MATCHWINNER James Forrest insists the players took the opportunity to emphasise the Ange Postecoglou influence is working at new-look Celtic.

The 30-year-old Scotland international winger was by far one of the most experienced Hoops men in the squad for the Premier Sports League Cup semi-final showdown with holders St Johnstone at Hampden last night.

Forrest was overtaken only by 34-year-old 75 times-capped England international keeper Joe Hart while he was matched by the likes of club and country team-mate Callum McGregor and seasoned internationals Nir Bitton, of Israel, and the Republic of Ireland’s James McCarthy.

HOOP HOOP HOORAY…James Forrest reels away in delight after netting the winner with Callum McGregor joining in.

NUMBER ONE…James Forrest shares the joy with the celebrating Celtic supporters.

CONGRATULATIONS…Anthony Ralston is top of the heap as James Forrest is swamped by Nir Bitton, David Turnbull and Josip Juranovic following his matchwinner.

The lively raider, who was introduced as a substitute for a sluggish Liel Abada in the 69th minute, struck with a whiplash right-foot effort after a left-wing cross from Filipe Jota had been deflected into his path.

It was a typical piece of opportunism from the reliable campaigner who saw last season disrupted with an ankle injury and who has also been hampered by knocks in this campaign.

However, he roared back in fine style to thump in the goal that will see the Hoops return to the national stadium on Sunday December 19 – as he goes in pursuit of his TWENTIETH piece of silverware at the club.

A delighted Forrest said: “Was this a chance to show we are back? Definitely.

“Last season was the first in I don’t know how long we didn’t win a trophy, so with a new team and a new manager it’s great to get into a Final.

“It’s different from when the manager first came in, there has been a lot of turnaround and players leaving.

SIGNS ARE GOOD…comeback Bhoy James Forrest is congratulated by Kyogo Furuhashi after his 73rd-minute decisive strike. 

“Players have come in, it was maybe unsettling at times, but I think lately things have been really positive and really good.

“For everyone, especially the boys who have come in and haven’t played in a Final before, it’s great we have that to look forward to in a month’s time.

“We had to get there.”

It will be a brand new expeirence for newcomers such as Kyogo Furuhashi, Filipe Jota, Abada, Josip Juranovic, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Carl Starfelt and youngsters such as Anthony Ralston and Stephen Welsh.

Reflecting on his dramatic introduction to proceedings at the national stadium, Forrest, speaking to the Sunday Mail, commented: “It feels different class. It’s unreal coming on and managing to score a goal, which turns out to be the winner that gets us to a Final.

“That’s why you work hard, for days like this.

“You can look at the last year, but I still try to take out the positives. I got back, made the Euros squad and played under the manager at the start of the season.

A BIG HAND FOR THE FANS..Callum McGregor leads his team-mates in applause for the rousing Celtic support at Hampden. He is joined by Joe Hart, James Forrest, Josip Juranovic, Stephen Welsh, Filipe Jota and David Turnbull.

“I’ve been out, but you put the work in to get back. I’ve been training and building it up in the last six weeks. I’ve been coming on of late, but I’ll keep working hard and building up the minutes.

“We knew that St Johnstone are a good side who did really well in the Cups last season, but with the fans back it helped us.

“You could see they didn’t get frustrated, so that helped the players keep going.

“Everyone is buzzing to come back here for a Final now.”

Forrest added: “Someone told me I’d scored 10 goals against St Johnstone. I was just glad to do it here.

“It’s always good when people tell you about what you’ve done in the past, but I am still playing in the now. So, I want to keep adding to it.”



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