AFTER a run of nine league titles and 12 consecutive trophies in all, the last thing you might have expected Celtic to have been accused of this season was fragility. But in a fashion hitherto uncharacteristic of this squad of players, they have repeatedly cracked when the pressure has been on.

Never mind defending their title. This Celtic team have struggled to so much as defend their box at free-kicks and corners all season, so much so that opposition teams know that as long as they stay in a game against Celtic, their weak centre will cough up gilt-edged opportunities from almost any sort of ball tossed into their area.

Celtic had become a soft touch this term. Their dominance was such over the past decade that it almost appeared they no longer remembered how to deal with adversity when they were eventually faced with it.

Because of this frailty, in part, the league is gone. It may be too late to do anything about that now, but for John Kennedy, at least the players are again starting to show a bit of backbone. The draw against Rangers, he feels, was a case in point.

On numerous occasions this term, Celtic have lost a cheap goal from a set-piece when they have otherwise dominated the game, and they did so again when Alfredo Morelos equalised for Rangers at the weekend.

This time though, they did not wilt. Instead, they reset, reasserted control, and felt aggrieved not to have ultimately come away with all three points. Too little, too late, perhaps. But Kennedy feels it is an encouraging sign as they look ahead to rebuilding for next season.

“I think you have seen that [fragility] at times and it’s something we’ve tried to address,” Kennedy said.

“When you get a setback it’s how you respond to it. That can be the bigger picture like dealing with losing a cup, or whether it’s in a game like conceding a goal.

“I think we saw on Sunday a team that quickly regrouped. We got hold of the ball again and took control of the game. You could see we were quickly passing it about and getting that confidence back again.

“We felt our way back in to the match, whereas in the past we’ve maybe been caught thinking about it too much, looking nervy and agitated – and we’ve fallen to pieces a bit.

“But we brought a bit of calmness back to the play on Sunday. When you do that it’s about creating more chances and hopefully scoring goals.

“I thought the players did that well to a large extent. In the three games, we were very good in the first half against Aberdeen, in the second, not so much, with a bit of stress in there.

“Dundee United, we were very good for 60 or 70 minutes. On Sunday we had control for the 90 minutes, there were not any moments when I felt we were off it.

“It was just disappointing we didn’t get the result aside.”

Another fillip from the game on Sunday from Celtic’s perspective was the performance of young centre-back Stephen Welsh, who has improved massively since being thrown into the Old Firm game back in October, which was just the second start the 21-year-old had made for the club.

“He had a quiet game on Sunday –that’s a great thing for a centre back,” Kennedy said. “If you’re quiet then it means you are not making any mistakes.

“Stephen is a terrific boy and he thoroughly deserves his place in the team at the minute.

“He’s consistent, he knows what he is doing and he knows the role. He’s a real team player who puts his body on the line when he has to.

“He’s also improved his distribution massively. I think his performances are getting better and better all the time, and he needs to stick with it and keep progressing.”

One man who wasn’t given the opportunity to impress against Rangers was £5m summer signing Albian Ajeti, with the striker failing to even make the bench for the game on Sunday.

Kennedy played down the omission though, and says that Ajeti will be given plenty of opportunity to make an impact in the future.

“We had so many fit players and everyone wanted to be involved,” he said. “Three strikers on the bench for the game wasn’t quite right.

“I spoke to Albian and addressed it so there’s no drama. Every game is different. We needed a balance on the bench but it’s fine.”