I DOUBT if Brendan Rodgers requires a reminder of his priority target in the January transfer window – a reliable striker.

In the space of eight second-half minutes against Hibs at Easter Road last week that necessity became painfully and starkly evident.

With the champions toiling for a goal against the hosts – and ex-Hoops veteran keeper David Marshall rarely being required to get his knees dirty – Rodgers sent on four substitutes in a vain and craving attempt to achieve the breakthrough strike.

In the 57th minute, the gaffer threw on James Forrest and David Turnbull for the toiling Daizen Maeda and Matt O’Riley.

Unfortunately, there was no instantaneous spark following the introduction of the replacements and Rodgers again turned to his bench to tell Oh Hyeon-gyu and Mikey Johnston to go on for Kyogo Furuhashi and Luis Palma.

RACE IS ON…James Forrest is pursued by Hibs’ Adam Le Fondre in Celtic’s scoreless stalemate at Easter Road.

The manager hoped the introduction of a quartet of reinforcements would revive a fairly listless team as it slipped towards a scoreless stalemate while squandering two valuable Premiership points.

Of the four players to come on in the side’s moment of need, only one, Turnbull, had scored a first-team goal this season.

You have to go back to December 1 2019 – almost FOUR years ago – to find Johnston’s last success; a strike in a 4-1 win over today’s opponents Ross County in Dingwall. In total, he has claimed 11 Hoops goals.

Forrest’s last counter came in the 4-3 victory over Hearts at Tynecastle on October 22 2022 on the infamous day Celtic were introduced to the eccentricities of VAR.

Oh, with limited game-time this term, had failed to bulge the opponents’ net following his two-goal sign-off in the final day of the league campaign as the champions routed Aberdeen 5-0 on May 27.

Not exactly a reassuring group upon which to place your trust when you are urgently seeking a quantum leap in attacking options. And, alas, so it proved with Marshall’s goal remaining intact following a puzzlingly feeble display from the visitors.

Oh got off the mark with the matchwinner against St Mirren in midweek while Turnbull claimed his fourth strike – two from penalty-kicks – with the equaliser in the first-half.

OFF THE BALL…Kyogo Furuhashi failed to make an impact on Hibs in Edinburgh.

Rodgers’ only alternative to Kyogo and Oh as an attack-leader is Maeda, who played through the middle and claimed a hat-trick in the 6-4 loss to Yokohama F Marinos in the pre-season build-up.

However, it’s clear the Japanese speedster gives the team something on the flanks that no other winger at the club can offer. To take him out of his natural habitat may actually weaken the side and denude it of a potent weapon.

So, Maeda really should only be utilised as the fulcrum of the frontline in the direst emergency.

And that takes us back to the transfer market. Even the possessor of a single digit IQ will realise that proven goalscorers are an expensive breed. You have to pay top dollar to get a transfer over the line and then there will be financial demands from an individual and his agent who will have a fair idea of the worth of the commodity to the purchasing club.

It’s not cheap to swim in these waters and it’s essential that desperation doesn’t cloud the judgement in the pursuit of a player an impatient manager fervently imagines will be the difference between triumph and the trapdoor at the campaign’s conclusion.

THE WAITING GAME…Mikey Johnston’s last goal for Celtic is almost four years ago.

Goodness knows, Celtic fans have been subject to a conveyor belt of charlatans over the years with duds such as Mo Bangura, Amido Balde, Vakoun Issouf Bayo, Nadir Ciftci, Stefan Scepovic, Colin Kazim-Richards, Patryk Klimala and way too many others being rolled out to test our sense of humour.

It is only when I browse through this parade of penalty-box phonies that I realise why my bar tab at The Flying Duck has reached such exhorbitant levels over the years.

Strong men – including your humble scribe – have been driven to firewater after witnessing this lot masquerading as marksmen in the green-and-white hoops.

The gauntlet, once again, is thrown down to manager Brendan Rodgers and Mark Lawwell, Head of Scouting and Recruitment.

Is there another Moussa Dembele out there? Another Kyogo Furuhashi?

We await the answer with bated breath.

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