FANS of all the SPL clubs have their say on the latest events around the league
IT was the first of our Hibs double-header on Saturday and the return of the 0-0 scoreline that was so popular at the start of the season. Positives can be found in what was a somewhat toothless display – the return of Osbourne and Milsom to the first team along with the recalled Peter Pawlett – adds more depth to a midfield that has been struggling in recent months.
Getting our first penalty in about a year was tempered by the failure of McGinn to add to his impressive goal tally this season and, whilst there was always a nagging fear that one of the Hibs players might sneak in towards the end and nick it, the defence marshalled the game well enough to prevent that. On Sunday, it’s the Cup and our season may turn on a more positive result.
I WONDER if, as the players climbed into their Cayennes and their CLKs on Sunday following their insipid performance against St Mirren, their thoughts were focused on ‘Did my wife book the Dubai trip?’ And, ‘If Hoops goes, could my agent get me a rise?’
This is no longer an inexperienced team that has the excuse of naivety when their opponents up their game. This was the most feckless, lazy and arrogant performance I have seen from Celtic in many years.
I don’t expect to win every game but I do expect my team to compete.
Not one player appeared annoyed at losing the goals we did. All that was missing was Regi Blinker jumping out of the way of a 50-50. A very well done to St Mirren; got their tactics spot on and took full advantage of Celtic’s presumptive approach.
Sunday’s 0-0 draw against Kilmarnock at Dens pinpointed, if it was needed, where our problems lie. The defence is looking good now, with only two goals conceded this year (albeit in only three matches), and plenty of chances were created, so the forwards must carry the can. We have scored 14 goals in 23 games, a shocking statistic. Let’s hope the return of Gary Harkins will provide some more goals from midfield.
Tonight we face our favourite team, Hearts, from whom we have taken six of our 14 points this season. Although we can’t expect the luck we had at Tynecastle last time to continue, we can pick up a point. Funnily enough, when we beat them at Dens last time, they were just off the back of penalty shoot-out League Cup win against Dundee United. And here we are again, after their shoot-out victory over Inverness.
The Club 12th Man
The early departure of Peter Houston, who had stated his intention to leave at the end of the season, didn’t really come as much of a shock, but the appointment of the inexperienced Jackie McNamara is a brave move.
With a massive Scottish Cup tie this weekend against Rangers, the timing could have been better, but there will be hope that the new manager effect will have played its part come full-time on Saturday.
With Steven Pressley and Steve Kean the other candidates, opinion had been split amongst the support. McNamara is a relative novice who has been getting results at Partick Thistle, while Pressley and Kean had to deal with other issues and saw their teams struggle. Now it is essential the fans are united in their support of the new man.
IT was a surreal afternoon at Easter Road, going there not for a derby, having the stadium three-quarters full of Hearts fans and hearing the Hearts song blasting over the tannoy at the end made for a very satisfying afternoon as we marched into another cup final.
That we did it with a very young team – and with a refereeing performance that was littered with errors – was fantastic. Everyone played their part, although Andy Driver’s performance was woeful and, given that he will leave at the end of the season, I hope we have seen his last appearance. Ngoo was sensational – unlucky not to score in the first half, took his goal well and despatched the penalty with ease – a great debut for the young lad. The moaning from Inverness about the Danny Wilson situation is ridiculous. Hearts checked the position and he was given the all clear.
While the statistics show Hibs are a vastly improved team from this time last year, the product on the park is bringing back uncomfortable Alex Miller-type memories for many Hibs fans. Fenlon has built some decent foundations and got himself a potent striker but it’s the midfield where things really need addressing. A lack of any forward thinking, no-one (with the exception of Cairney perhaps) who can split an opposition defence open with a pass and a worrying acceptance from management that 0-0 is a good result is starting to feed some negativity around the hibs.net message boards.
The Aberdeen game was a non-performance from an attacking point of view and you had to feel for the couple of hundred fans who made the trip. Wednesday takes Hibs back up north to face Ross County and hope must be thin on the ground given our recent record north of Dundee.
The chance to appear in our first major cup final ended in disappointment as we failed to find the form that has taken us into second place in the league. We didn’t seem to rise to the occasion at all.
There’s no doubt Hearts were the better team and seemed right up for it. They fought hard for every ball and retained possession far better than we did. We did have our chances to take the win and the missed opportunity by MacKay will haunt him and us for a long time, as will that dreadful last penalty in the shoot-out.
The main thing now is to put this experience behind us and turn up tonight in Paisley with a positive attitude and take three points back up the road. With their fine result against Celtic, it could be a tough call to bring them back down to earth.
A BUSY week for Killie fans with the agm on Thursday and then a re-arranged league match up at Dens Park on Sunday. The agm went pretty much as expected with the chairman taking credit for Kenny Shiels’ achievements and trying to sweep as much under the carpet as possible. His attempt to sidestep questions, however, were scuppered and he struggled to justify the club making an extra million pounds last season and yet still only breaking even… among other things. The no-score-bore at Dundee did not do much to cheer us up either. King Kenny seems wrapped up in his battle with the ref’s association but he lives and breathes his job, so I am sure that his eye is never far off the ball. He is right in what he says, of course, but it appears the establishment just does not want to listen. If this new league revamp plan goes through, then many will give up the game for good.
Motherwell fans were not just forced to endure a weekend away from the football on Saturday but there were was considerable envy towards Hearts and St Mirren who reached the League Cup final. With both clubs well below us in the table, it is hard not to imagine that this could have been our year – instead we have to make do with focusing on the league.
The SPL has been our strength recently, but even a second or third place finish – though achieved over 38 games, not just four or five – does not have the same glory as winning silverware. Stuart McCall has not yet signed a new contract but the cup form of Hearts and St Mirren will hopefully show him that success can be achieved even when budgets are cut. His new role with Scotland should also help in that regard.
The weekend football certainly brought about a few shocks, most notably in the League Cup semi-finals where the favourites in both games were bundled out. I didn’t see much of the Inverness-Hearts match other than a little snippet of highlights, but it certainly looked like Billy MacKay missed sitter cost them a cup final place. No doubt he’ll have a few sleepless nights with that moment going round and round in his head. It was good to see Hearts with their young squad making it to another final though.
A lot of the media will try to concentrate on Celtic’s performance and use words such as poor and underperforming, but St Mirren played well and stuck to their tasks throughout the game.
As for the final itself, I think either team could win it and it will probably be one of the more exciting finals in recent years.
IT has been a stop-start few weeks between rearranged matches and the winter break, but we’re now into a run of games that will decide whether or not we manage another season in the top six and if we are to progress in the Scottish Cup. Win our next two matches, tonight against Aberdeen and away to St Mirren in the Scottish Cup on Saturday, and there’s plenty to look forward to.
One big disappointment, however, is the scheduling of our forthcoming games. Of our 11 SPL matches between now and the split, only three will be Saturday 3pm kick-offs. We play the remainder over Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and even a trip up to Inverness on a Friday night. That’s not on. I appreciate games have to be switched for the benefit of TV, but to have more than three-quarters shifted in three months is ridiculous.
Sunday will surely go down as one of the greatest moments in our history. Nobody gave us a chance. No wins, goals or points against Celtic in eight games, we were there at Hampden to make up the numbers. We didn’t half prove everyone wrong.
Every single player was fantastic. And what about that winner from Steven Thompson – set up by fellow Saints fan Marc McAusland? The big striker said scoring that goal and running off to celebrate in front of the Buddies was one of the best moments of his life. I can assure you Steven, watching you do it was one of the best moments of mine.
So now we have a final against Hearts to look forward to. We’ll be underdogs, there’s no pressure on us but it’s more than winnable. The players who’ve got us this far are heroes – but on 17 March they can become legends.