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Stokes finds the net as Celtic stay on course for domestic double

The Scottish Premier League leaders earned a narrow Scottish Cup quarter-final win today.

Neil Lennon was his usual animated self on the sideline today.
Neil Lennon was his usual animated self on the sideline today.
Image: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire/Press Association Images

CELTIC REMAIN ON course for a domestic league and cup double as they progressed to the last four of the Scottish Cup with a narrow 2-1 quarter-final win away to St Mirren on Saturday.

The Hoops made a flying start as James Forrest crossed for Joe Ledley to head past Craig Samson in the fifth minute, but a mistake from Emilio Izaguirre gifted St Mirren an equaliser in the 11th minute as Esmael Goncalves nodded home from close range.

A move direct from the training ground restored Celtic’s lead in the 21st minute, however, with Forrest once again the supplier for Anthony Stokes to bullet a header past Samson at the far post.

A superb save from Samson denied Gary Hooper after the break while Fraser Forster produced heroics to keep out substitute Graham Carey’s fierce free-kick as Celtic held off a late St Mirren rally to gain revenge for January’s League Cup semi-final defeat by the Buddies.

At New St Mirren Park, Neil Lennon had demanded a response from his side after their midweek defeat to Motherwell and he would have been delighted with their quick-fire start as they took the lead with just over four minutes played.

Forrest scampered down the right wing and delivered a dangerous cross into the six-yard box where Ledley stooped to angle a header past Samson.

St Mirren slowly found their feet though and a terrible mistake from Izaguirre gifted the hosts an equaliser.

When John McGinn’s diagonal long ball looking for Steven Thompson caused consternation in the Celtic defence, Izaguirre’s attempt to head it back to Forster sailed past the ‘keeper and looking to be heading in before Goncalves made sure as he nodded it over the line from a couple of yards out.

Gonclaves looked in the mood to add more for the Paisley side after that, and he jinked away from challenges by Efe Ambrose and Adam Matthews before firing just wide.

However, it was the Hoops who restored their lead with a well-worked goal in the 21st minute.

Forrest played a short corner to Hooper before collecting the return and chipping a ball to the back post where the unmarked Stokes bulleted a header past Samson.

Matthews and Hooper then combined to set up stand-in captain Ledley but his tame effort was easily gathered by the ‘keeper at the start of the second half.

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In the 68th minute Mair was beaten by the bounce of the ball allowing Hooper to nip in behind him and bare down on goal but his fierce strike was superbly tipped on to the bar by Samson with Forrest firing the rebound wide.

A minute later Forster had to rush out of his box to intercept a Goncalves pass to Thompson as the striker beat the offside trap.

Graham Carey replaced Paul McGowan and almost immediately he picked out the run of Goncalves with a cross-field pass but the on-loan Portuguese striker’s shot was straight at Forster.

Only a fabulous save from Forster kept the scores level in the 80th minute as he stopped Carey’s fiercely-struck free-kick from 20 yards with one hand, and Mair fired into the side netting from a corner in stoppage time as St Mirren came close to forcing a replay.

Hamilton Academical host Falkirk in the second quarter-final later on Saturday, with the remaining ties to come on Sunday, including a Dundee derby at Dens Park and another all-SPL clash between Kilmarnock and Hibernian.

(C) AFP, 2013

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