Gavin Strachan conceded the title race would be “very, very tough” after Celtic dropped yet more points, with Callum McGregor laying into his side’s performance.
Strachan was in the dugout in the absence of the isolating Neil Lennon as a Covid-hit Celtic laboured to a 0-0 home draw with Livingston to drop 20 points off league leaders Rangers, who can move 23 clear if they win their game in hand at Motherwell on Sunday, live on Sky Sports.
The Bhoys are now without a win in any of their three games in 2021 after admitting their Dubai training camp earlier this month was a “mistake” in the build-up to Saturday’s game.
They continued to endure a frustrating start to the year with David Martindale’s in-form Livi side coming closest at Celtic Park, when Josh Mullin’s shot was turned onto the bar by Conor Hazard.
“It is very, very difficult. In a normal football season I would say to you that it’s going to be very, very tough but
the way the world is just now you just never know,” Strachan said.
“Obviously the situation isn’t ideal but we still had more than enough that we could display a better performance than we did.
“There was certainly a lack of match fitness of certain players which probably means they are not as sharp as what you would like them to be.
“But again the big frustration for me is that we didn’t impose our style of play on the game. There was a couple of decent performances but probably not so much standout ones.
“It was a tough game, we knew it was going to be. They imposed their way of playing on us more than we did on them.”
McGregor: It’s not good enough
Callum McGregor, singled out by Strachan as one of his team’s few star performers, laid into the side after they lost yet more ground in the title race, having dominated the domestic game for the last decade.
The Scotland midfielder told Celtic TV: “It’s not good enough. We took far too long to get going in the first half and put ourselves under pressure. We didn’t really understand the game, in terms of trying to build out and giving them territory, that’s what they want.
“[It was] really, really poor. Second half was a little bit better and we had a great chance to score but it’s a disappointing afternoon and we need to learn quickly.
“That’s what they want; they felt good about themselves, they won a lot of games recently and they are on a good run. They understand the game and get it forward, they use their presence and the ball.
“That’s all the basics of the game. First half we put ourselves under too much pressure with too many short passes, and we have to turn them in that sense.”
Martindale disappointed with point
David Martindale’s side dropped their first points in nine games as their sensational run under the new boss continued at Celtic Park, a run which has seen Livingston rise up to fifth in the Premiership standings.
A point at the home of a side who have won the domestic treble for each of the last four years would normally represent a strong result for Martindale’s team – but given the two sides’ current predicaments, the Livi boss was left hoping for more.
“We’ve been here and got a draw before but potentially we had a fantastic opportunity to get three points today,” he said.
“I’ll try not to dwell on the negatives. We’ve come to Celtic Park and got a point, we’re still unbeaten and we got a clean sheet.
“I need to watch what I’m saying because we play them again on Wednesday – Lenny will use this in his team talk!
“I thought Celtic had some good chances as well and were a wee bit unlucky. But on the balance of play and opportunities created, we were more unfortunate not to get three points.
“No one really dominated the game. On reflection, I’m a bit disappointed but not surprised because this was still a very good Celtic team.
“Hopefully we can make it even more difficult for them on Wednesday.”