FANS of all the SPL clubs have their say on the latest events around the league.
IT WOULD not surprise me to hear that Aberdeen were moving out of Pittodrie with immediate effect and seeking to ground share with Inverness for the rest of the season. In fact, it’s a move I would actively encourage. We simply fall apart in home games for no obvious reason. After some great football in the second half against Motherwell midweek the exact same team struggled to produce anything against Killie.
The cause was not helped by an official who struggled to make simple decisions correctly. Whether it was a penalty or not is certainly debatable. The subsequent production of a red card, though, was nothing short of ludicrous given the covering defenders and it is assumed that the card will be rescinded.
I CAN’T understand the fuss over St Mirren’s tactics. Celtic used a similar strategy against Barcelona in both games and some managers have even built a career on it. Both Inverness and Kilmarnock played the same way but had better players who managed to take advantage of the few chances created. However, after having endured the Arbroath game, it was great to see some flowing football and but for a touch of eccentric refereeing, it may have been a more emphatic scoreline.
We’ll find out who we face in the Champions League last 16 this week.
Personally, I’d love a wee bit of revenge against Paris St Germain after watching the Patrice Loko show in 1995, when we were absolutely blown away by a display of free-flowing attacking football. Plus, a wee trip to Paris would be nice!
A POINT at Ross County is not to be sniffed at, but there we are rooted to the bottom on 12 points after 17 games. There are 21 games to go, but we are struggling to close that gap, five behind St Mirren and six behind County.
Our recent form is acceptably average but it’s that horrific start that’s weighing us down.
Unless Dundee can find a goal threat from somewhere – a decent signing or two in January – the gap will be difficult to close. Certainly there’s not a lot of three-point hauls imminent, with Inverness away and Celtic at home our next two games.
The injury list is starting to ease with Mark Stewart taking part on Saturday and Stephen O’Donnell is seemingly close to returning. Finnigan, the guy with goals in him, is the one we really need back but he will do well to play this season. Happy Christmas!
The Club 12th Man
United seemed to have developed a habit of late of going a couple of goals behind early on in matches so there seemed to be a reversal of fortune when we found ourselves three goals up within nine minutes on Saturday against Inverness Caley Thistle. Quite how, after that start, we needed a dubious last-minute penalty to scrape a point is beyond me.
It was heartening to hear the club have re-opened talks to extend Peter Houston’s contract. Talks seemed to had stalled earlier in the season, sparking rumours that all was not well (again) between chairman and manager but, whatever their differences, they must put them aside to ensure the second most successful manager in Dundee United history remains at the helm of the club.
Hearts continued their unbeaten run since the cup game with a point at a difficult away venue. Having taken the lead twice and with the way we have performed defensively for much of the season you would have thought we could have held on, but it wasn’t to be and a draw was probably a fair result. However, the really pleasing thing is that we have started to score goals since the formation was switched to 4-4-2 with four different goal scorers in the past two games. Andy Driver is returning to something like the form he showed earlier in his career and it was good to see him and Sutton get on the scoresheet. We can now go into Sunday’s game against Dundee United on a more positive note given that the goal threat has returned. It won’t be pleasant to see Rudi Skacel play at Tynecastle in another team’s colours, but hopefully he won’t have a happy return.
Hibs snatched defeat from the jaws of victory with a second-half disaster against Motherwell. The opening 45 minutes saw Hibs play some excellent football and deservedly take the lead through the very impressive Eoin Doyle. It looked all over when Doyle put Hibs 2-0 up and cruising. Or so we thought. Hibs reverted back to last season’s form and sat back, giving Motherwell the chance to throw everything at us and we cracked under the pressure. Opinion on the hibs.net message board is divided over whether the manager played his part with debateable substitutions and formation changes. Whatever the rights and wrongs, it was a very poor half of football, compounded by the red card issued to the returning James McPake. He now misses the trip to Kilmarnock, although Fenlon has already stated that changes may be made as a result of the capitulation last weekend.
INVERNESS CALEDONINAN THISTLE
How is it possible to be three goals down before you’re halfway through your pie and then end up being gutted at having a victory snatched from you in the dying seconds?
It’s not the first time in our history that we have turned around such a deficit but to do it away from home was quite something. But this team never seems to give up or know when it’s beaten at the moment.
The players’ confidence is high but did that lead to complacency in those awful first eight minutes? Maybe so but the wake-up call was answered and the “we’ll score more than you” attitude returned.
Also, in Billy McKay, we have a gem of a poacher in front of goal and we’ll find it difficult to keep him in an ICT shirt in the future. The same goes for just about all the other players – we’ll need a lotto winner to retain them.
IT WAS a happy pre-Christmas trip to the Granite City for the Killie troops as we painted the town even more red and came back to Ayrshire with all three points. Our bus had a Cillian Sheridan Xmas jumper day and there were a few sights to be seen – and a few silly hats to boot – and it was a decent turnout from Kilmarnock given the distance and the proximity to the festive season. The game was pretty even with the Dons probably just edging it until their goalkeeper was sent off and Kelly stroked home the resultant penalty. After the break it was hard to tell which side had the deficit and Aberdeen were all over us and very unlucky not to get an equaliser. Our defence managed to weather the storm, though, and it was Kelly again, surely a contender for player of the year already, who landed the killer second goal on a counter attack to decide the outcome of the game.
Motherwell fans were naturally delighted at coming back from two down to win 3-2 at Easter Road but there was also a sense of bewilderment about the whole thing. While other clubs have managed occasional comeback victories it is a feat which has somehow eluded Motherwell. The last time was back in 1998, ironically against Hibs, as a two-goal deficit after just six minutes was turned into a 6-2 victory at Fir Park.
This week also saw the return of a more familiar problem at Fir Park as Hutchinson and Murphy were linked with moves south. With several players out of contract in the summer, it is likely that the next few weeks will see story after story suggesting our players will be moving on. We can only hope that, like last year, we refuse miserly offers and go on to claim a high SPL finish instead.
The league is now pretty much at the halfway stage, and it’s been surprising how close it has been. A lot of people expected Celtic to have had the league wrapped up by now but, the fact that they are only a few points ahead of the pack is credit to the other teams in the league.
The only problem is that no one team is much better than the rest, so all teams are capable of taking points off each other meaning not one other team is managing to take advantage of Celtic’s inconsistency. The bottom is starting to see a small gap appearing with Dundee, St. Mirren and County falling behind a little. That probably doesn’t surprise many people, with a lot of people having tipping those three to be down there. But, with the January transfer window opening shortly, all teams will have the chance to strengthen and I’m sure that managers will already have targets lined up.
I HAD written off Saturday’s match as a lost three points. With four certain starters suspended and no fit centre halves available, I was sure Hearts would overrun us at the back.
Not so. Steve Lomas picked the front six that I would rate as our best and, for long periods, they took the pressure off our backline and piled it on to the visitors, playing some lovely passing football and creating plenty of chances. Had we had our best back line on the park I’m sure we would have won. The two goals we conceded were pretty poor defensively and I just can’t imagine Dave Mackay, Steven Anderson and Frazer Wright would have given John Sutton that amount of space.
We’re into the busy festive footballing season now with four games in ten days coming up. To keep our top six hopes pushing on, I suspect six points will be a minimum.
When Steven Thomson’s fourth goal went in on that glorious night when we hammered Celtic, few people would have thought it would be our last against the Hoops for eight games. They have extacted revenge in pretty convincing fashion with an aggregate scoreline of 22-0 in the matches since. That rarely looked like improving on Saturday, with Danny Lennon still looking for his first point or goal against Celtic since he took charge.
Thankfully, this dire run has come against one of the Old Firm, rather than a wee club like Morton. Speaking of our friends from Greenock, Monday marked 5,000 days since they last beat us in a competitive game – the pre-season Renfrewshire Cup, although we have usually been a league above them. Renfrewshire derbies are fantastic occasions and it’s a shame we don’t get them more often.