in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League this season despite the absence of Rangers.
Brown, who watched from the Sky Sports studio as Celtic clinched the title with a 4-1 win over Inverness, pointed to their European exertions - where they reached the last 16 of the Champions League - as evidence.
He said: "It's still been hard for us, we've had the Champions League during the week and then on to playing weekend games is hard.
"We've been lucky enough Rangers weren't in the league but the main thing is we have won this league and it's been a great season.
"Hopefully we can stick together a long time. The lads are doing themselves proud week in week out.
"To bring something home for the fans, it means a lot for us.
"It's always nervy going towards the end and just getting over the line, but the main thing is we've managed to do it and we've brought the cup home."
Stand-in skipper Joe Ledley said: "At Celtic, wherever you go, whether it's in the league or the Champions League, you are always under pressure to win.
"That's what you want as a footballer - to win things.
"It's fantastic to come here and have that pressure and I think we've dealt with it fantastically well this season especially in the Champions League. Hopefully we can just continue that until the end of the season."
Gary Hooper, Celtic's top scorer this season, is aware they will need to re-focus for their William Hill Scottish Cup final against Hibernian on May 26.
"The main thing is celebrating this first and then the final on the 26th and win that and do the double," he said.
"We've got a great squad, we've played really well and it showed in the Champions League and it showed today that we're really good at home and we can beat anyone."
The 19-year-old replaced midfielder Scott Robertson just after Falkirk went 3-0 up in the 30th minute of the Scottish Cup clash at Hampden last weekend.
The forward played wide right in the second half, with fellow teenager Alex Harris impressing on the left, and helped Hibs book a final meeting with Celtic with some direct play as they came back to win 4-3.
All but one of Handling's 15 appearances for Hibs have come from the bench and the teenager could be given a longer run in Monday's Premier League clash with Aberdeen at Easter Road.
Handling said: "My confidence has shot up massively because of what happened last Saturday.
"I still can't get over how we won the game after the first-half performance but it's starting to sink in now.
"We were 3-0 down and the gaffer has thrown me in, so it shows the faith he does have in me after all and I hope I repaid some of that faith with a contribution to the win.
"Any first-team game you play in, your confidence shoots up, so to play in a semi-final is unbelievable.
"Hopefully I will keep getting the chances but I will take each game as it comes and keep working hard in training and keep trying to improve and catch his eye.
"Last season at this time I was on loan at Berwick so it just shows the difference that can happen in football in a year."
Handling hit seven goals in seven games for Berwick and has continued to impress manager Pat Fenlon this season.
And the Irishman admits Harris and Handling could have a big part to play in the remainder of the season.
Fenlon said: "The two of them did very well. Alex started the game and did quite well for us through the whole game and Danny came on and made a big impact.
"I'm delighted for him because he has had to be patient and wait his turn.
"He came on against Motherwell earlier in the season and did well and scored a goal and maybe feels he should have had a bit more of a taste of it, which is a fair point.
"Now he has got an opportunity, he has got himself right in to the shop window for a start and that's credit to himself for the work he has done."
Fenlon has fitness doubts over midfielders Robertson, Gary Deegan and Kevin Thomson while defender Ryan McGivern is suspended.
Sutton's fifth-minute goal was enough to take Hearts level on points with Hibernian, who face Aberdeen on Monday, and two behind their hosts as they look to jump from 10th place in the Premier League to seventh.
Manager Gary Locke had stressed before the game that the ?300,000 difference in prize money was an important factor in ensuring they did so and Sutton believes there are other motivating tools too.
The former Motherwell and St Mirren striker said: "It's the first time we have had back to back wins, which is important.
"A lot of people have said there is not too much for us to play for but we want to finish as high as we can, which is seventh.
"If we had lost that would have been difficult. We have got to look at making it three in a row now.
"Obviously we are aware of the prize money. We don't know the ins and outs but obviously the club is not in great financial shape given they were asking fans to buy shares.
"We are aware that's important but if you saw us play five-a-sides in training you would see it's competitive.
"When there is a game for real you want to win regardless.
"There is money and there is not much prestige in finishing seventh, but we want to finish on a high and get whatever prestige there is."
Sutton added: "We are aware of it as players but the fans like to remind us that Hibs are meant to have had a really good season and we can still overtake them in the league.
"Obviously that is something we would like to do and go out with a bit of a boost."
While Hearts looked destined for the bottom half of the SPL for several months, Kilmarnock only slipped out of the top six in the final seconds of the pre-split fixtures when former Rugby Park striker Rory Boulding netted a winner for Dundee United against Aberdeen.
They looked flat during the first half after Mo Sissoko misjudged Ryan Stevenson's long diagonal ball to allow Michael Ngoo to skilfully set up Sutton for a tap-in.
They came alive not long after Cammy Bell saved Stevenson's 62nd-minute penalty but could not make their late pressure count with Jamie MacDonald saving well from Kris Boyd, who also saw a header bounce over the bar.
And Boyd admitted their late blow two weeks earlier should not have any impact on their future performances.
The striker said: "It doesn't matter if it's the top six or the bottom six. We want to go out and get three points and it doesn't matter who we are playing
"We are representing the club and we need to put on a performance that merits three points, no-one is going to go out there and give us them."
Boyd added: "We started the game really slack and finished it slackly in terms of finishing.
"But it's unacceptable the way we started the game, the goal we lost. It's a launch up the park.
"We have lost five or six goals like that since I came here. We know as a team we have to defend better collectively. It needs to be addressed.
"I should have scored with the header. I don't know what happened, it hit my nose. We are disappointed but we need to pick ourselves up and prepare for Aberdeen next week."