JOHN Kennedy does not need to cast his mind too far back to know a 1-1 away draw in the first leg of a European tie is a positive start but far from a guarantee of progress. Two years ago the former defender was part of a fledgling Celtic management team that also included Ronny Deila and John Collins. Making the group phase of the Champions League was one of their key but early objectives and a score draw away to Maribor in the play-off round seemed to leave them within touching distance of doing so. The return at Celtic Park, however, was hugely disappointing, the Slovenians scoring the only goal of the night 15 minutes from time to deny Celtic and send them tumbling into the Europa League instead.

A lot has changed since then, of course. Deila and Collins have left to be replaced by Brendan Rodgers and his management team into which Kennedy has made a smooth transition as first-team coach. There are new faces in the Celtic team who were not around to take on Maribor, while this tie is not the play-off but the third qualifying round.

The premise ahead of Wednesday’s return leg against Astana, however, remains the same. A 1-1 draw chiselled out amid testing conditions in Kazakhstan must go down as a terrific result in the modern era with Leigh Griffiths’ away goal leaving Celtic in the driving seat. Kennedy knows, though, from bitter experience that there is still a bit to be done.

“At the time it was tough mentally to take but the memories will give the players greater awareness going into this match,” he said. “That’s a useful experience for us to learn from. There are a lot of players from that tie still in the squad who were a part of that, too. But we always knew this was going to be a tough tie [against Astana] and the first leg showed that. The conditions were tough as was playing on AstroTurf but coming home with a 1-1 in the bag is as positive as we could have asked for.

“I don’t think it changes our mindset [going into the second leg]. We wanted to make sure we got a positive result and getting the away goal was massive for us. The way the tie is balanced is great for us as preparation-wise we go in with a positive mindset. We’re not going in to this just trying to hang on. Our mindset is to go and win the game and put the tie to bed.

“It can be dangerous going into a match like this with a very cautious approach as one goal would put them through. So we have to go in there with a balanced approach but trying to win the game. From what we’ve seen and shown we believe we can do that.”

Kennedy, however, warned that Astana would possess a threat, especially from dead ball situations.

“They are a big physical team,” he added. “They can play football as well but certainly from set plays, throw-ins and anything from your half of the pitch you know it’s coming in the box as they’ve got five or six players who are 6ft2 or taller. So we have to be strong and aggressive but without giving away needless set-plays in dangerous areas.”

Celtic will be grateful for the trickery of creative outlets like Patrick Roberts who created the goal in midweek for Griffiths but Kennedy pointed out the winger’s other traits, too. “He’s got to this level by working very hard and listening to what the manager wants. He’s taken all that on board. Everyone notices his trickery in attack but his workrate has been terrific as well.”

Kennedy admits it was only “50:50” whether he would stay on as first-team coach following Deila’s departure but is enjoying working with Rodgers. “I wasn’t sure what was going to happen when Ronny left. It was probably 50:50 with him and John both going. I just had to wait and see. Then I got a call from the new manager saying he wanted to have a chat about things and it was very positive. He wanted me to stay and that was an easy decision for me. The opportunity to work with Brendan Rodgers doesn’t come along every day.”