Hibs overtake Motherwell as the league’s form team and sneak up to third following their extra match. Bad news for St.Johnstone, who are on a run so cold, it would make brass monkeys wince. Despite that they somehow remain in the top half – for now. More shenanigans at Ibrox, but we’re so used to that now it’s barely even headline news! Just another crazy week in the Scottish Premiership.
Tue. 31st Oct.
Kilmarnock 0 – 3 Hibs
Sat. 28th Oct.
Hearts 1 – 3 Rangers
Aberdeen 2 – 1 Ross County
Celtic 1 – 1 Kilmarnock
Dundee 1 – 3 Hamilton
Motherwell 0 – 1 Hibs
Thistle 1 – 0 St.Johnstone
Hearts saw their biggest home crowd in 40 years as they took on Rangers at Murrayfield. The Ibrox men were smarting after a 1-1 draw with Kilmarnock last midweek was the final straw for Pedro Caixinha. After just 7 months in the job, the Portuguese was relieved of his duties.
Just as I thought Dave King and the Rangers board must have learned lessons from last time it would appear I was wrong. The phantom resignations of Mark Warburton and Davie Weir were shambolic, and the least I hoped from King and co. this time is that they would manage to handle the sacking with some class. But alas, stories have emerged that Caixinha hasn’t yet received any settlement. Rangers claim they have reached a deal. The circus continues.
On the pitch, that paved the way for a return from Kenny Miller, exiled from the first-team squad under Caixinha. Stand-in boss Graeme Murty gave Miller the captain’s armband, and of course he played a starring role in the victory. Where next for Rangers? It looks likely they will turn to Derek McInnes, a move not universally popular amongst the fans, but a safe pair of hands.
Hearts were poor, in truth. They could perhaps have smelled blood, especially after going in front through a Kyle Lafferty 1-in-a-hundred-free kick. It was a beauty from the Northern Irishman, who celebrated against his old side with all the enthusiasm of someone refusing a TUPE transfer of his contract.
Killie, fresh from delivering a stake to Caixinha’s vampire heart, headed across the city to face Celtic on Saturday. New boss Steve Clarke’s very presence at the Partick Thistle game recently was enough to inspire the Rugby Park side to their first win of the season. Killie had already played Celtic twice this season, with an aggregate score of 7-0. A 5-0 win for Celtic in the Betfred Cup was achieved with a second-string Celtic XI so Brendan Rodgers would have felt justified in making wholesale changes to his lineup with Bayern Munich lying in wait.
It almost backfired though when Killie equalised in the second half and went after a winner. The story amongst Celtic fans on Saturday night became about how bad their side had been. Not many seemed in the mood to celebrate the fact that Celtic had just matched their own British record of 62 domestic matches unbeaten. Some folk are never happy! Rodgers side will set a new record by moving one ahead of Willie Maley’s 62, achieved way back in 1915-17, if they avoid defeat at St. Johnstone at the weekend.
Aberdeen bounced back from their thrashing at the hands of Celtic by beating Ross County to move back to within a point of the champions. The reason Aberdeen were beaten so comprehensively by the Hoops is because they weren’t allowed to field any Celtic players against Celtic. The Dons welcomed Celtic’s Ryan Christie, on loan at Pittodrie, back into the lineup and the winger inspired them to the victory. It’s a funny wee league we have, but we love it!
Meanwhile, the Dons have granted Rangers permission to speak to Derek McInnes about the vacant manager’s position at Ibrox. I wouldn’t know if there’s any truth in the rumour that new state-of-the-art sunbeds were installed at Rangers’ training centre ahead of the former Gers midfielder’s visit. But apparently they’re coin-operated and need around £700k to operate for the first time. Smart thinking from the Rangers board, who will reportedly have to fork out around that figure in compensation to Aberdeen for McInnes’ services.
Dundee dropped to the bottom of the table as they fell to a 1-3 loss at home to Hamilton. Neil McCann can have as many fancy ideas as he likes, but when his players are unable to score more goals than they concede, they are going to struggle. Excellent news for Martin Canning’s Hamilton as the welcome three points is what keeps them off the bottom, all the way up in the relative safety of 8th.
A huge match at Fir Park saw high-flying Motherwell take on Hibs. The Steelmen had lost one match in their last ten prior to this one. That form had seen them into a cup final and sitting in 4th. Stephen Robinson’s men were almost a victim of their own success on this occasion, as Hibs tend to raise their game for the big matches. Well’s form and standing has made them a scalp all of a sudden, and Hibs swooped in to follow up their Edinburgh derby win with another impressive three points
The Hibees were in action again midweek as they won comfortably at Rugby Park. Goals from John McGinn, Simon Murray, and Martin Boyle saw Lennon’s side creep up to third in the table. They move on to 22 points, 4 behind Aberdeen in second, one ahead of Rangers in fourth. They have played an extra game, however. They won’t care. That’s three wins in a row for Hibs, something they hadn’t managed since they were relegated under Terry Butcher in season 2013-14.
Hibs welcome Celtic to Easter Road on 10th December. Before then, they have four extremely winnable matches coming up. They could be on the verge of something special if they make a charge into that Celtic game with all the momentum. We could be looking at a top-of-the-table clash by the time it comes round.
Finally to Firhill. One side seems to have arrested a slump in poor form, while the other plummets like a stone. Just like last season, it took Partick Thistle until deep into October to finally kick-start their season. A win against Dundee was their first, but just like buses, another one was along soon after. Alan Archibald’s men are unbeaten in three following a draw against Hamilton Accies and a second win of the season, over St. Johnstone. Thistle’s form was always likely to improve as they got a kinder run of fixtures, and so it has proved.
However, just as they thought they were off the bottom of the table and their outlook was improving, disaster. Coming up, Thistle have trips to Ibrox and Tynecastle before hosting Hibs. The only crumb of comfort is that their fixture at Celtic Park later this month has been postponed due to the Betfred Cup Final.
St. Johnstone are unrecognisable from the side that started the season unbeaten, and were going toe-to-toe with Celtic by the time they took a point from the home of the champions. Tommy Wright’s men have taken just one point from the last fifteen available to them. That’s four defeats and a draw and hints at problems at McDiarmid Park. I had my doubts about Saints pre-season but was made to look silly after their excellent start. They are finding life tough, right now and desperately need to stop the rot.
Hibs are the big winners as three wins in a week propels them up to third. Despite defeat to Celtic, Aberdeen remain on the Hoops’ coat-tails and are poised ready to take advantage if there is any post-European hangover from Brendan Rodgers’ men after an excellent Champions League showing against Bayern Munich.
SPFL Premiership League Table
Saturday sees the final bout of jostling for position before yet another international break. Scotland’s friendly against Holland is about as useful as a Political Correctness course run by Malky Mackay. The SFA’s Performance Director has somehow managed to insert himself into the discussion over the next Scotland manager. I’d like to insert my foot in his a**e to help him on his way out the building, but that’s another matter. The ‘glamour’ friendly against the worst Dutch side in living memory will be played at Pittodrie. On a Tuesday night. In November. Even the SFA realised this was a stretch and are charging about half the price of a Hampden qualifier. 8 uncapped players will join up with Mackay’s squad, and I really hope that’s the last time those two words (Mackay’s squad) go together. I have an awful feeling it won’t be.
See you for more Premiership action in a couple of weeks!