SPL Fanzone: As the supporters see it
SPL fans have their say on the latest goings on in Scotland’s top flight.
There are psychologists who will lecture about the importance of “winning” colours in sport. I don’t know if they are correct, what I do know is that I’ve never liked our white away strip. When I see us wearing it my heart sinks, our “Surrender Strip” as another fan calls it and again on Saturday that’s exactly what it was. An insipid performance and another three points surrendered.
For the fans, the Ryan Fraser contract situation dominated discussions, many fans hope that the problem is the agent rather than the player. Moving must be tempting when others who have gone south have trebled their wages but then they find themselves in youth teams or sitting on the bench for cup games. At 18 and with only two full games played more years of first team football at Aberdeen would surely be a better long term option than potential obscurity down south.
Another Jekyll & Hyde Saturday, however as it was away from home, the Dr Jekyll Celtic turned up. It should not detract from a great performance though. Broony was everywhere and releasing Adam Matthews from defensive duties allowed him to put in one of his best performances in a Celtic shirt. However, Ambrose still gives me the fear!
Why is it that, whenever we have a good run or good result in Europe, we have pundits on the phone-ins immediately telling us that our entire squad is to be sold to the EPL? But when one of their own gains their dream job after the longest series of application letters in history, it comes as a surprise? Nevertheless, to reach the last 16 from pot 4 is a remarkable achievement and but for a last minute goal in Barcelona we’d have won the group – he extrapolated wildly!!
So, the Red Lichties up next; surely, even Celtic with their split personality season and history of blowing it against teams when they’re the overwhelming favourites can put this one to bed? If they don’t then there will be some well-deserved dancing on the streets of Lichtie-ville!
AS PAINFUL as that 3-0 defeat from our near neighbours was, the fact was that two dodgy refereeing decisions clinched the points for them – in fact it was a game where they looked ordinary for long spells while undoubtedly having more battle-hardened SPL quality players than Dundee.
It’s a safe bet we would have scored from the spot to make it 1-1 had the referee not had the sun in his eyes, the only excuse for not giving a clear handball decision. Then Willie Collum lets play go on after a debatable foul by Gary Irvine in the box, only to give United another go from the penalty spot when Rab Douglas saves Jon Daly’s effort. Maybe he would have ordered a retake if United had missed it!
Easy games coming up in December now. Away to Ross County and Inverness in successive weeks, followed by home games against Celtic and Aberdeen. It shows how tough this run is, when the Aberdeen game is our best chance of three points.
The Club 12th Man
As PER usual, United left with the bragging rights after a third triumphant three-goal victory over Dundee. In glorious sunshine, goals by Watson, Daly and Flood gave us what was a pretty convincing victory in the end. And it allowed us to continue our climb up the table. We’re only five points off second-place Inverness Caley Thistle and still with a game in hand.
The main talking points on Sunday were, of course, the two penalty decisions, both of which went against Dundee, which left the Dundee manager, Barry Smith, fuming. However, he should take comfort in knowing that in the event that Dens Park should ever need evacuated, the Dundee fans can do so in a timely fashion as they demonstrated when United’s third goal went in.
I HAVE to confess it was a major surprise to see McGlynn starting with Smith and Sutton up front on Saturday having criticised both during the week. However, the change worked and we looked far more threatening than we have done for some time with the two strikers being supported by Driver and Stevenson.
Stevo was destined to score on his 15th appearance second time round and it was no surprise to see him step up to take the penalty which was expertly dispatched.
Great also to see Callum Paterson get a goal at Tynecastle, but for me the two men in the middle of the park were instrumental in getting the win. Taouil finally looked comfortable in there and Darren Barr has been excellent for weeks and seems to be getting better. I have been highly critical of Barr in the past but he seems to have settled and is in the form of his Hearts career.
Yet again we saw a Hibs team travel to the Highlands only to fling the points away. Our team lacks quality in depth so that has to be compensated for with the right attitude and a large amount of graft. That was missing on Saturday against a very good Inverness side and we paid the price. It didn’t help that our defence committed multiple schoolboy errors. Long-term absentees Clancy, McPake and Deegan are all sorely missed; hopefully we will see at least one of them return to freshen the team up for the festive fixtures. Hibs fans all know that we are still on a long and slow road to recovery from the lows of the last few seasons and we will have bad days at the office. Pat Fenlon has done well to get this team in to the upper end of the SPL, but we have to get back to our best against Motherwell to maintain our position as well as the slow upward trend in home attendances.
The result and performance against Hibernian has to be one of the best ever seen on our sometimes difficult home territory. We were able to keep control of the ball for long periods and also string passes together. The defence was also solid and dealt with what little Hibs had to offer and quite comfortably, too. The last three SPL matches were against teams at the top and playing well, so these results show just how far we have come. We can almost certainly kick on from here, and who knows where it will all end. Some of us are already reaching for the passports! Has the success on the park led to Robert Phillips extending his loan and Nick Ross extending his contract? Difficult to say, but we certainly need to secure more on extended contracts because it would be awful to see the break-up of this team come May.
The smallest league attendance in the history of this fixture witnessed Celtic running out deserved 3 -1 winners at Rugby Park. The early kick-off seemed to catch Killie still half asleep as they turned in a below-par first-half display. Killie were much better after the interval and Heffernan passed up a glorious chance to equalise that may just have changed the rhythm of the game. Sadly, it was downhill after that with Celtic displaying the confidence of a team who had just progressed to the last 16 of the Champions League. Sheridan’s impressive late strike was no more than a consolation. In these hard financial times, it was disappointing to see such a low crowd, attributable in the main to Michael Johnston’s ill-advised decisions. Fans have little spare cash at this time of year, so far more needs to be done to try and encourage more bodies through the gates.
Motherwell have already scored some fine goals this season but Keith Lasley’s winner against Ross County on Saturday may top the lot. The build-up with neat passing was superb, leading to Lasley’s excellent finish to secure the three points. But what may please Stuart McCall even more was the build-up to the build-up – three players forcing an immediate turnover after possession had been lost – which showed tremendous hunger and fitness at a crucial point of the game. Given our poor home record, it would have been easy to settle for another draw, so going out and seizing victory deserves tremendous credit.
Some fans have not been happy with the consistency of performance this season, but to be third in the table when not playing at our best bodes well for the future.
The SPL this season is very close and competitive, with not a lot between any of the teams. However, the last few weeks have seen a few gaps starting to appear. Celtic have put a small run together and are starting to enforce their position at the top of the league, and I guess with the Champions league now on the winter break, Celtic will turn their attentions to the SPL and forge further ahead.
There is a bit of a gap forming at the bottom of the league too, with County, St. Mirren and Dundee starting to become a little detached from the main pack.
This weekend is a big game for both County and Dundee as the two meet in Dingwall. A lot of fans are labelling it as a must-win game. It’s probably a bit early in the season for saying that, but it certainly is a typical six-pointer, and a game that both teams will be eager to win.
What a point. We have a great record at St Mirren Park but Saturday’s 1-1 draw must rank up there as one of the most remarkable results we’ve had there.
Down to nine men following the dismissals of Steven Anderson and Chris Millar and camped more or less on the edge of our own box, we held out and got the draw.
Now, however, the problems start and Steve Lomas has a bit of a selection dilemma. Because our Scottish Cup game with Cowdenbeath has been called off for the fourth time now, Dave Mackay hasn’t served his suspension so we have no available centre backs for the visit of Hearts on Saturday.
We need to try and make the game about our midfield and forward options and keep the pressure off a very, very makeshift defence. It will be interesting, to say the least.
It’s quite rare for a team to see their opponents reduced to nine men, but Saturday was the third time in the last three years it has happened to us. Thankfully, our failure to win was nowhere near as painful as the League Cup final a few years ago but it was still incredibly frustrating. We destroyed St Johnstone in the second-half and it looked like it would be a matter of time until we found a winner. We had numerous chances, but our wastefulness in front of goal seems to be costing us dearly at the moment. The script is written for John McGinn to bag his first goal at Parkhead this weekend. The young midfielder has been sensational so far and his brother bagged his first goals for us there – plus I believe there is some other McGinn family connection to Celtic – so the stage seems set for him to break his duck.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Tuesday 18 June 2013
Temperature: 10 C to 21 C
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Temperature: 10 C to 19 C
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