a torrent of biblical proportions fell on the East End of Glasgow and the goals rained down on poor St Mirren.

The floodgates opened as early as the fourth minute as Georgios Samaras scored what was only his second goal since his Old Firm double at Ibrox on January 2. Gary Hooper was next up, scoring a splendid hat-trick to take the game beyond St Mirren and move him onto 12 for the season. But perhaps the biggest splash of all was made by 18-year-old Dylan McGeouch, who embellished the occasion of his home debut for the club by coming off the bench, running 70 yards, beating three men and knocking in number five.

It was quite a cameo from a young player with an interesting back story. McGeouch left Celtic for Rangers as a teenager after his brother Darren fell out of favour at Parkhead, only to be persuaded to cross the city for a second time earlier this year by the personal intervention of Neil Lennon. His big moment put the gloss on a victory which was Celtic’s fifth in a row and cut the gap on his former team at the top of the SPL to four points, for 24 hours at least.

“It was a wonderful goal, he might not get a better goal in his career than that,” said Lennon afterwards as he dedicated the victory to his injured centre-half Charlie Mulgrew, whose father, also Charlie, had passed away during the week. “I did go to see his parents, and there must have been about 400,000 outside the house. He’s a great kid, he’s not short of confidence but he goes and practises in the afternoon, he just loves playing football.”

“We said to the players beforehand go out there and give a performance for Charlie,” the Celtic manager added. “He’s a very important part of the squad and he’s suffered a great loss.”

The most galling thing for St Mirren was the fact that so many of the goals could be traced back a few phases to a glaring mistake. The Paisley side make a virtue out of their desire to play the ball on the ground but on the sodden turf yesterday, this was to their detriment. “I won’t change my philosophy in any way,” said an unrepentant Danny Lennon afterwards. “Thankfully we don’t have to come here every week.”

Both Lennons had made a couple of changes pre-match. Danny, fresh from agreeing a new two-year deal in Paisley, surprisingly kept Steven Thompson on his bench, but unsurprisingly opted to beef up his midfield with Elias Haddad. His namesake Neil recalled Glenn Loovens at centre-half, a switch that facilitated Victor Wanyama moving back into midfield.

The changes did little to disrupt Celtic’s recent momentum. A long pass from Joe Ledley in the fourth minute would have run out of play had Marc McAusland not swung a leg at it and directed it into the path of Samaras. The Greek international’s effort wasn’t exactly clinical, but it still snuck under Craig Samson.

The second was also far too easy. Samaras advanced from deep, fed it wide to Stokes, and the Irishman’s low centre was tucked away with a minimum of fuss from within the six-yard box. James Forrest would soon have made it three had Samson not kicked away his effort.

Referee Stevie McLean had hardly commenced the second period before Samson was saving again from Hooper and Kayal, and the third duly arrived on 53 minutes. Victor Wanyama fed a fine pass down the left for Stokes and Hooper held Lee Mair at bay to swivel and fire into the net.

Not so long ago Hooper was being left out for his lack of sharpness, but the third part of the Englishman’s hat-trick was the most pleasing of the lot. He killed a Forster punt stone dead, worked an inadvertent one-two with St Mirren left-back Jeroen Tesselaar, and dinked the goal which moved him level with Nikica Jelavic and Steven Naismith as the SPL’s top scorer.

By this stage, Lennon might have had one eye on Wednesday’s match with Atletico Madrid and the manager deemed it safe for McGeouch to make his home debut. This he duly marked in style, winning a tackle on the edge of his own box, dinking the ball past Jim Goodwin, and ignoring passes to his left and right to clip in a low left-foot finish.

“When [the manager] walked through my front door that was when I decided,” said McGeouch, a boyhood Celtic fan who is happy to inherit Aiden McGeady’s No 46 shirt. “The manager of Celtic coming through my door to sign me. I knew then that I wanted to come back home, really. To score was a dream and my family were there as well.”