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.
RUTHLESS RANGERS CONTINUE WHERE THEY LEFT OFF
Usually when an international break occurs, teams come back and sometimes lose a little bit of sharpness. Rangers though, continued where they left off.
After smashing Hamilton 8-0 at Ibrox before the break, they showed why they are still the team to beat after dismantling third placed Aberdeen 4-0 at home on Sunday. Ryan Kent (pictured) started it all off with a goal via a deflection before further goals from Kemar Roofe, Scott Arfield and James Tavernier secured a hugely convincing win for Steven Gerrard’s side.
Gerrard’s men are blowing teams away right now and it is hard to see anyone stopping the Govan side based on the last few matches. They are controlling games and are clinical when they are getting chances.
It was a difficult afternoon for Aberdeen. They had so many key players like Lewis Ferguson and Jonny Hayes (pictured) and were powerless to stop Rangers cutting through them time and time again like a hot knife through butter. You have to feel for Derek McInnes who had to put out what he had at his disposal. I reckon at least five players who were unavailable would have started the game on Sunday. Would it have made a difference? Unlikely.
Aberdeen are a decent side and are third in the league for a reason but they are miles away from the quality Rangers are right now.
It was another statement of intent from Rangers on Sunday and on this showing, I think Steven Gerrard’s side will take some stopping as they opened up an eleven point lead at the top.
HIBS DEFLATED AS LATE LAXALT LEVELLER EARNS CELTIC POINT
For 79 minutes on Saturday afternoon, Celtic’s ten-in-a-row aspirations were spiralling.
Hibernian had raced into a two goal lead at Easter Road after a quick fire double from Jamie Murphy and Kevin Nisbet to leave the Champions on the canvas. They had been hit with both barrels. It was two sloppy goals they conceded as well; Scott Brown gave away a penalty for a needless challenge which led to Murphy scoring from the rebound to Nisbet’s saved effort before the latter netted via a post to double the Leith teams advantage.
However, Celtic managed to arouse themselves to grab what could be a vital point come the end of the campaign. Frenchman Odsonne Edouard netted a penalty of his own as Neil Lennon’s side showed some much needed urgency before Diego Laxalt, on loan from AC Milan, netted a stoppage time equaliser.
It was a killer blow for Hibernian who had threatened to hand Rangers an even bigger advantage in this title race had they held on for all three points on Saturday. You can tell how Jack Ross felt after the game: frustration but also pride at his players for putting in an excellent display.
Having led 2-0 with 10 minutes or so to go, it will feel like two points dropped for Hibernian. On the other hand, had you offered Ross and his team a draw before kick off, I think he would have taken it. It’s two 2-2 draws that Hibernian have taken at home against the Old Firm which on the face of it, I’m sure many fans would have happily taken. However, I’m sure many will feel it could have been even better.
For Celtic, it is a relief in some senses that they are not further behind in the title race. It was another loose, passive display for much of the game by Lennon’s side. At 2-0 down, they looked beaten again. Right now, they look a side who are the shadow of the team required to go on and create league history in Scotland’s top flight. The weight of expectation and history looks severely heavy on many shoulders.
They were inept defensively yet again with too many people making individual errors. Brown’s (pictured) decision for the Hibernian penalty alone is proof that all is not well at Celtic right now, even with the most experienced of players at the club. The seed of doubt is well and truly planted in the Champions desire to get to the promised land and everything feels a chore at the moment for the Parkhead team.
However, from somewhere, by hooker or by crook, they got themselves something from the game.
Celtic may still long term lose the title to Rangers but the late show on Saturday at Easter Road may yet to prove to be a pivotal turning point come the end of the season.
CLASSY CLARK HELPS TERRORS IN ACCIES TURNAROUND
Nicky Clark is yet again becoming Dundee United’s saviour.
The Tangerines leading marksman added another brace to his collection as Micky Mellon’s side came from behind to take all three points against struggling Accies at Tannadice. It was a frustrating match for much of it by United and after falling behind against the league’s basement side you could be forgiven for thinking it could be another troublesome afternoon for the Terrors. But Clark, as he has so often done this season, came up with the goods and turned the game on it’s head. Two goals in four minutes is some going.
The former Rangers striker is averaging just under a goal a game for Dundee United this season and there is no doubt without his contribution in front of goal that Mellon’s side would have been in bigger trouble.
FIFTH STRAIGHT DEFEAT AS HAMILTON PAY PENALTY AT TANNDICE
Brian Rice’s side are really struggling and it looks a tough ask for them to get out of this rut that they are in.
It’s a fifth straight defeat for Accies in the league but it’s also yet another game where they shot themselves in the foot defensively. They conceded two naive goals to Clark and although he took them well, as a defender and a fan of Hamilton, you have to be disappointed as how easily those goals were gifted to United. They also had a massive chance to grab a point late on but Callachan blazed their moment from the spot well over the bar.
There were some positives for Hamilton in this game. Ross Callachan got on the score sheet and up until Clark’s individual brilliance they were the more disciplined, organised and dangerous side. However, in the end it amounted for nothing and it now leaves Brice’s men really in trouble now as they look cut adrift at the foot of the table.
GUTSY BUDDIES END EIGHT GAME WINLESS RUN
This could be a massive three points in the season for Jim Goodwin’s gutsy Saints (pictured).
In amongst all their COVID related issues, yesterday’s victory at Livingston was St Mirren’s first away win since beating Hamilton back in August, which they won by the same scoreline.
It was not a game that will live long in the memory but it showed that the Buddies just may be beginning to rekindle some of their defensive qualities that are synonymous with Goodwin’s management. Irishman Jake Doyle-Hayes got his first goal for the team too having arrived from Cheltenham in the summer.
It is back to back clean sheets for the Paisley team and four points taken against two sides in Dundee United and Livingston who you would like to think on paper are teams that St Mirren can compete with.
Yes, St Mirren are not the most prolific side in terms of goals but a big plus for them is that they have a manager who plays to his strengths and sets up his teams to be tough to beat.
In the battle at the bottom, picking up crucial points against your rivals in and around you will be absolutely vital.
DISCONNECTED LIVVY DRAGGED INTO DOGFIGHT
Livingston’s season is in danger of imploding.
This defeat at home to St Mirren yesterday was a fifth home defeat for Livingston in the league so far this season and is already one more than they achieved in the whole of last season.
It is also concerning that they are only five points clear at the bottom and have already played more games than both St Mirren and Hamilton below them. Both those sides have now beaten Livingston at the Tony Macaroni Stadium this season as well.
It’s times like these where players such as captain Marvin Bartley (pictured) as well as other senior players up their game and start trying to turn their fortunes around.
They are clearly missing Lyndon Dykes as a focal point up top but it is also clear they are really struggling defensively as well. I don’t know if Holt knows who is the number one keeper at Livingston at present. Robby McCrorie was out yesterday with COVID 19 but his performances this season have been shaky to say the least. Maksymilian Stryjek has looked good when he has been called upon and for me looks the better keeper but I’m not sure Holt is overly sold on the Polish shot-stopper.
I also think there is a mismatch with some of their players in the team. It all seems a bit disconnected to me and this is perfectly illustrated into how poor their home for has been this season so far. Livingston were, for the most part, a well oiled machine on their home patch last season but this campaign has been contrasting to say the least.
There is of course still time for things to change but there is an awful lot of work to do for the West Lothian team if they are going to turn their fortunes around.
STYLISH KABAMBA INSPIRES KILLIE AFTER EARLY FINDLAY RED
If you looked at this scoreline at the end of the day, you’d have thought, fairly comfortable win for Alex Dyer’s side. It was anything but that in a quite sensational game at Rugby Park.
After Stuart Findlay was shown a straight red card after less than ten minutes gone for a professional foul, it looked as though it was going to be a tough afternoon for Dyer’s team. However, Killie, who had come into this off the back of three straight 1-0 losses in the league, responded brilliantly and Eamonn Brophy opened the scoring with a fine finish. Once Ross County equalised though, you thought the Dingwall team would go on to make their numerical advantage count.
However, inspired by focal point Kabamba, they netted from the spot to re-establish their lead before Chris Burke’s late goal added a decisive finish to a superb second half showing from Kilmarnock.
Kabamba is often seen as a battering ram up top for the Ayrshire team but the former Hartlepool striker has shown some excellent touches in the games I have watched him this season. It was the same again yesterday. He adds a bit of style to his game and his relationship with Brophy is growing game on game.
You also have to commend Dyer for not panicking when Findlay was sent off. I’ve seen so many managers restructure their team when they have lost a man early in a game but credit to him. He stuck to his principles and was brave in doing so. It’s clear he trusts his team and they responded well to adversity yesterday very well with a big three points.
NO LEAGUE WIN SINCE SEPTEMBER FOR STRUGGLING STAGGIES
It is fair to say Ross County really are a side in massive trouble. When teams play most of the game with a man advantage you like to think that sometime throughout the game, having the extra man would pay off. On this occasion, it did not and how.
Ross County are in a rut just now and are massively struggling for goals and confidence. The Staggies have not won in the league since September and are continuously making very poor errors and losing cheap goals as a result.
You really wonder where the future lies for Stuart Kettlewell as well (pictured). I’ve seen on social media plenty of unrest for Lennon and Rice but for me Kettlewell is in massive trouble for his future at Ross County. He regarded the result yesterday as the “worst result” he’s had as manager and it would be hard to argue with him.
Things are not likely to get any easier for Ross County either as their next few games are Celtic away in the cup, Rangers at home and Aberdeen away. Realistically, their next winnable game is against Hamilton at home just before Christmas.
It could be a long hard winter for fans and associates of the team from the Highlands.
OFF THE BALL DERBY ENDS IN PREDICTABLE MIDTABLE STALEMATE
Messers Cosgrove and Cowan (pictured) will be pretty content I feel with a share of the spoils between St Johnstone and Motherwell in the Off the Ball derby!
Joking aside, St Johnstone and Motherwell are two very evenly matched sides and so it proved on Saturday in Perth. I said on the the recent SPFL 42 show that this had score draw all over it and for once I was right.
These two sides look set in my opinion to be in the battle to be one of the remaining slots in the top six come the split. You would think Rangers, Celtic, Hibernian and Aberdeen will be the top four sides come the end of the season but in my view there is two spots up for grabs to complete that group.
Both sides endured slow starts to the season but for me have turned the corner. Stevie May (pictured) has found some form for Callum Davidson’s side while Stephen Robinson’s side have found a bit more discipline after a poor opening. Do they have the quality or consistency to get in amongst the sides battling for Europe? Probably not to be honest.
This season in my view is one where Saints and Well fans will be in my view happy to settle for a good cup run and a place in the top six.
DIFFERING EUROPEAN SCENARIOS AWAIT GLASGOW TWO
It’s matchday four in the Europa League (pictured)( in midweek and it poses differing scenarios for both of the Glasgow teams.
Rangers are in pole position in their group with seven points from their first three games but face Benfica again at Ibrox in their reverse fixture. Rangers let a 3-1 lead slip in Portugal so will be keen to make amends and put themselves in pole position to book their place in the next phase of the competition.
For Celtic, it is a totally different scenario. Anything less than a victory in Czechia would mean elimination from the competition at the group stage for Lennon’s side. He will certainly be wanting a response from his tram after they were embarrassed by Sparta Prague 4-1 in Glasgow on match day 3.
BETFRED CUP BUSINESS RECOMMENCES
The BetFred Cup is back in action next weekend and there are eight intriguing games to look out for (pictured).
You would like to think Celtic and Rangers would have little trouble winning their matches against lower league opposition but Ross County and Falkirk I’m sure will be giving it their best efforts in upsetting the form book. There could be a banana skin at at the Tony Macaroni as struggling Livingston host Ayr United who have started well in the Championship. Aberdeen travel to Paisley to play St Mirren while Hibernian and Dundee meet again for the second time in the competition this season and the second time in a fortnight. It’s an all Championship affair at Gayfield as Arbroath host Dunfermline who are top of the Championship in the early stages and Motherwell face St Johnstone face each other for the second time in a week. Hearts also face a potentially tricky away game at Alloa.
At the risk of being too predictable, I think the major players will all get through with little trouble but in the cup anything can happen…and it quite often does!