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Sun 3 Feb 2008 07:43 AM

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Strachan backs winter wonders

Greek striker Georgios Samaras score on his debut in the 5-1 Scottish Cup victory at Kilmarnock.

Gordon Strachan believes Celtic's January signings can spark league and cup glory after watching Greek striker Georgios Samaras score on his debut in the 5-1 Scottish Cup victory at Kilmarnock.

The Celtic manager signed five new players in the transfer window but only Samaras took to the field for Saturday's emphatic win.

German Andreas Hinkel, Ben Hutchinson, Barry Robson and Japanese midfielder Koki Mizuno were the other new recruits and Strachan is hoping they can give the rest of his squad the stimulus to go on and win the double.

He said: "At this stage of the season most managers are looking for some fresh impetus. It's a hard slog to get to this position where you are still challenging in the championship and in the cup and the players round about you need a gee-up."

"When new players come in they can give everyone that fresh stimulus and we've already seen that in training which has been handy."

Strachan was delighted with the performance of Samaras, who has signed on a loan deal from Manchester City, and he believes his one million pound signing from Dundee United, Barry Robson, will be keen to enjoy a similarly successful debut.

The Celtic boss said: "Samaras did well against Kilmarnock and I think Barry Robson will be hoping to make a similar impact."

"I'm really pleased with Samaras. It's not easy for a big player to come in when they've not been playing many games. He's only played seven matches this year and bigger guys need a bit longer to get into their stride."

"But he brings us something different and offers us another dimension and he can be pleased with his performance today."

On Saturday, Celtic had opened the scoring in the 22nd minute when Australian striker Scott McDonald met a low cross from 19-year-old right-back Paul Caddis and smashed the ball into the roof of the net from close range.

They doubled their advantage in the 52nd minute when Italian midfielder Massimo Donati flicked on Japanese playmaker Shunsuke Nakamura's corner for Gary Caldwell to bullet a header home.

And in the 58th minute Celtic confirmed their place in the last eight when Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink was sent in on goal by Aiden McGeady and rifled a left-foot shot into the back of the net.

Killie pulled one back in the 66th minute though a Jamie Hamill header but a minute later McDonald completed his brace, turning Vennegoor of Hesselink's cut-back into the empty net.

Samaras applied the icing on the cake for Celtic in the 85th minute with a top class finish when he cut in from the right touchline, beat defender Simon Ford and curled the ball into the far corner of the net.

Strachan paid tribute to the performance of Caddis.

He said: "Paul is not the tallest and that's probably held him back but we feel he knows more about the game now and he can compensate with that knowledge."

"He was excellent today, his link-up play with Nakamura and his crossing was fantastic."

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