The Campbell’s Footballs Scottish Football Review of the week
Written by Dr. Grant Campbell – @stato_grant
The host of Campbell’s Footballs Dr. Grant Campbell has been casting his eye over an incident packed week in Scottish Football, giving his comments on some of the major talking points over the weekend’s matches. Feel free to discuss and debate the views on various social media channels.
1. CHAMPIONS WIN BUT DEFENSIVE FRAILTIES STILL A MASSIVE CONCERN
Celtic took advantage of playing first on Saturday afternoon and came out on top by defeating a stubborn Livingston side at Parkhead. The Champions going forward were clinical with their chances with Ryan Christie, Albian Ajeti and Callum McGregor, in particular, starring for the Champions (pictured).
However, the match on Saturday also showed Celtic’s frailties defensively yet again. The Lions took the lead at Celtic Park with a penalty from Jason Holt and had two or three excellent passages of play going forward throughout the first half. They’ll be disappointed with the goals they conceded but in an attacking sense Gary Holt will be happy that his team gave a good account of themselves. Their second goal as well was particularly special, a stunning long range strike by Julien Serrano.
For Neil Lennon and his team it is a good win for the Champions and it has brought them closer to league leaders Rangers but they still have a lot of convincing to do in their quest to deliver the ten in a row.
2. SHANKLAND INFLUENTIAL AS TERRORS GET FIRST HOME LEAGUE WIN OF SEASON
Dundee United are a different beast when Lawrence Shankland is in their team (pictured).
The Scotland internationalist was back in Micky Mellon’s team on Saturday and showed United fans and his manager what they have been missing. Shankland’s sweet strike midway through the first half gave the Terrors the lead against St Mirren before also being involved in Adrian Sporle’s goal to double the Tannadice side’s advantage.
For the Buddies, it was a frustrating afternoon for Jim Goodwin’s side. They passed up a number of excellent opportunities in the first half with Lee Erwin in particular guilty of failing to find the back of the net. His misses were punished and what added insult to injury was the silly sending off of Richard Tait midway through the second half at 2-0 down. Although they got a goal back in the game from Dylan Connolly, you do wonder if Goodwin’s side would have got something had Tait not shown poor discipline.
With United off and running at home this season, it will be intriguing to see if Shankland’s influence can drive the Tangerines further up the Scottish Premiership table.
3. KILLIE SHOW FIGHTING SPIRIT TO DEFEAT ACCIES
What a massive win for Kilmarnock considering how the game unfolded on Saturday.
It was looking like a fairly comfortable afternoon for Alex Dyer’s side after Greg Kiltie smashed them into the lead at Rugby Park. However, things took a nosedive for the home side after Hakeem Odoffin headed in an equaliser for Hamilton and then Eamonn Brophy was sent off for a high challenge on Scott McMann.
To give credit to Dyer’s side though, Killie came out into the second half and played to their strengths. It paid dividends with Nicke Kabamba’s 57th minute winner was enough to get the job done and leave Brian Rice annoyed at not making the one man advantage count (pictured).
Accies did not do nearly enough with the eleven men they had for much of the game. Apart from the goal, they did not ask Danny Rogers nearly enough questions in goal which will have left Rice frustrated, particularly as Accies were going for a hat-trick of away league wins.
For Kilmarnock though, it is a win through adversity for Dyer’s men and they will hope now to pick up some momentum going forward after an indifferent start to the season.
4. CAPTAIN VIGURS SHOWS THE WAY FOR COUNTY
What a superb away win for Ross County.
Last week I was critical of how poor the Staggies were defensively against Celtic but they were excellent on Saturday down at McDiarmid Park. I don’t recall Ross Laidlaw having too many serious saves to make either.
The goal which settled a tough game in Perth was a free kick wide on the right from captain Iain Vigurs which went all the way in. How often have we seen goals (and free kicks in particular) scored from those sorts of positions? Vigurs just played it into an area and the St Johnstone defence just could not deal with it (pictured). Every win for County this season has been 1-0 which shows Stuart Kettlewell’s side have plenty of resolve and character in matches. It also shows that on the whole they have sorted themselves out defensively.
It was the same old feeling for St Johnstone and their supporters. They passed up numerous good opportunities and were wasteful in front of goal when they got into good areas. It is now a third defeat in four for Callum Davidson’s side at home (all of them 1-0 incidentally). They need a striker before the window closes. Stevie May, Michael O’Hallaron and Jack Hendry look like guys who are out of form and need to find their feet quickly otherwise it will be a tough season for the Perth Saints.
5. NASTY HIBS EARN CREDITABLE DRAW
What an enjoyable game Hibernian and Rangers was on Sunday at Easter Road!
Sky Sports was due a good live match and these two did not disappoint. Both teams came into this game in good form and it was Hibernian who started the better of the two sides when Drey Wright opened the scoring minutes after a terrific Jon McLaughlin save from Kevin Nisbet. This was the first time Rangers’ defence had been breached this season domestically and it was what the game needed. I felt if Rangers had scored first they would have gone onto win fairly comfortably. Instead though, we got given the scenario we wanted: to see if Rangers could respond to adversity and come from behind.
They did that right on half time with a great finish from Alfredo Morelos to level things up. The second half saw Scott Arfield (pictured) give the league leaders the lead and it looked like Steven Gerrard’s men, from there, would go onto win the match. Ryan Kent, Alfredo Morelos and Scott Arfield passed up excellent opportunities and they were punished with an equaliser from Christian Doidge.
Hibs had a nastiness to their game on Sunday, something that was missed for much of last season and Andy Walker made this very admirable point post-match. They got stuck in and did not allow Rangers rhythm going forward. Some of the challenges Ryan Porteous, Drey Wright and Paul Hanlon made were borderline but you need to get in the faces of Rangers and Celtic if you are going to take points off either of the Old Firm. If not, they will blow you away with their quality more often than not. Nisbet and Doidge also bullied the Rangers defence for much of the afternoon and for once, a so often well drilled machine defensively wasn’t so clever for a change. Felipe Helander and Borna Barisic all looked shaky. Martin Boyle, with two assists, was also tremendous and a deserved man of the match. Conor Goldson.
It was a good result for Hibernian but undoubtedly it was two points dropped for Rangers, especially if they want to stop their rivals over the other half of Glasgow winning ten in a row. They can have arguments about the refereeing decisions all they want but ultimately their defensive frailties and lack of ruthlessness cost them the victory.
6. MALFUNCTIONED DONS EMBARRASSED BY REVITALISED MOTHERWELL
It was nothing short of a disaster for Aberdeen on Sunday at home to Motherwell.
With both sides back in action after a successful midweek in Europe, it was interesting to see which side would feel the effects of their matches more. You would have thought it would have been the Steelmen after their penalty shootout success over Northern Ireland’s Coleraine rather than Aberdeen after their fairly comfortable win in Norway against Viking. However, it was Derek McInnes’ men who were abject for much of this encounter.
The tone for an awful afternoon was set after Marley Watkins’ handball which led to Mark O’Hara netting from the spot. Things escalated even more after a rare error from Joe Lewis led to Christopher Long adding a second and Bevis Mugabi making it three all before the half hour mark. It was a shocker from the Dons.
When you defend like that, you have no chance of winning any game, whoever you are against. With the likely news of Scott Mckenna parting the Pittodrie club, McInnes must be looking at what options he can use to fill that void. Ash Taylor had a nightmare of a game on Sunday and whilst Tommy Hoban has been excellent this season, it is clear he is not fit for multiple successive matches. I think McInnes will need to go into the transfer market but who he will go for it anyone’s guess. I’d argue he needs reinforcements massively.
For Motherwell, it was their best performance of the season by a distance. They were professional, well-drilled and clinical. They were clearly boosted by that win in midweek and by beating St Johnstone last weekend. For me, it is no surprise to see Stephen Robinson’s side back to their best. They will move up the table now I have no doubt about that. Allan Campbell has had a terrific run of recent form and it seems like they have found their shooting boots in recent matches with Tony Watt, Callum Lang and Christopher Long all scoring in recent matches.
If they can keep up that recent consistency, they will definitely be in the top six which seems remarkable considering they only got their first league win last weekend.
For a malfunctioned Dons, it is back to drawing board.
7. INCENTIVE FOR QUARTET TO REACH EUROPA LEAGUE GROUP STAGES
The Europa League draw on Friday has provided massive incentives for all four Scottish Premiership sides to reach the group stages.
Celtic should see off Riga of Latvia in the third qualifying round and if they do win that they would play either Buducnost Podgorica or Sarajevo. Even though Neil Lennon’s side have been scratchy so far this season, you would back them to get the job done more often than not, whoever they faced.
For Rangers, if they were to see of Willem II of the Netherlands in Holland, they will play Galatasaray of Turkey or Hajduk Split of Croatia at Ibrox. A trickier game for Rangers on paper but I feel if Rangers want to emulate their European run of last season, these are the sort of matches you have to win.
For Aberdeen and Motherwell, the route is a little more challenging still. The Dons travel to Sporting CF of Portugal and if they were to cause a sensational upset against the Portuguese outfit they will be at home to either LASK Linz of Austria or Dunajská Streda of Slovakia. For Motherwell, if they saw off Hapoel Beer Sheva in Israel they will be at home in the playoff round against either SonderjyskE of Denmark or Viktoria Plzen of Czechia. The incentive of home ties for both the Dons and the Steelmen must give the players something to play for. It’ll be tough games to overcome to get to that stage but not impossible. We have seen underdogs beat the favourites a lot of times so far in this Europa League campaign, particular in one off matches.
Let’s hope for the co-efficient all four Scottish Premiership sides can give a good account of themselves and make it through! They will all never get a better opportunity.