THE silence that greeted Stephen Welsh’s second game for Celtic was not confined to the empty stands at Parkhead on Saturday.

The 20-year-old right-back, a surprise starter in Neil Lennon’s line-up, experienced the same surreal atmosphere in the Hoops dressing room minutes after the 2-0 flop against Steven Gerrard’s Ibrox outfit.

A dreadful performance from the champions saw them drift four points behind their Glasgow rivals although they have a game in hand.

Asked about the immediate aftermath of the collapse, Welsh, speaking to the Daily Record, answered: “What was the dressing room like after the game? What would you imagine it would be like? Everyone was gutted.

“It was just really disappointing. But we have a big game on Thursday against AC Milan and then another big one on Sunday against Aberdeen, so we need to bounce back.”

Welsh got the nod to play with Lennon short on defensive resources with Hatem Abd Elhamed and Nir Bitton ruled out after testing positive for coronavirus while on international duty with Israel while Christopher Jullien is still sidelined with a back injury.

The youngster made his debut at Hamilton Accies in February and was substituted just after the 70th-minute mark with the score tied at 1-1. The Hoops went on to win 4-1 after a late salvo.

He lasted until six minutes from the end at the weekend, but, by then, the team appeared to have accepted defeat in an embarrassingly lop-sided encounter where the home side could not even muster a solitary shot on target.

Welsh added: “I’m obviously gutted. The result was really disappointing. We need to win the derby games. The only goal was to win.

“I don’t think we played particularly well at all and, unfortunately, came out of the wrong side with a defeat.

“It was a big day for me, but all that matters is go and win the game. I’m just gutted we didn’t do it.

“Personally, it would have been great to have had 60,000, but you just need to deal with it and play your own game.

“At 1-0 down, this team can score goals. You have the belief that we can score, but we didn’t create as many chances as we would have liked to do.

“I don’t think their keeper really had a save to make, so that’s disappointing and so were the goals we lost.

“We need to work on that defensively. We were adamant we couldn’t concede from a set-piece, so that was really disappointing.”

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