EVERGREEN James Forrest made a brief appearance at rain-lashed Hampden on Saturday – but his presence played a major part in Celtic finally overcoming the stubborn challenge of Kilmarnock.

It was 1-0 in the Viaplay League Cup semi-final when Ange Postecoglou sent on the experienced winger for goalscorer Daizen Maeda in the 81st minute.

The game was deep in stoppage-time when Forrest released fellow-substitute David Turnbull with a peach of a pass and the midfielder’s low drive was pushed out by keeper Sam Walker for Giorgos Giakoumakis, another who came off the bench, to sidefoot in the clinching goal.

WE’LL BE BACK…James Forrest and his Celtic team-mates take a lap of honour after the 2-0 win over Kilmarnock.

The holders will return to the national stadium on February 26 for the 3pm showpiece encounter with Michael Beale’s Ibrox outfit.

However, 31-year-old Forrest, who made his first appearance in a League Cup Final 12 years ago, is now concentrating completely on helping the champions pile on the Premiership points when they face St Mirren at Parkhead this evening.

The Hoops go into the match against the only Scottish team to beat them this season after the 2-0 reverse in September with a nine-point advantage over their nearest challengers who play Killie at Rugby Park with the kick-off 15 minutes later at 8pm.

Forrest said: “The Cup Final is five weeks away and we’re delighted to be in it, but it’s put aside until then.

“We have loads of important games until then and I’m sure a few days before people will start getting excited about it, but for now, there are more important things.”

TON-UP BHOY…James Forrest celebrates his 100th Celtic goal after hitting a hat-trick in the 6-1 win over Hibs at Parkhead on October 15 2022.

Looking at tonight’s latest league hurdle, Forrest, speaking to Celtic TV, continued: “Fair play to St Mirren, they’ve done really well this season and have a great home record, but it’s a different game because the last game was a few months ago.

“For the team we have out on this occasion, I don’t think that game will be in the back of anyone’s minds, especially because the manager won’t let that happen.

“No matter who we’re playing, if it’s a Champions League, Cup or league game, he makes sure everyone is ready to go and does what he expects from us to play.”

The Scotland international raider added: “Credit to St Mirren and the way they play because they’ve managed to get results from it.

“It worked against us at the start of the season, but we know if we play our way then that’s all we can do and we will try and get the three points that way.”

DON’T miss the unbeatable match report from Celtic v St Mirren this evening – only in your champion CQN.

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