James Forrest scored four times in 30 first-half minutes against St Johnstone

James Forrest scored four goals in 30 first-half minutes as Celtic romped to their first away Scottish Premiership win of the season against St Johnstone.

Winger Forrest started the rout in 15 minutes and completed his treble in 38.

The last Celtic player to score four in an away game was Maciej Zurawski against Dunfermline in February 2006.

Odsonne Edouard also scored in the first half, and Callum McGregor late on, with Danny Swanson sent off for St Johnstone just after the break.

It was Celtic’s second win at McDiarmid Park in 11 days, but was much more emphatic than the laboured League Cup win as they inflicted a first home league defeat of the season on Tommy Wright’s men.

With Hearts losing to Rangers at Ibrox, it moves Brendan Rodgers’ champions to within three points of the league leaders.

Forrest cuts down St Johnstone

For the first five minutes of this game, St Johnstone looked capable of causing an upset – for the remaining 85, they were completely blown away by a Celtic side back to their irresistible best.

Rodgers has identified tempo, or a lack of it, as one of the reasons for his side’s stuttering start to the season, but in the driving Perthshire rain it returned, and the goals returned with it.

Forrest – who was sent off in the Europa League defeat in Salzburg on Thursday – tormented and terrorised Scott Tanser and was as deadly in-front of goal as he’s ever been in any 90 minutes of football.

Indeed, the Scotland winger has never scored more than eight league goals in a season, but somehow managed to net four in half an hour in Perth.

St Johnstone goalkeeper Zander Clark kept out powerful efforts from Forrest, McGregor and Leigh Griffiths, but was beaten when Forrest converted the rebound after Edouard’s effort was saved.

Twice Forrest linked up superbly with Tom Rogic to slot low past Clark, before travelling 50 yards with the goal, cutting inside, and sending a left-foot shot inside the near post.

Edouard got the other goal in a five goal first period – the Frenchman’s control, swivel and first time shot was a joy to watch.

It was a sensational first half for the visitors, but St Johnstone were absolutely all over the place.

Celtic came out from their break like a side who never wanted one in the first place. The slick one-touch football continued and a frustrated Swanson lunged into a flying Forrest with an awful challenge that was followed by a straight red card.

Like it so often does, the sending off gave the disadvantaged side extra focus and St Johnstone held Celtic at bay until near the end. They could do nothing to stop the sixth though.

Once again the silky one-touch play sliced the blue wall wide open and McGregor slotted in from close range.

Forrest’s goals were his first of the campaign

Are Celtic back? – analysis

Does this result and performance prove a side who have struggled will now start their charge back up a table?

The Celtic fans have complete faith in Rodgers and all he has asked for is patience. He will be coy about those questions publicly, but will now demand this level of performance for the rest of the campaign. He knows this group are capable, now they have shown him they are once again willing.

Rodgers will hope the international break won’t extinguish the fire that has been reignited in the belly of his players. Despite the push from Rangers, Hearts and Hibs, the Celtic boss knows if they can carry this form on to the rest of the campaign, they will mostly likely retain their title.

The performance, in the first half in particular, was a signal of intent that has been sent out by the champions. What a mouth watering season we have unfolding in Scotland’s top flight.

‘We didn’t make a tackle’ – reaction

St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright: “We started nice and bright, but then the game totally flipped. After that we didn’t make a tackle until Steven Anderson came on.

“The players need to be braver on the ball, because they are good enough. There were too many cheap turnovers.”

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers: “We’re getting better step by step and getting more fluency into our performance. Today was an outstanding team performance. It starts with our pressing. If you press well, you pass well. Too many times this season we’ve not pressed well enough.

“It was great for James and it marked off a challenging week for him. He’s shown, not just in Scotland, his quality and ability and his finishing. It was an outstanding individual performance.”

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