AS kids up and down the country eagerly count down the days to Christmas, Celtic ticked off another fixture in their own choc-full calendar by beating Hibs to retain their place at the top of the Premiership tree.

Neil Lennon had challenged his players during the week to win all five of the games between them and the respite of the winter break, with a few tired limbs around the dressing room no doubt already craving the haven of the sun-lounger. Goals in either half from the irrepressible Jeremie Frimpong and Odsonne Edouard made sure they did just that against a spirited Hibs outfit.

Celtic manager Lennon opted for a back three for this one, giving Boli Bolingoli and Frimpong in particular licence to roam the flanks. It could have been argued in fact that the former Manchester City youngster was playing so high at times he was effectively partnering Edouard up top, and what a threat he provided.

Olivier Ntcham kept his place in the middle of the park after an impressive showing in Cluj, but the midfielder started the match by misplacing two passes directly out of play. He soon settled mind, and might have had a goal in the opening stages too, but his shot from 12 yards was straight at Ofar Marciano.

Jack Ross for his part named an attacking line-up with both Christian Doidge and Florian Kamberi in the starting 11, the Swiss forward operating off the left, Martin Boyle off the right and Doidge through the middle.

They signalled their intent to give Celtic something to think about as a sensational cross-field pass from Stevie Mallan found Jason Naismith marauding forward to get in behind, but Kristoffer Ajer got across to make a sliding recovery challenge to deny the full-back.

They went closer soon after, as Boyle switched flanks and cut inside two challenges before bending a right-foot effort inches wide.

It was end-to-end stuff, and Edouard then went just as close for Celtic as he met Frimpong’s cutback with his right foot, the ball always just bending agonisingly away from the far post.

Celtic started to take a grip on proceedings, leading to visiting manager Ross matching up with his opponents to try and get a foothold back in the game. The pressure kept coming though as Bolingoli bent a right-foot shot just wide, and Hibs could hold out no longer.

Edouard won the ball high up the pitch and had the presence of mind to spot the run of Frimpong to his right, slipping the ball into the path of the youngster who kept his cool to finish under Marciano. Oh my days, the full-back may have said, as he celebrated with gusto in front of the home support.

Hibs were forced to make a change in goal for the start of the second half, with Chris Maxwell coming on for Marciano, and the keeper was relieved to watch Callum McGregor’s low effort flash just past his post by way of an introduction to the action.

He might have expected to have been worked harder when Celtic moved the ball across the Hibs box to open up space at the back post for Edouard, but with time to pick his spot, the forward uncharacteristically blazed high over the bar.

Despite that early second half flurry though, Hibs started to grow in belief once more and enjoyed a spell of pressure that stirred murmurings of discontent from the home fans, if not much action from Fraser Forster.

The locals were soon appeased though as Edouard found his shooting boots at last to put the result beyond doubt with 25 minutes to go. A high ball was floated to the back post where James Forrest took a touch and laid it back for the striker to tuck home into the far corner.

Job done, Edouard took his leave, with Leigh Griffiths given a decent chunk of time to get his first goal since coming back onto the first-team scene. It wasn’t to be for him, though he may have done better with a late effort that he dragged wide from 20 yards.

Before then, Kamberi had come within inches of dragging Hibs back into it with a powerful drive from the edge of the box that deflected and rippled the side-netting, and Christopher Jullien went even closer to handing the visitors a lifeline as he headed a Mallan cross at Forster from six yards, the big keeper being forced to bail out his mate by producing a good reaction stop.

That was enough to extinguish any faint hopes of a Hibs revival, and it is now one down, four to go for Lennon and his Celtic players. With a trip to Hearts in midweek and a visit from Aberdeen to come before the week is out, the sunloungers will have to wait for now.