SPFL Premiership Round Up

In a brand new, regular feature for BFTGT, Scottish Football Analyst Graeme Ellis takes a sideways look at the weekend’s events as he rounds up the action from the SPFL Premiership.

Matchday 6 – Firhill sets the tone for a weekend of thrills and spills

Friday night football saw Partick Thistle entertain Rangers, appropriately under the floodlights, at the newly named “Energy Check Stadium at Firhill.” This four-goal Glasgow derby was a tasty appetiser for its big brother, the Old Firm derby next weekend. It was also the precursor to a Super Saturday in the Premiership with matchday six serving up no fewer than 22 goals in six top-flight fixtures.

Partick Thistle 2-2 Rangers

The Gers had the chance to go top of the Premiership, temporarily at least, by winning by at least four goals. But this is Rangers we’re talking about. Pedro Caixinha had to first guide his side to three consecutive league wins for the first time. Alfredo Morelos set the visitors on their way with a clinical finish in the 19th minute. The Columbian drilled a right foot shot across Ryan Scully in the Thistle goal. It was ‘El Bufalo’s’ sixth goal in five league games for the Ibrox side. Thistle’s Ryan Edwards was fortunate to stay on the pitch after a nasty over-the-top challenge left Jack writhing in pain. However, the Aussie midfielder inexplicably escaped even a caution. Into the second half and former Rangers kid Blair Spittal equalised for the Jags after his free kick took a wicked deflection off Bruno Alves. Thistle, still searching for their first league win of the season took the lead ten minutes later when Chris Erskine turned the ball home from close range. Erskine was the villain shortly after as he saw red for a wild lunge on Morelos. Thistle put everyone behind the ball to try and see the game out with 23 minutes remaining. Wave after wave of Rangers attacks followed, and stand-in captain Graham Dorrans produced an outstanding equaliser, curling the ball home from 20 yards. In a frantic final 15 minutes, the visitors bombarded Thistle’s goal, but were unable to find a winner. The sides meet again on Tuesday in the Betfred Cup quarter final, before Rangers face Celtic at Ibrox on Saturday, already trailing their bitter rivals by five points.

Aberdeen 1-1 Kilmarnock

Dons ‘keeper Joe Lewis turned in a man of the match performance at Murrayfield last weekend to deny Hearts and extend the Reds’ unbeaten start to the season. Derek McInnes’ side have flattered to deceive so far in terms of performance, but have showed great steel to remain level on points with Celtic going into this game. Kilmarnock travelled to Pittodrie as no-hopers. The Rugby Park side were bottom of the table with a solitary point from their first five matches. They had also lost their last 13 matches with Aberdeen, and were as long as 10/1 outsiders to notch a win. When Stevie May put the Dons in front inside ten minutes, it looked like Lee McCulloch’s men would be in for another long afternoon. However, Aberdeen were unable to build on their lead, and at 1-0, Killie were still in the game. Lewis was again in fine form, but his goal was breached by Jordan Jones early in the second half. Aberdeen slipped two points behind leaders Celtic, but remain unbeaten despite another below-par performance. It was a game full of positives for Killie, and the Ayrshire men will hope to kick on from this morale-boosting point.

Celtic 4-0 Ross County

Celtic couldn’t lay a glove on big-spending PSG as Neymar and co. helped themselves to a handful of goals at Parkhead last midweek. As Brendan Rodgers complained about the gulf in resources between the Champions League’s elite clubs and the rest, many were quick to point out that Celtic were merely getting a taste of their own domestic medicine. The Hoops vindicated their manager’s stance by only managing to put four past the Staggies. As Rodgers had said, having a playing budget of more than fifteen times your opponent’s barely registers at a domestic level. This was never more apparent than when Celtic welcomed back their £20m rated striker Moussa Dembele from injury. The Frenchman scored on his return to the side, adding to a Tom Rogic strike and a brace from James Forrest. Dembele was replaced by on-loan PSG striker Odsonne Edoaurd for the last half hour. That would be like County having a Celtic player on loan. Oh, they do? But Jamie Lindsay wasn’t allowed to play against his parent club, since Celtic were already up against tens of thousands of pounds worth of players. The champions will probably only be able to rest six or seven players for their Betfred Cup quarter final against high-flying Dundee on Wednesday. After all, they are up against the “best squad in Scotland” next Saturday.

Dundee 3-2 St. Johnstone

A five-goal thriller at Dens Park saw Dundee claim their first win of the season, whilst consigning Tommy Wright’s Saints to their first defeat. Having conceded 14 goals in six league matches, Neil McCann’s side may need to get used to having to score three in order to win matches. They are so good though, that at 3-1 up, they decided it just wasn’t fair for St.Johnstone. Captain Darren O’Dea did the decent thing and got himself sent off to give Saints a chance. As well as flashing that red card, referee Alan Muir ruled off a Steven Anderson goal for the visitors and awarded three penalties as he did his level best to keep a low profile. The fourth official also got involved, seemingly siding with Neil McCann as the tricky winger, sorry, Dundee manager became embroiled with Saint Johnstone’s burly goalkeeper, sorry, manager, Tommy Wright and his assistant Graham Gartland. The Saints no.2 was banished to the stand as the officials demanded a fair square go. Dundee move up to ninth in the table, whilst St. Johnstone stop their top-of-the league carry on and get settled in the comfort of their very own fourth position. But you won’t find them boasting.

Hamilton Accies v Hearts

Hearts Director of Football Craig Levein searched high and low for a replacement for work experience kid Ian Cathro. Despite Billy Davies’ availability, Levein opted for the candidate who had impressed him most during the interview process, and appointed…..well, you know the rest. Levein continues to moonlight during the week, putting in double shifts to get Hearts’ new main stand completed. Meanwhile Hearts followed a match played in the unnatural environment of Murrayfield, the home of Scottish rugby, with a match played on the unnatural surface of plastic and rubber pellets at the Superseal Stadium. New Douglas Park, like Firhill has adopted a catchy moniker for commercial reasons. But there is no Super Seal in South Lanarkshire as Accies have missed a trick and have a distinctly un-super, frankly ordinary mascot, Hammy the er, Hamster. On to the football though, and Hearts stormed into a two-goal lead thanks to boyhood fan Ross Callachan on his second appearance for the club and birthday boy Kyle Lafferty. Lafferty is very tall – and musical, apparently. His 30th birthday bash began with a goal and allegedly ended with a jam session on Aaron Hughes’ karaoke machine. Ex-Hearts man David Templeton claimed an assist for Rakish Bingham to pull a goal back after 33 minutes. Nothing else happened for the remainder of the match as everyone got excited for big Laff’s party. The Jambos move to within a point of capital rivals Hibs.

Hibs 2-2 Motherwell

Neil Lennon took a typically calm and measured response to his side squandering a two-goal lead at home to Motherwell. Two Anthony Stokes goals had the Hibees cruising with half an hour remaining. But Louis Moult took exception to another striker claiming the limelight and promptly rescued his side with a double of his own. It would be frightening to think what Motherwell could achieve if only Charles Dunne could stay on the pitch for 90 minutes, or maybe just not concede penalties. Ten-man Motherwell, despite having 11 men on the pitch for the duration, were worthy of a point in the end. Brendan Rodgers accused his Celtic side of playing like under-12s at times in their defeat to PSG. After the match Lennon appeared eager to repair relations with his big team after the Hibs board said no to a new review into something or other. He saw Rodgers under-12s claim and raised him an Under-8s claim of his own. In one fell swoop completely dispelling the notion that the Leith side are in any way the younger cousins of the Parkhead men. Meanwhile, ‘Well are the division’s form team at the moment with 10 points from their last 12, an excellent record matched only by Celtic’s under-12s.

Summary

It’s as you were at the top, but Celtic have daylight between themselves and the rest for the first time this season – an ominous sign. Rangers move up to third despite dropping points at Firhill. That’s thanks to St.Johnstone’s defeat at the hands of Dundee. In-form Motherwell keep their good run going and replace Hibs in fifth. The Hibees hold on to their top six spot, but have Edinburgh rivals Hearts breathing down their necks, just a point behind. Hamilton slip back to eighth after their defeat at the hands of Hearts. However, they remain closer to the top six than to ninth placed Dundee on four points thanks to their first win of the season. Ross County’s draw at home to Thistle keeps them just above the relegation play-off spot in tenth. Thistle move off the bottom, just one goal better off than Killie who prop up the league after half a dozen matches.

SPFL Premiership League Table

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

Coming up….

This midweek sees the Betfred Cup quarter-finals take place. There are two matches on Tuesday – first up is the only non-all-Premiership clash as Hibs take on Championship side Livingston. Rangers return to Firhill for the second time in four days to face Partick Thistle. Celtic are in action on Wednesday at Dens Park to face Dundee. And the identity of all four semi-finalists will be known by Thursday evening after Aberdeen’s match against Motherwell at Fir Park. Only the Hibs v Livi match is not televised with BT Sport providing live coverage of the other three ties.