Scottish Premiership Roundup Matchday 9: Genetics, fraud and paranoia

Scottish Professional Football-League

 It sounds like the plot for a TV forensic crime drama, but it’s not. In fact, genetics, fraud and paranoia were all in the Scottish football news this week. The Premiership returned from its hiatus after Scotland’s hopes of qualifying for the World Cup in Russia were finally extinguished.

In the wake of the tepid draw in Slovenia that sealed our fate, Gordon Strachan was relieved of his duties as manager. Strachan’s ‘hot take’ on the latest qualifying failure was that Scotland is “behind other nations genetically”. After these comments besmirching the Scottish race, the SFA took the only logical step available to it; appointing Malky “I’m not racist” McKay as interim coach.

Yup, they replaced someone who thinks that we are somehow genetically disadvantaged with someone who apparently thinks the opposite is true. McKay, the current SFA Performance Director, was famously sacked by Cardiff City after private emails containing racist, sexist and homophobic slurs emerged. Backing the SFA’s choice, Lord Ousely, chairman of anti-racism group Kick it Out, said of McKay, “He’s not Harvey Weinstein.” Well, that’s OK then. We really set the bar high in Scotland.

St.Johnstone 0-3 Rangers

St.Johnstone were the opponent at the centre of the Rangers leak stories previously. Paranoid Pedro claimed that Tommy Wright’s men trained later than normal, and only after they had learned the Ibrox side’s line-up ahead of their last encounter. The Ibrox rat continues to get coverage, with Kenny Miller’s agent now getting involved and criticising the club for not coming out with a name. Miller himself remains suspiciously quiet, and was last seen enjoying curry club down the local Wetherspoon’s.

On the pitch, Caixinha was delighted with the performance and result in Perth. His team ran out comfortable winners thanks to a brace from Carlos Peña and a third from Graham Dorrans. The Mexican remains a bit of an enigma, but in a more advanced role than he has previously been seen, he thrived in support of Morelos. The fact is that he now has four goals in eight games – not bad for a flop. He has been judged prematurely and harshly in some quarters, but the Rangers fans are beginning to warm to the ex-Chivas man.

Celtic 1-0 Dundee

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers described his side’s 2-2 draw with Hibs as their best result of the season. That being so the Northern Irishman must have been absolutely cock-a-hoop with three points at home to Dundee.

Of course it’s all about perspective with Celtic. The draw against Hibs was more important than the point it earned, as it kept Celtic’s unbeaten run ticking over. After Dundee it now stands at 59 matches. Rodgers made seven changes with Bayern Munich up next for the Hoops. He would therefore be justified in his satisfaction with the win. It was by no means a classic. Celtic could’ve had more, but stand-in ‘keeper Dorus de Vries made two outstanding saves to give Celtic a slender victory.

Fair play to Dundee boss Neil McCann though. He did what many would be afraid to in coming to Celtic Park set up in a 3-5-2 to have a go at Celtic. His side did have some good chances, most notably through Roarie Deacon and Paul McGowan but lacked quality in the final third. McCann thought his side should have had 73 penalties, but he should know better than to expect to get them in Glasgow’s East End.

Hamilton 1-2 Motherwell

After four consecutive defeats, the international break came at the right time for Hamilton. Motherwell would not have been so pleased with the timing as it interrupted the momentum that they were beginning to build nicely.

Accies must be one of the most unfortunate clubs around. Earlier in the season thousands of pounds worth of damage was caused when vandals set equipment ablaze at their stadium. They have now fallen victim to an elaborate fraud to the tune of up to £900k – potentially fatal for the club with the smallest budget in the league. On the pitch, their injury list reads like Jack Wilshere’s medical records, and there was no respite as they lost this Lanarkshire derby despite taking an early lead.

Martin Canning has worked miracles to keep Accies up in the last two seasons. He must wonder what he has to do to catch a break, but he has no time for feeling sorry for himself. In stark contrast, Motherwell are on the up. New contracts for manager Steven Robinson and several key players, fourth in the league and off to Hampden next weekend for a League Cup semi final. Happy days for the Steelmen, but Accies look to be in dire straits.

Hibs 0-1 Aberdeen

Hibs came within 10 minutes of taking a huge scalp ahead of the international break. They came as close to beating Celtic as anyone has for some time as they grabbed a second-half lead at Parkhead. It’s been a decent enough start for Neil Lennon’s side. A little up and down. A few good performances but a couple of costly defeats.

Aberdeen arrived at Easter Road unbeaten, kicking off a crucial month of fixtures for Hibs. The League Cup semi final gives Hibs another crack at finishing the job against Celtic. Then Hearts come calling in an eagerly anticipated derby. Hibs round off the month with a tricky tie against in-form Motherwell. October will give us a big pointer as to what to expect from Hibs for the rest of the campaign in their first season back in the top flight.

Aberdeen continue to grind out good results despite still not hitting top form. They left Easter Road still unbeaten, and will now enjoy a break as they are not in League Cup action. The Dons suffered a real downturn in results after last season’s semi-final. It could be a blessing in disguise that they don’t have that distraction this term.

Partick Thistle 0-2 Kilmarnock

New Killie boss Steve Clarke watched from the stands as his side got their first win of the season at Firhill. This is an outstanding appointment by the Ayrshire club, and I fully expect them to stabilise and move up the table in the coming weeks and months. Clarke is an experienced operator and it’s a real coup for Kilmarnock and for the SPFL to have a coach of his calibre.

Thistle look to be in real trouble as that all-elusive win continues to be just out of reach. The Jags could perhaps give Hamilton Accies a run for their money in the luck stakes. They would have been looking at this game as a great chance to get off the mark after some horrendous fixtures. But lo and behold, Killie change their manager right before Thistle and the wait for three points goes on.

Ross County 1-2 Hearts

Hearts moved to within a point of capital rivals Hibs with victory in Dingwall. They were forced to hold on though after being reduced to ten men for the final 25 minutes after Connor Randall saw red. Goals from Isma and Jamie Walker proved to be enough to give Craig Levein his second win since taking over.

County pushed hard for a second equaliser but came up short in Owen Coyle’s second match in charge of the Staggies. Davis Keilor-Dunn had hit back almost immediately after Hearts had taken the lead in the first half, but were unable to find a leveler against the ten men. They stay in tenth, and have a big match next weekend against Hamilton, level on points currently.

Hearts are back in Edinburgh after four consecutive away games. They will play the second of three scheduled games at BT Murrayfield against St.Johnstone next Saturday. The Jambos are scheduled to play their first match back at Tynecstle, in front of the newly completed main stand, in November. Ten of Hearts’ next 12 games will be at home after they were displaced during the work in Gorgie. Eight of those ten will be at Tynecastle. Only the matches coming up against St.Johnstone and Rangers will be played at Murrayfield.

Summary

Celtic have bigger fish to fry at the moment with the Champions League and League Cup semi-final coming up. Brendan Rodgers is using the depth of his squad and will be quite happy just to remain unbeaten in the league if possible during a busy spell for the champions. Elsewhere, Aberdeen remain hot on their heels with Rangers chasing them. The big movers are Motherwell who continue their relentless march up the table and now sit fourth. Kilmarnock will look to the experienced Steve Clarke to steady the ship over the coming weeks. Partick Thistle need to find a win, and quickly, while Hamilton rely on cash injections from directors to keep them going after the fraud.

SPFL Premiership League Table

Team P W D L F A GD Points
1 Celtic 9 7 2 0 21 5 16 23
2 Aberdeen 9 7 2 0 16 6 10 23
3 Rangers 9 5 2 2 20 11 9 17
4 Motherwell 9 5 1 3 15 11 4 16
5 St.Johnstone 9 4 2 3 13 14 -1 14
6 Hibs 9 3 4 2 14 13 1 13
7 Hearts 9 3 3 3 9 10 -1 12
8 Dundee 9 2 2 5 10 17 -7 8
9 Hamilton 9 2 1 6 13 19 -6 7
10 Ross County 9 2 1 6 8 16 -8 7
11 Kilmarnock 9 1 3 5 7 13 -6 6
12 Partick Thistle 9 0 3 6 8 18 -10 3

Coming up….

Two huge League Cup semi-finals at Hampden. Hibs face Celtic at lunchtime on Saturday, just three days after facing Bayern Munich in Germany. Brendan Rodgers is upset at having to play such a big match so soon after Champions League commitments. It could be set for an upset, as Celtic have already dropped points domestically twice this season after European outings. The last side to benefit was Hibs themselves, who will be hoping to go one better than the draw they got at Celtic Park recently. In the other semi, red-hot Motherwell take on Rangers on Sunday. Both these ties could be ripe for upsets and we could potentially see a Hibs v Motherwell League Cup Final next month. There are only three Premiership fixtures this weekend as a result. Pick if the bunch is Hearts v St.Johnstone, but the games between Partick Thistle and Dundee, and Ross County and Hamilton are absolutely huge in the context of the bottom six. Aberdeen and Kilmarnock have the weekend off.