Celtic keep faith despite losing initiative
© AFP

Celtic defender Gary Caldwell has told his team-mates to keep faith as his side's goalless draw with Hibernian handed the initiative back to Rangers in the race for the Scottish Premier League title.

Celtic have failed to find the net on their last two away trips and have won just twice on their travels in 2009. This latest setback for the reigning champions completes a week of twists and turns in the SPL with the lead changing hands three times in the past eight days.

Rangers had taken a two point lead last weekend after a win in the Old Firm derby before Celtic reclaimed top spot on goal difference with a midweek win over Dundee United after the Ibrox side dropped points in a 1-1 draw with Hibs. But Rangers' win against Aberdeen coupled with Celtic's draw at Easter Road on Sunday means the chance to clinch the championship is back in the hands of Walter Smith's side with just one match remaining.

They face a difficult away match against Dundee United at Tannadice and Hoops stand-in captain Caldwell says there could yet be more twists to come in the race for the title. "There is still a long way to go and we just hope it switches back the other way next week," the Scotland defender said.

I don't think either of the Old Firm have managed to win at Tannadice all season so if Rangers are going to win it they are going to have to play well,
Celtic defender Gary Caldwell.

"As you can see from results it's up and down and we have to again go into a game and do our job. I don't think either of the Old Firm have managed to win at Tannadice all season so if Rangers are going to win it they are going to have to play well."

Caldwell added: "We have to focus on beating Hearts at home and that's all we'll be concentrating on. The teams in the top six have proved this year they are very difficult opposition and hard to beat.

"So we've got a really tough job on our hands and we have to concentrate on doing that. If we do that then we'll come in and hope the results have gone our way. I think if we played the way we played today (Sunday) we can't miss as many chances again so we have to keep believing it is our title and we have to make sure we do our job."

Celtic manager Gordon Strachan said he had seen it all before in football. "We have seen Celtic having to go to Motherwell and Rangers winning (on the last day of the season in 2005) so these things have happened before and are nothing new," Strachan said. "We have to win next week and keep our fingers crossed. It's not the situation we wanted to be in, but we have put ourselves in it that's for sure, so we have to deal with it ourselves.

It's not the situation we wanted to be in, but we have put ourselves in it that's for sure,
Celtic manager Gordon Strachan.

"The way it stands now, Rangers have it in their own hands, and fair play to them. If Rangers go to Tannadice next week and win, you've got to hold your hands up and say well done. But we'll play Hearts and give it our best shot."

The visitors dominated possession against Hibs but in keeping with recent away displays the Hoops flattered to deceive, with Australian Scott McDonald the chief culprit after missing two golden opportunities in both halves. Japanese international Shunsuke Nakamura also came close with a powerful drive that deflected wide at the death.

Socceroos striker McDonald has struggled to repeat last season's goal-scoring exploits where he bagged 31 strikes, and Georgios Samaras and Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink had long droughts in front of goal. Strachan admits those patterns could ultimately cost Celtic the title. "I couldn't ask any more from them (in terms of effort)," added Strachan. "What you hope for is goals and that in the last two away games has been our failing.

"I knew we played well, there was some outstanding contributions, we did what we did and had chances. But looking back over the season, if you score enough goals, then it's not a problem. We've not had the magic this year, maybe we're not hungry enough in the box - maybe they'll come next week."