Welcome to the latest installment of The SPFL Premiership Review. Written by myself, Ciaran Foreman, I’ll take you through all of the weekly talking points in the weird and utterly wonderful world of Scottish Football.
Writers Predictions vs Scorelines
|St Mirren vs Livingston||1-1||1-1|
|Hibernian vs Hamilton||2-1||2-0|
|Motherwell vs St Johnstone||0-2||0-3|
|Aberdeen vs Kilmarnock||1-1||1-0|
|Rangers vs Dundee United||3-1||4-1|
|Ross County vs Celtic||0-3||1-0|
Player of the Week
Martin Boyle is the Player of the Week on this edition of The SPFL Premiership Review.
A constant driving force in Hibs’ victory over Hamilton, scoring an excellent goal in the process.
Points Shared in Paisley
There was nothing to separate St Mirren and Livingston, as both top-six sides shared the points on a dull afternoon in Paisley.
For the hosts, it’s now three draws in a row which means that with one game in hand on Dundee United in 7th place, they are now only secure in the top-six by one point. However, St Mirren will be pleased that three out of their next four games (before the split) are against bottom-six sides.
For Livingston, the draw has extended their win-less spell to three games – a run which David Martindale would rather have avoided as his Livingston team head into the Betfred Cup Final this weekend.
Livingston opened the scoring with an early goal when St Mirren defender Conor McCarthy was on the end of an unfortunate own goal. Craig Sibbald whipped in a dangerous in-swinging free-kick, Richard Tait tried to clear it, but headed it straight onto the shin of his defensive partner to make it 1-0 Livingston.
St Mirren looked the more dangerous of the teams throughout this game and began to put immediate pressure on their opponents after going a goal down. Midfielder Cameron MacPherson had a long-distance strike parried by Robby McCrorie before Livingston had a shot from a similar distance saved – this would be David Martindale’s side’s only shot on target.
The hosts levelled things in the 32nd minute, and it would be that man Cameron MacPherson with another incredible effort, this time hitting the back of the net. Taking a Jon Obika pass into his stride, the midfielder found himself with plenty of time before rifling a shot into the top left corner.
In the second half, St Mirren would have the better of the chances, but there was nothing clear-cut. The hosts failed to trouble Robby McCrorie beyond a few deflected efforts and their counterparts only found themselves with the slightest of opportunities when Josh Mullin shot straight at Jak Alnwick. All things considered, a draw seemed to be a fair reflection on this one.
Hibs Dispatch Ten Men Hamilton
Hibernian made it four wins in a row on Saturday afternoon when they took the wind out of Hamilton’s sails with a 2-0 victory at Easter Road.
The win for Hibs gives them an 8 point margin in 3rd place, above Aberdeen who have a game in hand on them. However, with the split approaching, it seems to be Hibs’ position to lose.
Their opponents Hamilton return to the foot of the table following Sunday’s results, but have a game in hand on Kilmarnock who sit above them in 11th place.
Hamilton began as the livelier of the two sides – an Ofir Marciano save denied Scott McMann before the woodwork then repaid the favour just moments later when Marios Ogkmpoe struck after collecting a fumbling of Hibs possession.
However, the away side’s intensity would completely disappear in the 12th minute when defender Jamie Hamilton was shown a red card for a heavy tackle on Martin Boyle.
The shift in momentum would completely change from that moment, Boyle would go on to score just one minute later with an excellent curled finish from outside the box to send Hibs 1-0 up, and the home side would begin to pile on the pressure.
Hamilton found themselves holding on, with aerial bombardments coming from Hibs corners, one of which resulted in a Hibs penalty when Christian Doidge went down in the box.
Boyle, who scored the first, would have his penalty saved by Ryan Fulton before teeing up Chris Cadden in the Hamilton box yet again, with the midfielder blasting wide.
Hamilton found themselves somehow only 1-0 down going into the second half, but yet again would find themselves up against it in the second half. Ryan Fulton was yet again called into action to deny Hibs some glorious opportunities, but he couldn’t stop them from eventually getting their second.
Josh Doig met a deflected looping cross at the back post, and nodded into the roof of the net to keep the three points firmly at Easter Road.
Fir Park Misery Continues as Saints Sink Steelmen
Motherwell failed to bounce back from their 4-1 humiliation against Hamilton Accies with another defeat on Saturday, this time to St Johnstone who ran out 3-0 winners.
The loss for the hosts makes it three defeats in their last four league games, and growing concerns amongst fans as Graham Alexander’s side slip down to 9th in the table – just four points above the relegation zone.
For St Johnstone, the win takes them closer to the top-six as they now stand just two points behind St Mirren who currently sit in 6th place and have a game in hand. It was a perfect victory for Callum Davidson’s side as they prepare for their Betfred Cup Final against Livingston.
There were calls for an early penalty in this game when a Liam Craig appeared to bounce ever so slightly off Motherwell defender Jake Carroll’s arm, however, the referee deemed there not be enough in it.
St Johnstone would not need to rely on that decision however, as they would go on to take the lead spectacularly through an excellent Guy Melamed goal. The Israeli would receive the ball on the edge of the box, shift it onto his left foot before curling from distance into the top left corner of Liam Kelly’s goal.
The away side would go on to dominate from there, with Motherwell’s only chance coming through a long-range Liam Polworth effort – Motherwell’s only shot of the game.
Ali McCann would squander a golden opportunity for St Johnstone, and they would hit the bar twice before adding their second. Liam Craig’s initial shot rocketed off the bar before Chris Kane nodded the rebound on to Shaun Rooney, who also hit the woodwork in front of an open goal. But St Johnstone would be rewarded for their efforts when Motherwell’s failed clearance from that attack fell to the feet of Jason Kerr, who fired into the back of the net.
Despite coming into the half 2-0 up, St Johnstone showed no signs of slowing down. In the 50th minute, St Johnstone were awarded a penalty after a clumsy Liam Polworth tackle, and Guy Melamed would get his second of the game, effectively killing the tie as a contest.
Aberdeen Score a Goal…and win!
Derek McInnes’ Aberdeen side walked away with the three points on Saturday, picking up an all-important 1-0 victory over a Kilmarnock side who are yet to pick up a solitary point under Tommy Wright.
With Livingston failing to pick up a victory, the win for Aberdeen extends their gap in a European place to 8 points with Livingston having a game in hand. It was a very important victory for Aberdeen, as they aim to put that run of six goal-less, win-less games behind them.
For Kilmarnock, it’s more misery as they racked up an astonishing eighth loss in a row, with the last four of those coming under Tommy Wright’s leadership since his appointment. They now sit in 11th place, level on points with Hamilton at the foot of the table, and need to start putting some points on the table immediately if they are to stay in the division.
Aberdeen came out the blocks immediately in this one – Lewis Ferguson almost opened the scoring but Colin Doyle was there to deny the midfielder. Kilmarnock then had a good chance of their own, when Gary Dicker found himself free at the back-post, but couldn’t get the required contact on it to trouble Joe Lewis.
It was a very open affair in the first-half, with loanee Fraser Hornby curling an effort from distance just wide of the post, seeming to injure himself in the process as he had to come off just minutes later.
Aberdeen seemed to be creating the better of the chances, and would be rewarded for doing so in the 21st minute. Niall McGinn whipped in a very appealing free-kick in a dangerous area, and the Kilmarnock defence made it all too easy for Aberdeen. Two unmarked players at the back-post had the choice to freely go for the ball, and it would be the substitute Callum Hendry that would nod it home for Aberdeen to put them 1-0 up.
Aberdeen would go in at half-time with their lead, but it would be Kilmarnock who would respond to try and force some pressure on Derek McInnes’ side.
Nicke Kabamba could have got his side two goals early in the second half. Firstly, failing to connect with a cross that would only have been better if Youssuf Mulumbu placed the ball on his head himself, and secondly when he opted to take a chance himself in a two-on-one opportunity which he spectacularly almost put out for a throw in. Mitchell Pinnock was not pleased.
Pinnock would have a shot of his own denied by Joe Lewis, before Aberdeen went up the other end and Ross McCrorie rattled the crossbar. An Aberdeen victory was a fair reflection on this game, Kilmarnock’s wasteful finishing and poor marking cost them – two basics of football.
Rampant Rangers Show No Signs of Slowing Down
Following their crazy 4-3 victory against Antwerp on Thursday night, Rangers made it eight goals in two games with a 4-1 victory over Dundee United at Ibrox.
Following Sunday evening’s Celtic result, the win for Rangers extends their gap to 18 points with just eight games to go, meaning that Steven Gerrard’s side simply require seven points to mathematically secure the title.
For Dundee United, the loss has put an end to their two-game winning streak where they picked up clean sheets in both. It also meant that they failed to re-enter the top six, but are keeping themselves within touching distance behind St Mirren.
United almost opened the scoring in the early stages of the game, when a nice move saw Lawrence Shankland break free in the box, but Allan McGregor managed to stop the striker with a good save. The visitors kept piling the pressure and looked to be up for the battle in the early stages of the game, but it wasn’t long until the momentum shifted in Rangers’ direction.
Benjamin Siegrist was forced into an excellent save when Joe Aribo’s strike from distance look destined for the bottom corner. But the Swiss keeper couldn’t keep the ball out of his net for much longer. Aribo, yet again, had a shot that looked to be heading for another Siegrist save, but Ianis Hagi managed to get himself in-front of it, and poked the ball beyond the keeper to put Rangers 1-0 up.
The floodgates had truly opened, and Rangers added a second in the 38th minute through Ryan Kent. A Borna Barisic cross was nodded down to the feet of the English winger, and a deflection helped its way beyond Siegrist, who was yet again wrong-footed.
Alfredo Morelos would nearly make it 3-0 on the cusp of half-time, but the ball was blocked off the line. The referee would blow his whistle with Rangers holding a 2-0 advantage heading into the second half.
Joe Aribo made sure that any chance of a Dundee United comeback ended in the 48th minute when he scored a spectacular goal with his left foot, his shot bursting into the net to give Rangers a 3-0 lead.
It was truly a day to forget for Siegrist. In the 64th minute, what should have been a routine clearance for the keeper ended up with an Alfredo Morelos goal. Morelos pressed a backpass from the United defence, and instead of getting rid of the ball, Siegrist’s kick bounced straight off the Colombian and straight into the goal as his side went 4-0 down.
Despite scoring two penalties against Antwerp, Borna Barišić was denied from 12-yards before Marc McNulty got United a consolation goal, with the game ending at 4-1.
Huge Victory For Staggies as Celtic Fall Further Behind
With an incredible 1-0 victory over Celtic on Sunday evening, Ross County moved off the foot of the table in what may be a crucial three points for John Hughes’ side.
The hosts now sit two points above Kilmarnock and Hamilton below them, and with a game in hand, the odds seem to be in Ross County’s favour at this stage of the season to stay up.
For their opponents, however, it is yet another disastrous result for Neil Lennon and his players who were expected to win the league. Now 18 points behind Rangers, another disaster is only three games away as Rangers only need a point at Celtic Park on the 21st of March (if Rangers win their next two games), officially ‘stopping the ten’ in their own back garden.
Celtic nearly opened the scoring early in the first half, when Ryan Christie pounced on some slow Ross County defensive play, before drilling a cross low which Odsonne Edouard failed to get the required touch on.
County would then hit back, with Scott Bain denying Blair Spittal from outside the box, and the resulting corner going close.
Celtic would yet again have another glaring opportunity, Edouard broke free inside the box, cut the ball back to Ryan Christie, who then quite incredibly blazed his shot not only over the bar, but outside the stadium, from inside the six-yard box.
In the second-half, Christie had more chances to make amends for his mistake, but failed to take those too. Firstly, missing a header at the back post, before hitting a shot straight at the goalkeeper.
County would capitalise on Celtic’s poor finishing, when an in-swinging free-kick met the head of Jordan White, who broke free from all Celtic defenders, guiding his header into the top right corner.
Ross Laidlaw made a very good save at the end of the game to deny Mohamed Elyounoussi, but in truth, Ross County deserved their win, and it would have been cruel for Celtic to snatch something at the end of the game.
Look ahead to the upcoming mid-week fixture…
Wednesday, 23rd February
St Mirren (6th) vs (9th) Motherwell – 6pm