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.
FIRST BLOOD RANGERS AS CONNOR STRIKES GOLD IN OLD FIRM DERBY
It is first blood to Rangers in this Scottish Premiership title race!
Steven Gerrard’s men picked up a 2-0 win at Celtic Park on Saturday lunchtime against their bitter rivals in the first Old Firm derby to open up a four point lead at the top of the table. It also gave Rangers back-to-back league victories at Parkhead for the first time since the 1990s. Quite astonishing that statistic in itself.
Connor Goldson (pictured) will get the headlines for his brace in the match and rightfully so. His first goal was an excellent flicked header from a free kick before reacting quickest to his own blocked effort to poke home from close range for his second. Furthermore, he, along with his Rangers teammates, never gave Celtic a chance to settle into the game. They were composed, structured and disciplined throughout, restricting the Champions to few chances in what was a professional performance. I thought Glen Kamara was outstanding as well on Saturday but in truth, the whole Rangers team were well on top of an insipid Celtic outfit from start to finish.
What was really evident at the end of the game though was how muted Gerrard and his players celebrations were at the full time whistle. They realise it is still early in the season, they realise they can still improve as a team and they realise there will be plenty of twists and turns yet in this unusual of seasons. It seems to me they are maturing as a team and as individuals but are keeping their feet on the ground.
Nevertheless, this result and performance yesterday, psychologically, gives Rangers a huge shot in the arm in their quest to stop Celtic winning 10 league titles in a row.
DEVOID CELTIC LACK IDEAS AND IMAGINATION IN MEAGRE DEFEAT
I have never, in all my time watching an Old Firm game, seen a Celtic side so woefully inept in a home match against their bitter rivals.
It was a quite awful performance from Neil Lennon’s side yesterday as they whimpered to a defeat against Rangers without laying a glove on them. Yes, it was a frustrating build-up to the game for Lennon’s troops with the loss of key players such as Odsonne Edouard, Ryan Christie, Christopher Jullien and James Forrest due to injury and corona-virus related issues.
However, I do not think for one second this should be used as any form of excuse for such a terrible showing. The team that Neil Lennon put out, which included youngster Stephen Welsh (pictured), were good enough on paper to see off Rangers on Saturday. The fact of the matter was Celtic were, as Tom English correctly labels, “weak” and “indecisive”. Ally McCoist was bang on in commentary as well: Rangers were more up for the fight than Celtic were. Indeed, Celtic never mustered a single shot on target in the game on Saturday and Allan McGregor in the Rangers goal could have had his deck chair out. I’d imagine you will have to go a long way back in the statistical record books to see the last time that happened, if at all.
Even when Celtic did get in behind the Rangers backline, it was all very laboured from the Champions. Mohammed Elyounoussi fluffed his big chance to equalise. Patryk Klimala was well off the pace and non-existent. Scott Brown was silenced in driving the team forward as Steven Davis and Scott Arfield did a number on him. Callum McGregor offered little throughout and Olivier Ntcham contributed even less. Even experienced players like Shayne Duffy lost the plot at times in what was a fascinating battle with Alfredo Morelos. Yesterday was as bad as it gets for Celtic and there is no doubt that Lennon will demand a reaction quickly ahead of some big games against AC Milan in midweek and Aberdeen next Sunday.
Make no mistake about it, Celtic are now in a title race and they need to show a bit of fight to hold off this charge from their bitter Glasgow rivals. On the evidence of yesterday’s showing, they will find it extremely difficult to stop them.
SAINTS RESURGENCE CONTINUES AS STEVIE INSPIRES FIVE STAR ACCIES SUCCESS
After weeks of struggling to score goals, St Johnstone just cannot stop scoring these days, and neither can Stevie May (pictured)!
I’m delighted for the former Aberdeen striker. He has been often criticised for his lack of work rate and goals but after scoring a hat-trick against Brechin City in the BetFred Cup and a double yesterday at Hamilton, it seems like the big striker is finally getting his confidence back. Other goals from the evergreen David Wotherspoon and a brace from the stylish Craig Conway helped St Johnstone to a massive three points and stopped a run of four consecutive league defeats for Callum Davidson’s side.
I don’t think the Perth Saints have been playing that badly despite their poor form up until Saturday’s victory. They were not getting the breaks, struggled to finish off the chances that they were creating and always seemed to be coming out the wrong end of some tight encounters. They certainly should have got something in their home matches against Celtic and Hibernian in particular.
Hopefully this win will kick start their league season and they’ll start powering up the table.
DEFENSIVE FRAILITIES ON SHOW AT HAMILTON
21 goals conceded in just 10 league matches for Hamilton does not make for good reading.
In fact, Hamilton have conceded three or more goals in three of their last four matches against Hibernian, Annan Athletic in the League Cup and St Johnstone respectively.
Every time I’ve watched Accies this season they have been exciting to watch going forward with Ross Callachan and Ronan Hughes (pictured), who scored a double on Saturday, looking energetic.
However, football is also a game of being solid at the back and at present, Hamilton’s defence is anything but that. They are indecisive and look like conceding every time a team attacks them right now.
There is no doubt Brian Rice will be demanding improvement and his side face a huge six pointer next weekend as they travel to fellow strugglers St Mirren as well as a trip to Pittodrie in midweek to play that re-arranged game against Aberdeen.
Even at this early stage, you feel whoever loses that match in Paisley could be in real trouble at the bottom of the league.
MIDFIELD MIX ON DISPLAY AGAIN AS KILLIE SECURE HAT-TRICK OF LEAGUE WINS AFTER COVID NIGHTMARE
It was great to see Kilmarnock back in Scottish Premiership action after their COVID nightmare a couple of weeks ago which saw their game postponed and the whole team had to go into isolation after positive cases were found at the club.
It is to Alex Dyer and the players credit that they came out fighting at the Tony Macaroni Stadium and picked up the three points against Livingston on Saturday especially after limited training during the week. What made this win even better was the fact that Killie had to come from a goal down in this game.
I’ve waxed lyrically on here about Kilmarnock’s midfield a few times so far this season but I am going to do it again. Chris Burke is continuing his fine vein of form and Aaron Tshibola and Greg Kilite are beginning to add goals to their game. The balance in that midfield is the perfect mix for Kilmarnock at the moment. They are flourishing and getting the desired results.
Dyer’s men will hope their fine form continues and their next game is set up superbly now as they host Hibernian next Saturday at Rugby Park.
If they were to pick up all three points, then we have to start talking about Killie as being in the shake-up for Europe come the end of the season.
A BAD AFTERNOON FOR MCCRORIE
Things started so well for Livingston on Saturday as Scott Pittman opened the scoring for the Lions. They were arguably well on top for much of the first half and had their spells in the second half as well.
However, goals change games and once Tshibola equalised for Kilmarnock, it seemed like the house of cards came tumbling down for Gary Holt’s side. They made costly mistakes which resulted in them losing cheap goals. The first one, in my view, is a bad mistake by goalkeeper Robbie McCrorie. The penalty for me is never a penalty but the Livingston goalscorer gave the referee a decision to make. The third one though is the worst of the lot. It was a real howler for McCrorie as he fumbled a cross which allowed Kiltie to wrap up the game.
It was a tough afternoon for the Livingston goalkeeper but he’s young and I expect him to bounce back soon.
STALEMATE IN FRUSTRATING NEW FIRM DERBY
The New Firm derby finished goalless between Dundee United and Aberdeen and it was a frustrating affair all round for both teams.
Micky Mellon’s side were outclassed for much of the game and were lucky not to be breached on more than one occasion. They were passive and had goalkeeper Benjamin Siegrist to thank for getting them a point on Saturday with a string of great saves.
For Aberdeen, it was another game of missed opportunities. They passed up chance after chance on Saturday as they failed to get the better of a stubborn United defence. Derek McInnes was also massively disappointed at how his side did not get at least one penalty in this game. The one on Lawrence Shankland (pictured) is a clear hand ball but referee Alan Muir somehow missed it. If he sees it, it has to be a red card as well as I’m sure the ball is going in and Siegrist isn’t getting there.
Dundee United face Ross County and St Johnstone whilst Aberdeen face Hamilton and then a double header against Celtic in League and Cup in the next few matches.
Both sides need to rediscover their goal scoring touch as October builds up to being an interesting month for both.
DEBUTANT DOOHAN FRUSTRATES HIBERNIAN IN DINGWALL
It’s very rare to see Ross County keep a clean sheet at home!
Stuart Kettlewell’s men battled hard to a point against flying Hibernian despite playing part of the second half with ten men following the red card to Connor Randall. Part of their excellent display was down to the performance of County debutant goalkeeper Ross Doohan who, like Siegrist for Dundee United, made a string of fine stops to prevent Martin Boyle and Kevin Nisbet scoring for the Hibees.
Hibs should have won this game at a canter but, similarly to Aberdeen, a lack of ruthlessness and quality finishing cost them dear. Jack Ross will be deep down frustrated that his side did not pick up the win after a dominant display which also say Kyle Magennis hit the post on his first league start. Credit must go to Doohan on one hand but results like this long term could prove costly if Hibernian want to compete for European football or domestic success this season.
A GREAT WEEK FOR SCOTLAND ON ALL FRONTS…
I don’t know about people reading this but I am so excited about the Scotland National Team again.
Three games in six days all produced positive outcomes in more ways than one for Steve Clarke. For me though, the momentum started by securing that one off play off final against Serbia to come in November. After a scrappy, nervy and uninspiring 0-0 draw against Israel, a combination of David Marhsall’s stunning penalty save from Israel’s Zahavi and good spot kicks from John McGinn, Callum McGregor, Scott McTominay, Lawrence Shankland and Kenny McLean did the business in the end.
Heading into the two Nations League games, there seemed to be a growing in confidence with the side and the performances of Lyndon Dykes and Ryan Fraser were also fantastic as well. Both were inspirational in the 1-0 wins over Slovakia and Czech Republic in particular.
You can sense a togetherness with the National side for the first time in ages (pictured). A togetherness I haven’t seen since the days of Walter Smith and Alex McLeish back in the 2000’s. I’d argue more so than the days under Gordon Strachan even though we maybe are not playing the most exciting brand of football.
Is this going to be our time to make a major finals? I think we are still underdogs going to Serbia but can we upset the odds? With Clarke at the helm and this new formed unity, we have a chance.
…MOMENTUM TO CONTINUE?
Scottish football is in a good place right now on many levels with lower league action in the Championship, League One and League Two back in action along with the Lowland League also well into their season. Indeed, the Highland League Cup semi finals are also taking place this weekend too as is the return of the Scottish Women’s Football Leagues as well. It does feel like football is coming back for many, albeit at a low scale and still without fans at present but at least it is a start.
We saw a terrific game on Friday between Hearts and Dundee which finished 6-2. Robbie Neilson’s side were superb in that game with five different goalscorers. Dundee had their moments too and Charlie Adam scored the pick of the goals with an excellent finish. I’m looking forward to seeing how the lower leagues in Scotland fare long and short term. It’s good it is back!
As for Celtic and Rangers, they are in Europa League action (pictured) in midweek. Celtic face a tough task at home to AC Milan while Rangers travel to Belgium to face Standard Liege.
Let’s hope both can get off to a winning start and keep this feel good factor in footballing circles for Scottish football going.