SPL fans have their say on the latest news from around the league.
Though there was that air of inevitability, I was delighted to see the team wrap up the title. As I expected, it wasn’t the smooth procession the experts forecast and several teams proved that, unless Celtic were at their very best, they can be turned over. However, over a season, Celtic’s massive resources were always going to prove too much for the competition.
I feel the shine has been taken off the success, however. Since winning the title, the focus has been on who is missing from the league rather than well-organised teams such as Ross County and Inverness, or how Motherwell have maintained their form of recent seasons. Should Peter Lawwell apologise for keeping the club living within its means and achieving success? It is not Celtic’s fault if others take themselves out of contention by financial mis-management.
“A new Don”, “Don of a new era”, “Red Don” (The Patrick Swayze version, not the remake.) Most of the match on Monday night was spent thinking about the stock headlines for new Aberdeen managers and trying to better them. Well, that and thinking about getting chips after the game.
The game itself produced another 0-0 and, in all honesty, given our recent record against Hibs a goal-fest was unlikely but there was always the possibility of the new manger bounce coming into play. Perhaps it’s a little early in the McInnes reign to expect much for the remainder of the season. In the meantime, it’s important that the players don’t let their minds wander to their holidays. Oh, and the best effort we could come up with was “DON’t stop Believin’”
We were never expected to get anything from our trip to Celtic on Sunday and so it proved. With the champions elect only needing a draw, it would have been nice to have spoilt the party, if only for another week. We competed well for about an hour but had no answer when they stepped up a gear and took the lead. From that moment on we seemed to give up and resign ourselves to defeat. We rarely threatened their goal but, in the end, we did get a consolation.
With Motherwell winning too, it would seem that second place will be beyond us, but never say never.
Sad to hear we may be losing Andrew Shinnie to the English Championship and it is a move that can only be money related. Fair play to him if that is the case, but a similar move by Adam Rooney a few seasons back didn’t work out.
Hearts finally gave the away support something to cheer about with their second win away from Tynecastle this season. It should have been more convincing but for our issue with penalty kicks rearing its head again. Overall, though, it was a great result against a team we have struggled to get to grips with over the last few seasons.
Getting the win has tightened the race for seventh place and we can now look up rather than over our shoulder. It is also a good result for the manager, a clean sheet and scoring goals should give him a boost.
It was disappointing to see that Darren Barr will not be offered a new contract, albeit probably not surprising. After a slow start to his Hearts career he became an integral part of Paulo Sergio’s team, capped by the magnificent May 19. Given that, if we beat Dundee on Saturday they will be relegated, that should add some spark to the game.
If bomber keeps this up, he’ll be in the running for the Rangers job.
Our 2-1 win at St Mirren kept us, improbably, alive in the SPL for another week. But Dundee have to win their four remaining games, and hope that St Mirren only pick up a point from their four games to pull off the greatest escape. Our next three games are at home to Hearts, Aberdeen and Kilmarnock and, while I’d back us to stay unbeaten, winning all three is unlikely. Spare a thought for previous manager Barry Smith, though. A legend at Dens, he does not come out of this well. We picked up 14 points in our first 26 games but, under John Brown, we have amassed 12 points in seven games.
Can JB keep up this sort of form in the First Division? A lot depends on what our squad looks like. All aboard the rollercoaster again.
The Club 12th Man
I have always said that there are no meaningless games for a fan of a club and I stick by that. Some of the players, on the other hand, seem to have switched off already, which was evident in Saturday’s defeat at home to Hearts. Three times we have thrashed them this year, twice on their own turf. But, after they scored an early goal thanks to very slack defending, we never looked like getting back into the game.
In front of what was possibly our lowest crowd of the season (I counted 14 people in the hospitality section) the team did little to persuade any fair-weather supporters that it was worth shelling out £22 for the remaining two home matches. To be honest, while we were pretty dire, it did not actually bother me too much, as it is nice to be at a match where there is no pressure and the result is not crucial. You get to take more of it in.
Motherwell took a big step towards European football on Friday and results on Sunday mean passports are being looked out. Only a monumental collapse and sensational form from either Ross County or St Johnstone can prevent another European tour this summer. It has taken a team effort to get to this position and it would be wrong to say Henrik Ojamaa hasn’t contributed, despite scoring “only” three times. On the other hand Michael Higdon – currently the SPL’s top scorer – has bagged an astonishing 24 league goals, shattering Motherwell’s post-war scoring record. Higdon is out of contract and it is foolish to believe he will not have suitors. But, given his age and form, there must be a strong temptation for him to stay where he is valued by the fans and the manager will build the team around him.
Why always us? Just once it would be nice if we could put something to bed at the first time of asking – be it promotion or securing our SPL status for another season – but that’s not the St Mirren way, which may explain why we lost to Dundee on Saturday.
We went into the game needing just to avoid defeat to send Dundee down. It was the same scenario as when we faced Hamilton after the split two years ago and, once again, a red card cost us dearly. There can be no argument that Jim Goodwin deserved to go on Saturday and the main point of contention is whether he should still have been on the park by then. And so the relegation issue rumbles on to Easter Road. We’ve been awful against Hibs this season and we won’t have Goodwin but we will have Goncalves. Hopefully that will be enough for us to put those nagging doubts to rest.
Someone at ESPN needs to give themselves a shake. A mighty two goals in the last three meetings between Hibs and Aberdeen was never going to guarantee an action-packed 90 minutes for the viewing audience. And so it proved as both teams fought out a dour goalless clash befitting the bottom six.
Having said that, it wasn’t all low points as far as Hibs were concerned. After a first half where only a Griffiths shot broke the boredom, Hibs came out after half-time with some drive and determination and at least showed they wanted to win the game, unlike the ultra defensive visitors.
A good shot from Handling was well saved, Doyle hit the post and Griffiths once again tested Langfield with a 30-yard rocket. And it was good to see Handling and Harris grow into the game as their confidence increased, while Paul Hanlon had an excellent night.
Another weekend, another case of not taking our chances. If we miss out on Europe, it will be down to failing to put away opportunities, specifically in our games against the Highland teams. In six games against ICT and Ross County we’ve had five draws and we should have won three of those. Unfortunately, on Sunday, we missed a ridiculous chance at 2-1 up with Tade fresh-airing in front of an open goal and came up against a keeper in good form. That said, Alan Mannus had to look lively on a couple of occasions to keep us ahead but we shot ourselves in the foot by conceding two totally avoidable penalties.
Now we face Inverness in Perth, in arguably our biggest game of the year. A win puts us a point behind third place with three games to play and we’ll have everything to play for. But a defeat means it’s all over for this term.
Yet again a football agent’s greed means United will miss out on the transfer fee they deserve for a player of Johnny Russell’s talent. His agent certainly knows how to get a player a move. Just look at Scott Allen, who quit the club after just three games. Allen has now had more clubs than he did games for United. Clubs such as United rely on developing players and selling them on and they have now gone public with their disgust. It’s about time these agents realised they are as guilty as anyone for killing Scottish football. United won’t stand in the way of a move for Russell but, if they sell on the cheap, all they will do is set a precedent. The player should also remember what the club has done for him and, hopefully, now this has gone public, some sense can prevail.