Welcome to the first installment of The SPFL Premiership Review; a re-imagination of ‘The Scottish Football Review of the Week’ by Dr Grant Campbell. Now written by myself, Ciaran Foreman, as I take you through all of the weekly talking points in the weird and utterly wonderful world of Scottish Football.
It’s hard to know exactly what game-week to call this when only 40% of the Premiership’s teams have played the league high of 26 games due to Coronavirus postponements. But regardless of what week it might be, there’s always plenty to talk about in Scottish Football.
So, let’s get right into it:
Goodwin’s Saints Outclass Sorry Celts
Coming into the game fresh from an emphatic 5-1 victory over Dundee United at Tannadice last Wednesday, Jim Goodwin will be only too proud that his St Mirren side managed to claim another victory, this time at Celtic Park.
The Buddies, who were recently knocked out of the Betfred Cup Semi-Final by Livingston, sit 6th in the league with two games in hand on the aforementioned Livi who occupy 5th place. Their victory on Saturday is astonishingly their first win at Celtic Park since April 1990, another unwanted record to add to the ever-growing list for Neil Lennon’s side.
St Mirren took the lead through an 18th minute Kristian Dennis strike which Scott Bain could only get a slight touch to. Odsonne Edouard then levelled the terms with a neat finish from an acute angle just after the half hour mark. Having brought the score to 1-1, most would have expected the Celts to take the game to St Mirren and impose their mark, however İlkay Durmuş had other ideas. Just 5 minutes after Edouard had scored, Durmuş got the better of a completely unaware Shane Duffy after a looping ball confused the Irishman, and the winger made no mistake, finishing it through the legs of Bain.
That would be the winning goal in a historic afternoon for The Buddies, as the home side largely failed to trouble Jak Alnwick until a late Shane Duffy header nearly saw Celtic grab what would have been an undeserved point. However, St Mirren managed the game well, and were very good value for their victory.
The loss leaves Celtic still 23 points behind Rangers, and even with two games in hand, the title race looks to be a foregone conclusion.
Dyer Straits For Killie As St Johnstone March On
It’s now 7 games unbeaten for St Johnstone as they claimed another victory, resulting in Alex Dyer leaving his position as Kilmarnock boss by mutual consent.
A week on from their Betfred Cup Semi-Final triump over Hibernian, Callum Davidson’s men came back from 2-0 down to win the game 3-2 in an excellent second half for the Perth side after Davidson asked his players to “be brave”.
Chris Burke gave Kilmarnock an early lead with driven finish across goal after tricking a number of St Johnstone players in a crowded box. Aaron Tshibola then doubled the lead after pouncing on a Nicolas Kabamba strike which Jamie McCart failed to intercept, sending Zander Clark the wrong way with a powerful finish in the six-yard box.
St Johnstone may have felt aggrieved having gone into the second half two goals down despite a promising showing, but the visitors responded magnificently as they came out ready to put Kilmarnock under even more pressure. They were rewarded for their efforts in the 53rd minute when Chris Kane flicked on a low cross into the path of Guy Melamed, who made no mistake. Instead of celebrating the finish, Melamed ran straight to pick up the ball – a signal of intent that St Johnstone were ready to come back.
Murray Davidson levelled the game in the 68th minute when Kilmarnock failed to deal with an in-swinging free-kick which Davidson managed to scramble over the line. The Saints weren’t quite finished yet though, as they completed their excellent comeback with an Ali McCann strike from outside the box.
The only other big chance in the game was a late Nicolas Kabamba effort, when he was found unmarked in the box before skying a shot over the bar, as Alex Dyer watched what would be his final minutes as Kilmarnock Manager.
Trouble in Tannadice
Jack Ross would have been a very happy man when the final whistle sounded on Saturday afternoon as his Hibs side managed to pick up an important three points over Dundee United, adding another loss to the latter’s recent struggles.
Dundee United are without a win now in 7 games, and The Tangerines have found themselves slowly slipping down the table with only 6 wins in the league so far. Hibs on the other hand, have came under recent scrutiny following a poor run of results, and a second consecutive Semi-Final elimination in cup competitions.
Jackson Irvine was the standout player for Hibs, as the 27 year-old put in an excellent performance having signed earlier in January, and the Australian will have been delighted to grab two assists to help his side at the weekend.
It would be The Hibees that opened the scoring in the 21st minute when Darren McGregor rifled home a cracking effort from inside the box, following a scramble from a Hibs corner. Chances were few and far between in the remaining 24 minutes of the first half, with both sides failing to trouble either goalkeeper.
Dundee United came very close to equalising in the second half when Lawrence Shankland’s deflected effort forced Ofir Marciano into a very good save with his feet.
That would be telling of United’s afternoon, having been in control of possession for most of the game, Hibs broke at speed in the 69th minute, with Jackson Irvine playing an inch-perfect pass to Martin Boyle, who shifted his body and placed the ball into the bottom right corner.
To add insult to injury, Dundee United may feel very hard done by following an incident within the box which saw the ball strike Josh Doig’s arm, with many United players screaming for a penalty.
The victory for The Hibees keeps them comfortable in 4th place, just one point behind 3rd place Aberdeen who have a game in hand.
Thirteen Unbeaten for Livi Despite Stalemate
The fairy-tale continues for Livingston as they manage to extend their incredible run with a draw on Saturday against Aberdeen.
Since David Martindale’s appointment, Livi have won an incredible 10 out of 13 games, drawing two against Celtic and now one against Aberdeen. On the other hand, the draw means it’s now just one win in six games for Derek McInnes’ side, with Saturday’s outcome being their second 0-0 result on the bounce.
With just two minutes on the clock, Livingston defender Efe Ambrose tried the spectacular with an overhead kick which was never troubling Joe Lewis. However, his optimism has to be admired.
Livingston had the ball in the back of the net when Julien Serrano beat Joe Lewis at his near post, but the Frenchman had just timed his run a little too late, with the linesman flagging for offside.
Connor McLennan, who came in for the departing Sam Cosgrove, came agonisingly close to scoring when his glancing header hit the underside of the crossbar. Aberdeen continued to pile on the pressure, but failed to make their chances pay as Jonny Hayes blasted an attempt way off-mark.
Joe Lewis spectacularly kept Scott Pittman’s effort out of the goal at the other side of the park, clattering himself against the post in the process. There could have been a barrel of goals in the first half.
Ross McCrorie had the first chance of the second forty-five, but he failed to beat Max Stryjek in a one-on-one in what was a very frustrating afternoon for The Dons.
Aberdeen undoubtedly had the best chances of the game but their lack of clinicality cost them at a very difficult venue for most sides. With Sam Cosgrove joining Birmingham for a fee of £2million and Scott Wright set to join Rangers in the summer – unless Rangers manage a deadline day deal – Aberdeen may have to bring in an attacker to solve their goal scoring issues.
Look ahead to upcoming fixtures
Tuesday, 2nd February 2021:
(6th) St Mirren vs Hibernian (4th) – 6.00pm K.O
(3rd) Aberdeen vs Livingston (5th) – 6.00pm K.O
(9th) Kilmarnock vs Celtic (2nd) – 7.45pm K.O
Wednesday, 3rd February 2021:
(12th) Hamilton vs Ross County (11th) – 6.00pm K.O
(10th) Motherwell vs Dundee United (7th) – 6.00pm K.O
(1st) Rangers vs St Johnstone (8th) – 7.45pm K.O