Football - Wright hoping for festive cheer

St Johnstone boss Tommy Wright hopes the prospect of stopping Celtic's incredible unbeaten streak will fire up his players ahead of their Boxing Day clash.

The Perth men welcome Neil Lennon's side to McDiarmid on Thursday knowing no side has managed to topple the Parkhead outfit on Scottish Premiership duty since Motherwell's Fir Park victory back in April.

The Scottish champions have dropped just six points from the first 16 games of the campaign and some pundits are already speculating on the odds of them going the full 38-game schedule without suffering a major stumble.

Saints' Northern Irish boss insists Celtic are good enough to close out the season without defeat but says the prize of becoming the first club to scalp the Glasgow giants may be the motivating factor his side needs to triumph.

Wright told Press Association Sport: "Celtic are the champions and the best team in the country. They are still unbeaten but that is a motivation for everybody to try and get that first win against them.

"They are capable of going the season unbeaten with the quality of players that they have and the depth of squad available to them.

"On top of that they have a lot of young players coming through so they are more than capable of clocking up an achievement like that.

"They have been tremendous this season with some of the quality of their performances, particularly on the road, so we need to make sure we are on top of our game.

"We've been given a few warnings this season of just what they can do. They went to Motherwell and won heavily, so they can destroy teams and we need to be wary of that."

Celtic may have been all-conquering this term but they twice tried and failed to beat St Johnstone in Perth last year and Wright hopes the Fair City will again prove to be impenetrable.

"We have got a decent record against them at McDiarmid and hopefully that will give us a little bit of confidence going into the game," said Wright as he looked back on a 2-1 McDiarmid win which was later followed by a 1-1 draw.

"Our home record is decent this season in any case. We have only been beaten twice there in the league.

"We will need the same kind of defensive display and determination that we had last week when we went down to 10 men against Hibs."

That Easter Road red card was shown to Paddy Cregg as he was sent off just half a minute after replacing the injured Murray Davidson.

Saints clung on for a goalless draw but that did not soften their sense of injustice at Alan Muir's decision and they have now appealed the dismissal, meaning Irishman Cregg is available to face Lennon's team.

It was the second straight sending-off in as many games for Wright's side after Rory Fallon was also dismissed for an elbowing offence against Aberdeen's Michael Hector.

Wright says he does not feel his side are being picked on, but does think top-flight referees could be more even handed.

"Rory's red card was a definite red but then James Collins elbowed Frazer Wright last week and only got a yellow, so we are looking for a bit of consistency," he said.

"As for Padge's one, it was a 50-50 tackle which he was a little bit late on, and that's why we are appealing. We don't think it merited a red, only a yellow."