Celtic grind out fifth straight win

Celtic extended their lead at the top of the Scottish Premier League after a hard-fought 2-1 victory away to Inverness Caledonian Thistle. The Hoops, who won their fifth consecutive league match, increased their lead to three points, having played a game more than Old Firm rivals Rangers, whose game against Dundee United was postponed following the death of the Dundee club's chairman Eddie Thompson.

Celtic manager Gordon Strachan said the conditions did not help his team's passing game in Inverness. "It wasn't easy conditions here today with the wind, which got worse as the game went on, but we dealt with it," he said. "We're pleased we got the win as we knew it was going to be very hard. "We improved in the second-half and got closer together. I thought we were too spread out in the first half. It wasn't an easy game to referee, play in or watch, I would imagine, so we are just glad to get the three points and make our way home."

The home side had looked the better team in the first half and missed several chances to take the lead against the SPL champions. But it took only three minutes into the second half for Celtic to open the scoring through Scott Brown before defender Glenn Loovens headed home to double their advantage. Garry Wood pulled one back for Inverness.

Inverness started the game brightly and pushed forward in droves. Their first chance came after 11 minutes when the Celtic defence failed to deal with a Richard Hastings cross and Don Cowie's volley was deflected for a corner. Five minutes later a Ross Tokely cross from the right found Canadian international Hastings unmarked at the back post but after a poor first touch he fired his shot well wide.

Celtic's first effort on target came from Aiden McGeady, whose low drive from the edge of the box after 18 minutes was turned round the post by goalkeeper Michael Fraser. Fraser saved well from a Stephen McManus header from the resulting corner. Goalkeeper Artur Boruc had to be at his best to stop Inverness taking the lead from a free-kick won after Dougie Imrie was brought down by McManus. The Polish keeper was at full stretch to turn Imrie's curling effort from 20 yards over the bar in the 33rd minute.

Inverness could have taken the lead minutes later. A one-two between Wood and Cowie played Wood into the box with just Boruc to beat. But Wood's fierce side-footed shot was stopped by the sprawling keeper's legs.

Celtic looked transformed following the break and took the lead three minutes into the second half.  Lee Naylor broke down the left wing and his cross was met by Brown, who stabbed the ball past Fraser for his first league goal since December. The Hoops doubled their lead in the 65th minute through a Loovens bullet header. The unmarked Dutchman rose high in the box to head home Barry Robson's cross from the right. Robson was inches away from extending Celtic's lead in the 68th minute when he failed to connect with a McGeady cross from the right wing.

Inverness pulled one back just a minute later. Tokely's cross was knocked down by substitute Adam Rooney in the six-yard box and Wood was there to poke the ball into the net past Boruc, who got a hand to it.  In the 77th minute Imrie broke down the left wing but his shot from an acute angle in the box was easily dealt with by Boruc.  In the final minute of normal time substitute Cillian Sheridan had a chance to clinch it for Celtic but he fired his shot straight at Fraser.  Inverness pushed hard for an equaliser in injury time but Celtic held on.

At Rugby Park Kilmarnock earned three points with Craig Bryson netting a last-minute winner against Motherwell, 1-0.  Aberdeen moved off the bottom of the SPL with Lee Miller giving them a 1-0 victory at Falkirk after losing five consecutive league games.  Hamilton lost their fourth successive SPL match as St Mirren left New Douglas Park with a 2-1 win. Franco Miranda gave St Mirren the lead before a Jack Ross own goal levelled the score with Billy Mehmet heading the Paisley side to victory.