SPL Fanzone: The fans have their say
FANS from each of the 12 SPL clubs look back on the past week for their respective teams and give us their verdicts
With the limited time Dundee had to prepare for SPL football and their current injury list, our victory at the weekend was not a surprise. The manner of it was pleasing, though. We didn’t play our best football but did managed to grind out the win. Niall McGinn continued his run of scoring form and has now matched Duncan Shearer’s
five-game scoring streak. The team looks much stronger, both mentally and physically, and credit goes to Craig Brown for the side he is building. The addition of Hayes and McGinn combined with the promotion of Fraser and Smith has added an attacking edge. At this stage of the season, it’s odd to be concerned about signing players long-term to avoid them being poached rather than worrying about poor performances.
A COMBINATION of tinkering and apathy led to one of the most abject performances I have seen at Celtic Park. Both the manager and players underestimated a Killie side who revived the tactics they used in the League Cup final last year. Too often this Celtic side go on a good run then have an absolute howler when Lenny applies his random team generator, leading to misplaced passes and erratic displays by players in unfamiliar positions.
Unless there is a change in approach there is the danger that Celtic could end up in the embarrassing position of a very expensive squad being pipped in the title race by a determined and organised Aberdeen or Hibs side. Glorious displays in the Champions League are worthless if you are going to under-perform in bread and butter games and expect fans to pay champagne and caviar prices.
SO, WE’RE three wins away from catching the 11th-placed team. Yet, by the time we might get those wins the other teams will probably be out of sight. Therefore, it already looks like Dundee are going down. The only ray of hope has come with Hearts’ financial problems, which may see us escape the drop if they are hit with a points penalty.
The defeat at Pittodrie was predictable. What was not was that we scored a fine goal, through Jim McAlister, which was then wrongly disallowed for offside on a shocking weekend for refereeing decisions. Either change the rules to make it easier for referees or give them more help, with extra officials or by using video technology.
We entertain Hearts this week, hoping to do the double over them. But I can only see us getting a draw at best.
The Club 12th Man
The arrival of Rudi Skacel had been rumoured but I don’t think there were many fans who believed it would happen. Hearts fans claim our chairman, who helped hand them a transfer ban, had a conflict of interest but there are many fans who see this as karma. Thomas Flogel anyone? Skacel’s No 51 has ruffled a few feathers but, with a league cup quarter-final against Hearts tonight, I have no doubt we’ll see where Rudi’s alliances lie now.
Against St Mirren, it was not the greatest performance but Johnny Russell’s penalty gave us a much-needed three points. Jon Daly also deserves a special mention. Last year’s top scorer in the SPL has had to fit into defence and has done so with some ease. It is a great captain who is willing to put his club ahead of his own aspirations.
Even by Hearts’ standards the last week has been difficult. Ongoing transfer bans, Rudi signing for Dundee United and the share issue followed by the potential tax bill finally illustrating the difficulties facing the club. Whilst the issues are entirely of Romanov’s own making, the fans will need to rally round to try and help the club through this challenging period. However, any financial injection from the supporters should be conditional – ie an end to the behind-the-scenes meddling that Romanov has indulged in and a commitment to more transparency around the running of the club. We won’t be able to judge success or otherwise until mid-December but, if wage payments are not met for the next few months, some fans will draw their own conclusions. On the park, it would have been larceny had Ross County left Tynecastle with three points on Saturday given that they scarcely deserved a draw.
Most football fans would prefer to see football played at 3pm on a Saturday but, with TV calling the shots, that is all too often not the case. Friday night football could well become the next best option for Hibs fans if our trip to Motherwell is anything to go by. A large travelling support created a noisy atmosphere under the floodlights which made for a cracking night out. Of course it helps that we won. Motherwell fans may feel aggrieved by some of the referee’s decisions but a four-goal margin suggests that we more than deserved all three points. Yet again there were several Hibs players in contention for man of the match, including goalscorers David Wotherspoon and Leigh Griffiths. Nobody would have tipped us to be second after the first round of games. We all know that we still have a long way to go but at least the journey has proved to be a fairly pleasurable one.
Many would have had our game against
St Johnstone as a certain draw on their coupon so who were we to disappoint? The game had very few chances and the first half was devoid of highlights. The game changer came when we were awarded a penalty in the second half and Andrew Shinnie’s attempt to convert it would have been more suited to Murrayfield. The expected adrenalin rush that should have given St Johnstone didn’t appear, thankfully, as we converted under the bar not long after. The game was one of those days where nothing went in and there were few chances for both sides, despite some nice football on display. Although the late equaliser was hard to take, it was pleasing to keep the unbeaten run going ahead of tonight’s quarter-final cup tie in Glasgow. It would be nice to return for a semi-final at Hampden.
Everything about last Saturday was a bit strange. The approach to Celtic Park used to look like Beirut but now there is a shiny new velodrome and a nearly-finished athletes’ village. The stewards used to stare at us until we dared to move before throwing us out for not sitting down and being quiet. We were allowed to stand the whole game and the young lads were vocal throughout. There was also the Sheridan goal, when he robbed a defender, rounded the keeper and rolled the ball into the net to put us on our way to our first win at Parkhead for 57 years. The penalty by Liam Kelly, so cruelly robbed of his chance to celebrate our League Cup win over Celtic, was the icing on the cake. We are all still bemused by Kenny Shiels’ ability to slay dragons that have dogged us for decades and yet no one will bat an eyelid if we are turned over at home by Inverness.
Motherwell took another step to the goal of fan ownership last week when the Well Society held its first general meeting and elected a board of directors. Those individuals are now charged with the administration of the society and the task of swelling its membership beyond the thousand who have already joined. If football clubs are to have the interests of fans and the community at the heart of decision-making, then the representation of supporters has to increase. The Well Society has the right to two seats on the club’s board and, although they will be minor voices in terms of shareholding, they will be a major influence in the direction of the club. Supporters trusts have been campaigning to return football to the fans for more than a decade and this is a significant step forward.
With the first round of fixtures now complete, I think it’s fair to say that Ross County have settled well into life in the SPL. We took our time to find our scoring boots at first but held firm defensively during that period and picked up a few “bonus” points while, in other games, we have been unlucky to concede late goals. However, on the whole the management team and board will be happy with the start that the club has made to life in the SPL.
The late goal Hearts scored on Saturday was a kick in the teeth but, on reflection, a point from Tynecastle was still very good and we could easily have left there with nothing.
It wasn’t County’s best performance of the season although we have played a lot better in previous games and got nothing from those matches – but that’s how football works sometimes.
Well, we couldn’t make it a record-breaking six in a row but seven unbeaten in the league, and eight in all competitions, is still an unbelievable run of form.
Last night we travelled to Celtic Park in the league cup, so there’s a fair chance we’ll have lost that run in all competitions. But we go into Saturday’s game looking to maintain our position at the top end of the league.
Hopefully, by Saturday, we’ll have a few players back fit – we’re down to the bare bones at the moment and Murray Davidson and Gregory Tade were among those who picked up knocks up in Inverness.
Much has been made of our squad depth, but that’s only any good if they’re available for selection. I’ll feel a lot more confident going forward when we have a full – or at least fuller – pool to pick from.
I’m NOT quite sure how we managed to lose on Saturday. We didn’t threaten Dundee United enough to win but they certainly didn’t do enough to deserve all three points. It looked a stick-on goalless draw – not the worst result considering the number of goals we have shipped in our last few games.
At the other end of the park we’ve scored just once in the league since our 5-4 game against Ross County and had more chances during our hammering by Celtic than in the game against United.
All that leaves us second bottom and travelling to Easter Road on the back of three straight defeats. Although the league table is extremely tight, a game at Hibs is hardly the best thing to have considering their current form. Leigh Griffiths seems to enjoy playing against us and we’ll have to keep him quiet.
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Tuesday 21 May 2013
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