NEIL LENNON thought his makeshift Celtic side had “nicked” a win over Hibs before the Edinburgh side’s stoppage-time equaliser at Parkhead last night.
The Hoops manager was forced to watch the match from home after being ordered to self-isolate for 10 days in the dramatic fall-out of Christopher Jullien’s positive Covid test.
Lennon’s assistant John Kennedy was also quarantined as well as THIRTEEN players and Gavin Strachan, son of former Hoops gaffer Gordon, was pitched into the dug-out in an effort to try to guide a patched-up team to three crucial points.
The champions had to go into the encounter without a recognised striker with Odsonne Edouard, Leigh Griffiths, Albian Ajeti and Patryk Klimala all ruled out. Teenager Cameron Harper was thrown in for an impromptu debut.
Shane Duffy, who arrived home early from the trip to the United Arab Emirates due to “family reasons”, was due to sit out the match against the Easter Road men, but, after giving a negative test for the virus, he lined up alongside Stephen Welsh in an emergency central defence.
In the midst of the coronavirus carnage – and with youngsters Karamoko Dembele and Armstrong Oko-Flex entering the fray as second-half substitutes – it looked as though an excellent 81st-minute free-kick from David Turnbull might be enough to give the team three points.
A courageous performance by the cobbled-together Celts was ruined when Kevin Nisbet rifled in the stoppage-time leveller after another defensive calamity in a campaign littered with such mishaps.
Lennon relayed messages to his interim deputy on the touchline and former Arsenal prospect Oko-Flek almost took the field as a 60th-minute substitute for Harper still wearing an EarPod as he received last-minute instructions from the Irishman.
First-team coach Strachan, speaking to the Daily Record, admitted: “He nearly forgot to take it out! But, yes, for a young player going on for his full debut, to hear the manager’s voice in his ear was a nice touch.
“Neil said we put so much into the game, he thought we’d nicked it.
“And then we just couldn’t see the game out which was very frustrating.”
The Hoops are now trailing Steven Gerrard’s Ibrox outfit by 21 points although they have three games in hand.
The champions face Livingston at Parkhead on Saturday where Strachan will again be in charge of the team.