It may seem to the rest of

Scottish football that Celtic are chasing a lost cause in their

pursuit of this season's Premier League title as they remain 13 points behind Old Firm rivals Rangers even after this impressive demolition of St Johnstone.

However, do not suggest that to the Celtic players or to their

supporters, who turned out last night to provide the team with their biggest attendance of the

season even though last night's game was live on television.

More than 60,000 fans were there to see Harald Brattbakk end his goal famine with a hat trick, as he scored for the first time since October 28 when he was on target against FC Zurich.

This was the night when the Norwegian came good, when he helped himself to a hat trick and thrust his team to victory and to the three points they so desperately required in the wake of Rangers' victory at Pittodrie.

It was difficult to believe that the Perth team had beaten Celtic twice before this season, difficult to believe that they had even been able to match the Glasgow side in their previous meetings as they slumped to this five-goal defeat.

It was a night when Celtic paraded their credentials as the most likely challengers to Rangers for the championship. It was clear last night that they will not surrender easily the title they won last year.

If anyone doubts that they should ask St Johnstone the level of committment they had to attempt to handle last night. They were unable to match Celtic's power and the lethal ends to their sweeping attacks.

The rout began after only six minutes - and while Saints may have carved out chances of their own they were soon brushed away by a Celtic side whose concentration on victory was total.

When Brattbakk scored the opening goal, in six minutes, we should have realised that we were in for a treat. It was months since he last scored, weeks since he even looked as if he would get a goal, and there he was grabbing the goal that settled the team even though he looked as if he might have lost the opportunity for a moment. But he did score and he did send Celtic surging towards complete domination of the game.

In 17 minutes Lubomir Moravcik scored from twenty yards with a cleverly-struck kick and added still further to his popularity with the Parkhead support.

While St Johnstone still attempted to put their game together and were able to threaten the Celtic goal on a couple of occasions the game seemed to be over - and when Henrik Larsson added the third 15 minutes before half-time there was no doubt that it was all over.

This time Brattbakk saw a shot stopped by the foot of a desperate Alan Main and then Phil O'Donnell followed up with another try which the keeper blocked and then another which struck the crossbar.

When that came back into play Brattbakk headed the ball across the face of goal and Larsson was there with another header to

finish the move and send Celtic in with a three goal lead at the interval.

It was towards the end of the match that Celtic once more found their way to goal - and on each occasion in a two minute spell it was Brattbakk who scored to complete his hat trick. In 75 minutes he went through on a perfectly judged through ball from his front-line partner

Larsson and placed his shot beyond Main.

Then, just two minutes later, Larsson unselfishly set him up with another opening that saw him side-foot the ball into goal from a few yards' range.

At the death, St Johnstone

substitute Danny Griffin struck the bar with a fierce drive, but it was all over by then and even a consolation goal would not have eased the despair the Perth team must have felt.

Indeed, Celtic's only concern came with the bookings they

collected over the 90 minutes. Johan Mjallby, Lubomir Moravcik, and Paul Lambert were all

yellow-carded by referee John Rowbotham in a game they won easily.

Saints had two players

cautioned, Philip Scott and Alan Kernaghan, in a match that was easily handled given Celtic's

control for most of the 90


Later, a dejected Saints manager, Sandy Clark, claimed: ''We need someone to score goals - it is as simple as that. We had the best two scoring chances of the first half and we wasted them.

''If we could get goals then we would be in a much better position in the league. We are still looking for someone to do that for us.''

As for Dr Jozef Venglos, the Celtic coach admitted: ''It was good for Harald Brattbakk, but the best thing of all was that the team played so well going from defence into attack.

''We were able to move so swiftly from our own half of the field to threaten St Johnstone, who played very well too. That pleased me very much.''

Next league matches: Celtic - Hearts (h); St Johnstone - Dundee United (h).

I did not expect to get a hat trick - it was enough for me to be back in the team and I now want to stay in the side.

I did not want any quick solution, like moving to another club - that is not what I wanted at all. I want to stay here with Celtic.

It was a good team

performance and that helped me get three goals. It was really good to get one that early.