LEIGH GRIFFITHS sent out a message to Scotland manager Steve Clarke yesterday, pleading for inclusion in the Scotland squad for the Euro 2020 play-off against Israel. The message he sent him on the park against St Mirren at Celtic Park was infinitely more emphatic though, and will perhaps have done more to grab Clarke’s attention.

Certainly, it will be hard for the national team manager to ignore Griffiths if he can keep up his current run of form. Having sat out the last couple of matches from the start as Neil Lennon favoured Mohamed Elyounoussi in attack, he was restored to the line-up here and picked up his partnership with Odsonne Edouard where it had left off to devastating effect.

Griffiths hit a hat-trick – the second of which was a delight to behold - and set up strike partner Edouard for Celtic’s third goal as St Mirren had no answer to Lennon’s dynamic duo. It was his fifth hat-trick for Celtic all told, and his first since a treble against Hamilton in January 2016.

Callum McGregor added a late penalty just for good measure.

Jim Goodwin set up the visitors in a deep-lying 5-3-2 formation to combat Celtic’s attacking 3-5-2, and it initially worked well for the visitors, allowing them a platform to soak up pressure and then to hit the hosts on the counter.

Indeed, there was an early scare for Celtic as Calum Waters snuck in on the blindside of Scott Brown and cut the ball back across goal, with a vital toe from Christopher Jullien the only thing stopping the ball from landing on a plate for Junior Morais.

Celtic needed a spark, and it was no surprise that it was the two up top that provided it. Edouard picked the ball up on the angle of the box and floated a brilliant cross to the back post where Griffiths was waiting to slip the ball under Vaclav Hladky.

The striker glanced across at the assistant referee, half expecting to be flagged for offside such was the space afforded him by the visiting defence, but the flag stayed down and Griffiths celebrated his ninth goal of the season, and his sixth since his return to action following the winter break.

Hladky showed why he is so highly-regarded with two saves high to his right, the first from James Forrest as he cut in from the right and bent a left-foot shot towards the top corner, and then the next from Tom Rogic’s bending effort from the edge of the box.

A lull in proceedings followed, but another spark from Sparky just before the break ended the game as a contest. Nir Bitton rolled the ball into the feet of Griffiths, who produced some lovely footwork to get away from Sam Foley before conjuring a one-two with Rogic and then dinking he ball beautifully over the advancing Hladky and in off the post.

Griffiths would turn provider shortly after the restart as he fed a pass into Edouard on the edge of the area, the forward working the ball onto his left foot before producing a classy finish low to Haldky’s left for his 28th goal of the season.

The only question left was whether or not Griffiths could claim the match ball, and he did so with 16 minutes remaining as he picked up the ball 20 yards from goal, steadied himself and rifled a low shot past Hladky.

Edouard took his leave for Elyounoussi as Celtic’s thoughts turned to next Sunday’s Old Firm clash at Ibrox, and in fairness, there are bigger fish to fry for Saints too. Wednesday night’s home game against Hearts was always going to have more bearing on their season than this game, with anything garnered here simply a bonus.

Kristoffer Ajer was also given a breather before the end, with the welcome sight of Hatem Elhamed returning to action on the right of defence after injury.

In injury-time, the defender was tripped by Foley in the area and referee Gavin Duncan pointed to the spot, allowing McGregor to step up and slot home from 12 yards to put the cherry on the icing on the cake for the hosts.

All-in-all, the afternoon could hardly have gone more to plan for Celtic, and the pressure is now back on the shoulders of Rangers to ensure that the gap at the top of the league is not still a yawning 16-point chasm by the time their match against Ross County in Dingwall finishes. Goodwin, for his part, will hope the emphatic nature of the scoreline will not have left any lasting psychological damage to his Saints going into their crunch match in midweek.

As for Griffiths, he looks like a man now with the weight free from his shoulders at long last, as he cranked up the pressure on his national team boss to hand him the chance to fire his country to a major tournament for the first time in 22 years.