FANS from each of the twelve SPL clubs look back on the past week for their respective teams and give us their verdicts.
it was rather strange on Saturday to hear our manager being interviewed about a credible league challenge at this stage in the season but, given how we played in spells against St Mirren, the question was not such a silly one.
I’ve always enjoyed trips to Paisley, though a lot of these games have not been very successful for us, but this was a good way to bounce back from the Ross County game and a bit of revenge for the cup defeat.
The freshening up of the team by Brown worked with the front three linking really well and with four goals as reward, including Reynolds’ “Goal of the Day” (©Sky Sports) it was hard not to leave the ground in a buoyant mood and hotly anticipating our game against Celtic this week.
Tales of woe and hard luck seem to be flowing from Fir Park after a run of only one win in our last eight outings. We’ve been on the wrong end of officials’ decisions, failed to score in five of those eight games and haven’t kept a clean sheet since the opening day of the SPL season.
It is a reflection of Motherwell’s success in recent years that a mid-table position can prompt alarm in a section of the support. Those with longer memories continue to be relieved that the spectre of a relegation scramble still remains a distant prospect.
The pack is tightly bunched and, when our fortunes turn, a couple of wins will see us back in the top half. The players have given us plenty of good times in the last few years. Now it’s our turn to repay them with some solid support.
Maybe we’re up with the pace of the SPL now. Two matches without defeat is not to be sniffed at, and hardly seemed possible, modest run though it is, two weeks ago.
Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Motherwell was an example of the sort of points we have to grind out, Nicky Riley finally getting a reward for all the hard work he has done since returning to the team, with the opener. That nuisance Higdon had to grab the equaliser on the stroke of half-time, after turning round the game at Dens in September with two late goals. And he was denied a late winner on Saturday by a tight (but correct) offside flag.
Hibs, and on-fire Leigh Griffiths, are our visitors this week. There’s a good chance he’ll score against his old mates, but Dundee will be confident that they can get at least a draw. Oh, what a difference a few points can make.
The Club 12th Man
To use the old cliché, it really was a game of two halves at Easter Road on Sunday. A dreadful first 45 minutes by United was followed by one of the best halves I’ve seen from United this season. It’s just a pity by
the time they decided to get going, it was already too late.
There is no doubt the change was down to the introduction of Gary Mackay-Steven and Rudi Skacel. Though manager Peter Houston continues to claim the two aren’t quite match fit, the impact they made on Sunday has the fans demanding they start on Friday against Kilmarnock.
While we are looking enviously up the table at Hibernian, there is no reason why we can’t get up there among the action when we have our strongest team available.
These are worrying times to be a Saints fan. We are struggling for form and Saturday’s defeat to Aberdeen means we’re now on our worst run of league results for five years.
We had plenty of possession against the Dons but, aside from putting in a few decent crosses, we rarely tested Jamie Langfield. Aberdeen didn’t have anywhere near as many attacks but looked far more threatening when they did make it upfield. In the last 10 minutes it looked as if they could score at will.
Tynecastle is probably not the best place to go on the back of five straight defeats but the current situation there makes it an even more daunting task. Emotions will be running high and, with a full house expected, Hearts will be fired up. We desperately need something from this to stop our next game against Dundee becoming a relegation six-pointer.
The diversity of fans’ opinions is quite astonishing and I can only speak for myself when I say that, until we scored the opening goal in the second half, Ross County had stifled our play and neither team had played any football of note. The Heff’s headed strike changed the whole outlook of the game and, from that point onwards, we stroked the ball around with more purpose and ended up with a well-deserved three points. The result potentially flattered us a wee bit but all three points were never in any doubt. Nice to see Liam Kelly’s efforts rewarded with a call-up to the full Scotland squad. Our chairman better get him and Bell on new contracts soon or he’ll lose this year’s get out of jail free card for the AGM. Not that we would like to see either move on yet of course but, with no new revenue streams and old ones drying up, another public auction is inevitable.
Another rollercoaster week with the statements from the club re the financial position. The response from all of the fans has been magnificent and gives us hope that the club can move forward in its current form. I would urge all Jambos to do what they can to help the club in its hour of need.
On Saturday, we had a ridiculous kick-off time. A 12pm start at Inverness is not ideal for anyone, but an impressive support still made its way north. I thought we were poor for the first 30 minutes but, after that, improved and a draw was a deserved result. The penalty was the correct decision and it was good to see the captain come forward to take responsibility and despatch it like a striker.
News has now emerged of a potential takeover of the club. Romanov should now step aside and let someone who has the best interests of the club take it forward.
So much for Scottish football heading for Armageddon. Sunday’s match against Dundee United at Easter Road was fantastic entertainment from start to finish. Both teams produced good performances, both sets of fans were in good voice and we even had Rudi Skacel reprising his role as chief pantomime villain to add to the fun. When the dust had settled, Hibernian were worthy winners. Some of Hibs’ football was superb with Paul Cairney producing a man of the match performance. It is hard to believe that this is his first season in the SPL given how well he is playing. Pat Fenlon deserves enormous credit for making Easter Road an enjoyable place to be again. The turnaround from last season is remarkable. There is still a lot of football to be played this season, but optimism and smiling faces among the Hibs support are fast becoming the norm.
County suffered their heaviest defeat of the season on Saturday at the hands of Kilmarnock. The 3-0 scoreline suggests that Kilmarnock were far superior to County but, for the first hour of the match, County competed well.
Then there was a 16-minute period in the second half where County suffered a mini collapse and Kilmarnock took full advantage. The frustrating thing was that two of the three goals were totally avoidable, although credit
to Gary Harkins for his goal – a great strike.
It was my first visit to Rugby Park and I was eager to sample the famous Killie pie, opting for a steak and gravy one. While it was decent, my unbiased opinion was that it was not quite to the quality we are used to at Victoria Park. Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised if Killie were to lose their long-standing crown of serving the best pie in the league.
As expected, all we’ve heard since our excellent 1-1 draw at Celtic Park on Sunday is “oh, Celtic were tired”, “Champions League hangover” and “not an easy one off the back of Barca”. What tosh. Neil Lennon actually came out and said they only had half a day to prepare. Strangely, I count three-and-a-half.
The fact is we restricted Celtic really well – Alan Mannus didn’t have a save of note to make – and going forward we were far better than the instantly forgettable 5-0 league cup drubbing a couple of weeks ago. Hasselbaink’s goal was well-worked and well-taken. We should also have had a penalty when Tade was cleaned out by Ambrose. How Iain Brines managed to award a corner is beyond me. We welcome Ross County to McDiarmid Park on Saturday – the kind of game we need to be taking points from if we’re to maintain our current league position.
Once again, Celtic’s performance swings from haute cuisine in the Champions League to scotch pie stodge in the SPL. Okay, I know it’s difficult to do Everest midweek and then Ben Nevis at the weekend; however, I might expect the team to be unprepared once, but it’s now getting to the habit-forming stage where we drop points before and after every European game. The Celtic players maybe need to go back to their children’s books and re-read the tale of the tortoise and the hare. Taking it easy and trying to catch up later ultimately ended in humiliating failure for the hare when he had overwhelming advantage. It will get to the stage where fans will take the same attitude to SPL as the players – ach it’s just St Johnstone will I bother turning up? Our next tortoise who has made slow and steady progress is Aberdeen at Pittodrie. Never an easy game.
After going through the highs of the past few weeks, it was inevitable that we’d hit a low point at some stage. Against Hearts it was a real game of two halves and we have to give John McGlynn credit for the changes he made at half-time. He replaced two more offensive midfielders with two more defensive ones and flooded the midfield. We couldn’t then play through them the way that we did in the first-half and the long ball was inevitable. With the height of Andy Webster and Marius Zaliukas, Hearts were always going to cope better.
After Owain Tudor-Jones’ stunning strike, we should have put the game to bed by half-time but the missed chances proved to be our downfall. We threw the game away in the end by conceding a late soft penalty, but we’ve had our fair share of those in our favour so far this season.