Which players shone brightest and who had games to forget from the Scottish Cup fourth round?
Osman Sow (Hearts)
There aren’t many players in the country who can make Mark Reynolds look as average as the Hearts striker did on Saturday.
Sow’s not what you would call an inconsistent player. That’d be too harsh an assessment. Rather, he’s a talent who shows flashes of ability that only Leigh Griffiths could match in this league. But unlike the Celtic striker, he hasn’t quite figured out how to routinely dominate in such a manner.
It seems Sow wants to move away from Tynecastle in the summer to return to England. If he’d already reached his peak with Hearts, and learned all he could, he should go with the club’s blessing. But I’m of the opinion Sow, until he’s in the position where he’s routinely putting in performances like this one, should remain at a place where he’s guaranteed first-team football.
Faissal El Bakhtaoui (Dunfermline Athletic)
The Pars’ striker has been on the radar of a few clubs recently, with Killie boss Gary Locke recently attending a match especially to watch the French-Moroccan, and the club could find it increasingly difficult to hold on to the player after a glorious performance against Ross County.
If you haven’t seen it already, go back and watch El Bakhtaoui’s goal on Saturday. He uses pace, skill and composure before showing the kind of shooting ability that’s enabled him to net 19 goals in all competitions this term. He would have grabbed a late winner too were it not for a fingertip stop from Scott Fox to push his late 25-yard strike on to the crossbar.
Dominique Malonga (Hibernian)
There are a lot of people, including Hibs fans, who think Malonga is an absolute donkey, and I just don’t get it.
Sure, he’s got the tendency to miss when scoring looks easier, and his languid style can infuriate even the most patient of supporters, but equally he can pull out a great piece of skill or emphatically dispatch the ball into the back of the net. His scoring record has not been great this season, with just six in 22, but then he has been coming off the bench an awful lot.
He’s a player that I admire for his ability to drop into space and keep attacks flowing. He’s particularly good at doing this in some of the bigger matches when space and time are very much at a premium. He found some against Raith Rovers on Saturday and dispatched a wonderful strike into the top corner from 25 yards.
Leigh Griffiths (Celtic)
Until further notice, just take it as a given Griffiths is going to be included in this blog each week.
The inclusion of Carlton Cole in the starting XI alongside the in-form striker made Griffiths look even better than usual. That’s because we got to see what the alternatives were for Celtic while also seeing the hero on the park at the same time. Cole cannot be judged as he is not yet fully fit, so there is good reason for him taking four slow touches every time he was presented with a chance near goal. However, it still made you marvel when Griffiths got his first chance and planted it in the bottom corner with no hesitation.
It remains to be seen whether Deila will stick with the 4-4-2 going forward. It’s all well and good using it against Stranraer, but will he trust the system in the league?
Who are Celtic’s next opponents anyway? *Looks it up* Dundee United! I think he’ll keep it.
Brian Graham (Ross County)
The former Raith Rovers striker almost pulled off, what wrestling fans would call, ‘the perfect heel move’ on Saturday after returning to the Kingdom to face Dunfermline.
Running back on a counter, Graham took out Pars’ full back Jason Talbot with a textbook clothesline, leaving the defender in a heap before joining the attack from which the away side would win a penalty.
Graham, with boos ringing in his ears, then stepped up to score the spot-kick. It’s just a shame he didn’t cup his finger to his ear as he ran past the home support after the goal. That would have made it perfect.
A steel chair attack on Allan Johnston wouldn’t have gone amiss either.
Certain fans of Celtic, Ross County and Dundee United
I’ll always remember going completely off my head at Hampden when Craig Beattie scored the penalty in the last minute of the semi-final to set up an all-Edinburgh final with Hibs.
As I came back down to earth I immediately regretted the fact that, as great a moment as this was, I didn’t have any fireworks to set off at that moment. Suddenly, my whole existence felt empty and pointless. I mean, what is life without flares?
Of course, I am being facetious, because no sane person has ever thought that. Ever. Just stop it.
As for the Dundee United fans, they may not have indulged in pyrotechnics, but they did feel beating Airdrie was a justifiable excuse for having a pitch invasion.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good pitch invasion. It visually represents how the supporters are feeling at that moment. They are so joyful they cannot contain their emotions and it spills out. But Airdrie? Really?
Hamilton’s entire team
Head coach Martin Canning is feeling the pressure, and rightly so, Hamilton have been poor for a number of weeks and the manager obviously has to take a share of the blame when they are bumped out of the cup by a team three divisions below.
However, to include him only would be letting the rest of the team off lightly. I don’t care how poorly a manager sets a team out, or how terrible he is at motivating, or team selection, or whatever. You should not lose a match to a team three divisions below, and you certainly shouldn’t lose it in such comprehensive fashion.
There isn’t enough being made of this upset. When Albion Rovers knocked out Motherwell in 2013, it was all anyone talked about for a couple of days. That was a scrappy 1-0 win. This was a hammering.
To be fair, Motherwell were flying high in their division at the time (they would eventually finish second) while the Wee Rovers were struggling, which is the opposite of this occasion with Annan flying high and Hamilton fighting for their lives, but there are still 25 places below them in the league structure.
Sky Sports match selection
Sunday was a complete snooze-fest with two matches that were never likely to be close contests.
I understand why both sides of the Glasgow divide were on the TV. Not only are they the biggest sides within Scotland, they are the most easily identifiable to a potential global audience. Sky, as a commercial business, are looking after their best interests.
However, it still would have been nice to see at least one more of the Saturday fixtures instead of say, for example, Rangers v Cowdenbeath.
Dunfermline v Ross County was a terrific match, Annan Athletic v Hamilton Accies saw one of the biggest Scottish Cup upsets in years, and even Airdrie’s meeting with Dundee United had plenty of tension as onlookers had identified it as the most probable scalp prior to kick-off.
Cup ties are the perfect excuse to give other sides a bit of exposure as TV audiences are used to seeing minnows given a makeover. Besides, Sky’s fortunes are not going to rise and fall depending on whether they showed Stranraer v Celtic or not.