MIKEY JOHNSTON earned deserved praise from Brendan Rodgers following his part in Celtic’s second-half revival at Perth yesterday.
A lacklustre, slipshod Hoops side trailed 1-0 to St Johnstone at the interval and were facing their first league defeat since the return of the Irishman.
Johnston replaced the ineffective Yang Hyun-jun for the second period and helped to transform the right side of the team into a more potent force with Alistair Johnston also brought more into play.
Callum McGregor sizzled in an equaliser, Matt O’Riley chipped in with a Goal of the Season contender and James Forrest capped a marvellous breakaway by tucking the killer third behind Dimitar Mitov in stoppage-time.
ON A WING AND A SLAYER…Mikey Johnston in action against St Johnstone.
Amazingly, the Bulgarian keeper had gone more than two and a half hours without conceding against the champions until the inspirational captain buried a first-time drive behind him in the 67th minute.
The victory maintained the side’s eight-point advantage at the Premiership pinnacle over their nearest challengers who beat St Mirren 2-0 at Ibrox later in the afternoon.
Comeback Bhoy Johnston, who spent last season on loan at Portuguese top-flight outfit Vitoria Guimaraes, said: “Obviously, it was a tough first-half and in the second-half we came out fighting and showed a bit more desire and managed to get the three points.”
Asked if there had been any special instructions from an admittedly angry Rodgers during the 15-minute interval, the Republic of Ireland international winger answered: “Not much to be fair. We were 1-0 down, so obviously you have to make an impact and I don’t need to be told that’s what I’m coming on for.
”I had a good year last year. It’s a top league technically and physically and I definitely learned a lot in going away from home.
“I’ve been playing well at international level and I’m just enjoying myself. I’m confident in my body and confident in how I play football, so I’m secure in how I am at the moment.
“I’m back here now and I just want to make an impact.”
IF LOOKS COULD KILL…Mikey Johnston and Perth keeper Dimitar Mitov don’t quite see eye to eye as referee Don Robertson intervenes.
Johnston, speaking to Celtic TV, added: “Playing in big occasions and Euro qualifying games, you’re expected to perform and there is a lot of pressure in the game just like the games here, so I feel like I’m used to it and I’m able to do it now.
“A lot of time people go on loan and they’re never seen again, but I thought I could come back and still play here.
“I feel that I can do it and it’s just taking it week by week. Hopefully, the chances are going to come and I can take them.”
With Liel Abada and Daizen Maeda possibly out for the remainder of the year, Johnston looks a certainty to get the nod ahead of Yang for the visit of Hibs in midweek.