O'Dea: Gers defeat was a blip
Celtic defender Darren O'Dea is confident the league champions will bounce straight back after their title challenge suffered a major blow at Ibrox on 9 May. The champions surrendered their lead at the top of the table when a Steven Davis goal eight minutes before the break took Rangers two points clear with three games remaining.
The Irishman, 22, returned from a hamstring injury to take over from Lee Naylor at left-back. But despite contributing to a more than decent performance from the visitors, he was left, along with his team-mates and shocked Parkhead fans, surveying a possible title capitulation. Twice this season Celtic have let slip a seven-point lead over Rangers, and the Ibrox side are now in the ascendancy as they approach their final three games against Hibernian, Aberdeen and Dundee United.
Celtic take on Dundee United at Parkhead on 12 May and then travel to Hibs on 17 May before finishing their campaign with a home game against Hearts of Midlothian. O'Dea was defiant when explaining why the title race was far from over and backed the champions to get back on track against United.
"The atmosphere was great on Saturday and everyone was up for it, but it just didn't happen for us on the day," he said. "I would say we were the better team, but they won the match and it's now just a case of picking ourselves up for Tuesday.
"Now we need to go and win our remaining three games and obviously hope that Rangers drop points," said O'Dea. "But all we can do is concentrate on ourselves and that will start on Tuesday. I do think we can win those games. We will be very confident going into them even though we've had a blip."
Not for the first time since he took over at Celtic Park almost four years ago, and exactly 200 games ago, manager Gordon Strachan found himself under fire from disgruntled Hoops' fans. Supporters spent last night dissecting their manager's surprising decision to leave out fans' favourite Aiden McGeady to give Shaun Maloney his first league start of the year, only to throw the Ireland midfielder on when the game was slipping away from them.
Strachan has failed to win over a significant section of the Celtic support despite winning three league titles in succession and leading the club to the last-16 of the UEFA Champions League twice in a row. The Celtic manager, though, refused to expand on the issue of McGeady, referring to other players who had also been dropped during the season. He said: "I have left out other top, top players before. I don't have to explain every decision I make."