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By ESPN Staff
Jan 20, 2007

SPL wrap: Jan the man as Celtic cruise

GLASGOW, Jan 20 (Reuters) - Celtic surged 20 points clear at the top of the Scottish Premier League after a hat-trick from Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink set up a 5-1 hammering of St Mirren on Saturday.

Celtic have 62 points from 25 matches. Second-placed Rangers play their game in hand at bottom of the table Dunfermline Athletic on Sunday while Hibernian (36), in fifth, travel to Inverness Caledonian Thistle the same day.

Vennegoor of Hesselink headed Celtic's opener after 16 minutes from Japanese midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura's corner before Saints levelled through debutant Stephen McGinn.

Celtic took control in the second half, the Dutch striker making it 2-1 with a penalty and Aiden McGeady converting a cross by Craig Beattie.

Vennegoor of Hesselink then swept a low shot past keeper Chris Smith from another Beattie centre before Kenny Miller made it 5-1 with a close-range effort.

'I didn't think there were that many chances in the game,' Celtic manager Gordon Strachan said. 'But it is our hard work at the beginning when the league was really tight that's paying off.'

Hearts moved up to third on 40 points with a 1-0 home victory over Falkirk thanks to a Roman Bednar goal. The visitors had Darren Barr sent off in the final minute.

Kilmarnock won 1-0 at home to Dundee United with a goal from Peter Leven while Motherwell's game with fourth-placed Aberdeen was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.