JOE LEDLEY knows what it takes to be a derby winner during his three-and-a-half years at Celtic.

The gifted midfielder thumped a memorable header into the Rangers net to warm up a bitterly cold December evening at Parkhead back in 2011 to fire the Hoops towards the title.

It was a crucial strike and the Welsh international displayed true grit as he threw himself at a right-wing corner-kick delivery in the midst of chaos and flying bodies in a packed penalty area.

Victor Wanyama just missed the cross, but Ledley made no mistake as he rose to power an effort into the roof of the net that went a long way to Neil Lennon’s team’s subsequent championship triumph.

HEADS I WIN…Joe Ledley gets in behind Victor Wanyama and in front of Giorgios Samaras to thump in the derby winner in the 1-0 triumph at Parkhead in December 2011.

The former Hoops hero, who signed on a free transfer from Cardiff City in July 2010 before moving on in an £800,000 switch to Crystal Palace, has been keeping a close eye on developments at his old club throughout a topsy-turvy campaign.

Brendan Rodgers’ men are a point ahead with eight games to play while their nearest challengers from Ibrox have a match in hand.

The drama continues at the weekend with Philippe Clement’s side at home to Hibs on Saturday afternoon while the champions travel to West Lothian to take on Livingston 24 hours later.

Celtic have won both derby confrontations this term with Kyogo Furuhashi firing in breathtaking clinchers on both occasions, but the side have faltered with two defeats to Hearts and a loss to Kilmarnock to shed unexpected points.

WALLOP…Kyogo Furuhashi flashes in the only goal of the game as Celtic triumph at Ibrox in September.

There have also been draws with St Johnstone, Hibs, Motherwell, Aberdeen and the Rugby Park outfit which have placed Scotland’s title kings, bidding for their twelfth crown in 13 years, on a precarious tightrope.

Rodgers’ men will play their third all-Glasgow affair in Govan a week on Sunday with another match to be arranged in the east end of Glasgow after the split.

Ledley said: “It is very tight and, of course, the games between the two teams look as if they are going to be deciding games that dictate who comes out on top.

“But I have seen a few times this season that Celtic and Rangers have slipped up in games where you felt they would have won and they didn’t. Getting that win against your rivals in the last two games in the league is vital.

“But, as I said, we’ve seen it numerous times this season that there have been slips just when you do not expect it.”

GETTING IT IN THE NECK…Joe Ledley in an Old Firm confrontation with Steven Naismith, current Hearts boss.

The one-time fans’ favourite, speaking to the Daily Record, added: “If Celtic get that win against Rangers, you can’t think that’s it and the game is over.

“It’s not. Far from it.

“A draw somewhere and that is two points of the three points gained gone and it is all back on again.

“Goal difference is tight, points are tight, it is going to be one of the tightest finishes in a long time.”

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