James Forrest insists Celtic can improve on Rangers rout and top 5-1 humiliation of bitter rivals
Rangers supporters have accumulated a weight of scar tissue in recent years but one wound that remains raw was inflicted by Celtic’s 5-1 win at Ibrox in the final Old Firm derby of last season, when Brendan Rodgers’s players achieved a record score for a derby on their arch-foes’ ground. Since then, Rangers have been ditched from the Europa League by minuscule Progres Niederkorn of Luxembourg, which was a worse result, but had the virtue of not potentially being repeated four times a season. Celtic, of course, endured their own trauma in the form of a 5-0 thrashing by Paris St-Germain at home in last week’s Champions League group stage opener but they face no comparable threat on native soil. Unbeaten in 55 successive domestic fixtures – the latest being their comfortable win 4-0 at home to Ross County on Saturday – and now two points clear of Aberdeen in the Premiership, Celtic can afford a degree of gamesmanship ahead of Saturday’s trip to Ibrox for this campaign’s first derby. Rodgers set the tone by popping a message in the post for Rangers (and also the Celtic board) to the effect that money had been spent on the other side of the city with the specific intention of winning the title this season. The manager made a notional comparison of summer shopping by the respective clubs, and calculated Celtic’s outlay was smaller. That, though, has not deterred James Forrest from declaring that Celtic are capable of inflicting even greater damage than last time they crossed the city. Asked if there was a prospect of improving on the 5-1 Ibrox rout, Forrest – who scored twice in the defeat of Ross County – said: “Yes. That is what it is all about. It is about getting better and doing even more. “The record we had against them last season gives us confidence. They have made some signings and we know it will be tough. We will be up against new faces so we need to make sure we are right at it. “It is still early days. We just need to keep focusing on ourselves. They dropped points on Friday [in a 2-2 draw with Partick Thistle] but we didn’t let that concern us. We just went out against Ross County and put on a performance for ourselves and got confidence that way.” Bruised morale did not look like a problem for Celtic on Saturday, but it was only in the later stages, when they hemmed County into a corral 20 yards or so from Aaron McCarey’s goal, that the Scottish champions looked virtually irresistible. Celtic’s cause was aided significantly by Moussa Dembele’s first appearance of the season and the striker marked the occasion with a well-fashioned goal five minutes before the interval, to add to a typically tidy finish by Tom Rogic inside the first quarter hour. After the break, another powerful Rogic effort was blocked by McCarey after the break but the rebound fell to Forrest, who beat the goalkeeper with a placed finish. Forrest’s second was set up by Odsonne Edouard and, for the second time in the week, many home fans made for the exits before the final whistle, the difference on this occasion being that they were content with their team’s display. “We showed last season we were capable of getting good results after European games,” Forrest said. “It was a really good performance and we are glad of that after Tuesday night. It was hard to take but PSG are a top team and we got a bit of a lesson but, as the manager said, hopefully we can take it on board and it will make us stronger in the long run. The most important thing was to put the PSG game behind us and we did that. Now we can look forward to Dundee in the League Cup on Wednesday and the Rangers game next weekend.” Although it will make it harder for him to keep his place, Forrest welcomed Dembele’s return to action. “Even though it was his first start for a few months Moussa was outstanding,” he said. “He showed he was top quality and it was great to have him back.” For County, as with Celtic against PSG, the consolation was that no alternative outcome had been contemplated seriously, according to midfielder, Michael Gardyne. “Nothing is expected from us coming here,” he said. That allowance, one may say with certainty, does not apply to Celtic’s cross-city expedition next weekend.