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Manager: I told Jamesy he was due a left foot wonder goal!

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IT was Neil Lennon who gave James Forrest his Celtic debut, bringing the then 18-year-old on for the last nine minutes of a home game against Motherwell on May 1, 2010. The youngster responded with a goal, the first of 72 he’s now scored, including the wonder strike he netted in Sunday’s 3-0 Scottish Cup semi-final win over Aberdeen at Hampden.

It was also Forrest who netted the first goal of Neil Lennon’s second spell as Celtic manager, scoring the opener in the 2-1 win over Hearts at Tynecastle back at the end of February. Not surprisingly, the Hoops manager was fulsome in his praise of the winger, both for his stunning goal and also for his overall performance.

Speaking after the victory at the National Stadium, Neil Lennon said: “We were talking about rotating Jamesy and Jonny during the game, to try and unsettle Aberdeen in the rhythm of how they defence.

“I said to James before the game, ‘I remember you scoring goals with your left-foot. You scored a worldie at Celtic Park against Hearts as a kid, and you’re probably due one,’ and then he goes and curls in an absolute beauty.

“What a player he is and there’s so much more to come from him. He’s the same kid I’ve known for 10 years and he’s been prolific for me. It was an outstanding goal to set us off for a great victory.

“If I play Jonny left and Jamesy on the right we can make the pitch big. Jonny’s got pace and I like his directness and power. He grew more and more into the game. As the game went on, he got stronger and stronger. He won the penalty and was a constant threat for us in the second-half.”

And the Celtic manager also singled Jozo Simunovic out for praise. The Croatian defender formed a formidable defensive partnership with Kristoffer Ajer on the day, while he also had chances to score, including a couple of efforts inside the first five minutes and a late acrobatic effort that went just went of the post.

“I thought Jozo was absolutely fantastic and I’m delighted for him,” said Neil Lennon. “He’s had a horrific time with injuries and we’ve been trying to manage him through it. I thought he set the tone for the rest of the team. He handled Sam Cosgrove well in the physical battle and showed technical ability that I’ve never seen before from him.

“He set the tone with his drive through to get the shot off. It was very positive and everything we wanted from the team. Jozo lit the fuse for us with that running shot, although he should’ve scored from the subsequent corner!”

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