Neil Lennon saluted the "best football' his team had played under his reign as Celtic stretched their lead to 19 points in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League despite drawing 1-1 with St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park last night.

A first-half goal by Efe Ambrose was nullified by a magnificent strike by Nigel Hasselbaink with eight minutes remaining but the Celtic manager's frustration was alleviated by his satisfaction at his side's performance, particularly in the first half.

"That first 45 minutes is the best football I have seen in my time here. On a gluepot of the pitch the football, the pace, the movement was exceptional," he said.

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He added: "It is a travesty we have not won the game because on that first 45 minutes we could have won two games. We cut them open at will. I am sitting here scratching my head as to why we did not win the game."

Lennon said Celtic had "looked a quality side" and praised the performance of St Johnstone goalkeeper Alan Mannus who made excellent saves, particularly from Gary Hooper and Lassad Nouioui.

"We should have been out of sight but I am not too disappointed," said Lennon. "Motherwell have lost tonight so we have gained a point."

Steve Lomas, the St Johnstone manager, admitted: "The game could have been well and truly over after 30 minutes bit for four or five great saves."

He agreed the introduction of Gregory Tade and Hasselbaink had changed the match but said of the equaliser: "I thought we were well worth it."

He declined to criticise officials over the ruling out of Frazer Wright's second-half header for offside. However, the defender said: "I was two yards onside. They have said Tade was interfering with play. I feel a wee bit hard done by but it is a hard job the officials have. Celtic were all over us in the first half and big Alan has kept us in the game and when it is 1-0 you have a chance."