SPL Fanzone: The fans have their say
Supporters of the 12 SPL sides reflect on the past week for their club
They say it is better to be lucky than good and last Wednesday Aberdeen were incredibly lucky, which was just as well as we were a long way from being good. A large travelling support made the journey to Dunfermline to watch us huff and puff our way through the League Cup tie and few who attended would have had any complaints had we lost. Fast forward to Saturday and a vastly different performance was produced to brush Hibs aside. The only blip was from Langfield who, having been the saviour in midweek, got caught out at the equaliser. But the rest of the team dug in and ensured that the first home win of the season was achieved. It is possible that a cold, wet night in Fife has given the team a wake-up call and we can now look forward to more positive performances.
Three things became abundantly clear on Saturday – we can’t take penalties, we’ve found a player in Ambrose and Lenny’s ball control is painful, mainly for him.
If there are eight other Scottish midfielders better than Kris Commons then qualification for Brazil 2014 is assured. He not only creates opportunities for others but has the ability to make and take his own chances. It’s also great to see the rehabilitation of Scott Brown. My only concern would be the defence. We don’t appear to have a first-choice back four. It would be nice to bed in a settled back line.
I wasn’t particularly confident about our European campaign but last night has certainly boosted confidence. Four points from two games is an impressive return.
Hearts come calling next. Always tasty and, on recent form, it will be interesting!
Saturday’s defeat had few positives.
St Johnstone were comfortable winners and the game was over just after half-time when they made it 3-1, because there was no way we were going to score twice. Of our three league goals from eight games this season, two have been penalties.
The last half-hour seemed to go on forever and they missed a couple which would have made the scoreline a real embarrassment.
Talking of embarrassments, United’s thrashing at Inverness must have given Dundee fans at least one reason to smile. To be fair to United, I don’t expect they’ll be down there in SPL basement with us for too long. But who are relegation candidates, apart from us? That’s the worrying thing. We’re away to Hibs this week and our only win of the season has been in Edinburgh, so you never know.
The Club 12th Man
There is a sense of déjà vu around Tannadice. A handful or so games into the season, the hounds are out again for manager Peter Houston. Regardless of how we have fared in the last few seasons after a poor start, there are sections of the support who are still not willing to give Houstie the opportunity he deserves. And, while there is talk of there not being a new contract on the table for the manager, one would have to wonder if he would sign a new deal based on the lack of support from some quarters.
We hadn’t been playing particularly well in recent weeks but the 4-0 thumping at Inverness still came as a bit of a shock. And a trip to Motherwell this weekend isn’t exactly the ideal place to go when you’re looking for a pick-me-up.
Defeat on Saturday to Kilmarnock was a tough one to take given the number of chances we created, particularly in the first half. However, too often we didn’t even hit the target, never mind trouble the Killie keeper. We are paying the price for a lack of investment in strikers which has been going on for a number of years. The other factor in our defeat was a poor performance from Jamie MacDonald. Since Alan Combe came in he had seemed to be improving but it was definitely a day to forget for our No 1.
McGlynn still seems to be searching for the right blend and position for a number of players but he needs to work quickly as we have a run of difficult fixtures coming up and, if we slump any further down the table, alarm bells will start ringing, if they aren’t already. We go into Sunday’s game with low expectations but the last time that happened we won 3-0, so you just never know.
When your squad lacks any depth, it is vital that every first-pick player performs well. With several players misfiring on Saturday at Pittodrie, we ended up getting what we deserved from the game – nothing. But at least our very noisy travelling support was rewarded by seeing Eoin Doyle score an absolute belter of a goal to cancel out Aberdeen’s early lead. We may well have seen the goal of the season already.
It was also good to see new defender Ryan McGivern making an appearance. Unlike his dodgy hairstyle, his performance was quite pleasing on the eye. Hibs fans can take comfort from the fact that this Hibs team looks capable of keeping us at the right end of the table. The players can’t be faulted for effort and did not let their heads go down and concede defeat. Saturday’s home match against Dundee can’t come quickly enough.
Well I suppose we knew it would happen one day; we’d keep a clean sheet and score lots of goals at the other end. To say it made a pleasant change is an understatement and it was nice to have that winning feeling again.
A tricky midweek cup tie had seen us taken to extra-time and penalties by Stenhousemuir but it didn’t seem to have an adverse effect on the team – quite the opposite it would appear. All departments seemed to click and even losing regular keeper Ryan Esson prior to kick-off didn’t seem to have a negative influence. Quality goals, too, and good passing football. Is this the start of something big? We are so looking forward to Fridays first-ever SPL Highland derby now - more than we were a few weeks ago. We’re scoring, they’re conceding, so it has 0-0 written all over it.
And so it was that another Killie hero was born as Cillian Sheridan bagged his first professional hat-trick at our happy hunting ground Tynecastle. The Jambos must really hate the sight of us by now. The first half started pretty evenly but our defending was resolute and the Admiral was back on form. Sheridan’s first goal was a looping header into the far corner and there was no turning back from that point. The second strike was a thing of beauty and we should not forget Pascali’s inch-perfect pass in the build up.
The third goal for Killie was a free kick which the Hearts keeper could not hold and Sheridan was lurking at the back post to stab the ball home. It was a shame for Letheren that Hearts snatched a goal at the end as he deserved a clean sheet. Now, if things go our way on Saturday, we could end up at the top of the league. That’s me jinxed it then!
Last week was a bad one for the Fir Park faithful. A dreadful loss in the League Cup to an indifferent Rangers side was followed by a painful lesson from a good Celtic team in the SPL.
But the two games probably delivered the best financial return we’ll see all season. A share of the 30,000 gate at Ibrox and the BBC fee together with a home crowd of 10,500 against Celtic should keep the wolf from the door for a few months. It may even mean the manager can add to the team. While we can be pleased with the young players’ development, there’s no doubt that the addition of a couple of older heads would benefit the squad. The team will be keen to return to the form that gave us a
table-topping start and the visit of struggling Dundee United may be just what we need.
The decision by referee Steven McLean to award the second-half penalty to St Mirren was one of the worst I have seen. There was no contact whatsoever in the incident and, in fact, it was St Mirren player Lewis Guy who actually made a tackle on Grant Munro. I, along with the other 260 or so County fans at New St Mirren Park clearly saw that this was the case and the TV evidence has since proven us correct – so why is it that neither the referee nor the various reporters at the game picked up on it?
We can’t blame that alone as we didn’t defend three of the other goals very well but, up to then, County had been the better team and it’s decisions like that which turn games.
Focus now turns to the Highland derby on Friday. Who would have thought 18 years ago, when the teams were admitted to the SFL, that they’d be facing each other in an SPL match?
Less than a month ago we were in a rut, rooted to the bottom of the league. Now we’re only three points off the top, with four wins from our last four matches.
On Saturday we defeated Dundee 3-1 and it could easily have been four, five, six or seven, if it hadn’t been for some good goalkeeping, the post and a couple of questionable refereeing decisions. The only downside to this is that our players are dropping like flies every week. Peter Pawlett has been out with a hamstring problem, Rowan Vine still has one game of a ban to go, Paddy Cregg went off after half an hour on Saturday and Steven MacLean picked up a horrible-looking elbow injury in the dying minutes.
Our strength in depth will keep us going for the time being but much more of this and there could be an issue.
Saturday was one of the most incredible games of football I have witnessed for some time. It summed up everything that is good and bad about the current Saints side, from an awful first half to a terrific turnaround followed by some slack defending and a spectacular winner.
Steven Thompson has been in the form of his life for much of 2012 and seems to be revelling in the chance to play for his boyhood heroes. His last-minute strike had to be seen to be believed but we shouldn’t forget Sam Parkin and Kenny McLean, who also produced some impressive goals to give us a lead we managed to throw away. We will have to be much tighter at the back when we go to
St Johnstone this weekend. The goals we lost were poor and we will get punished if we play like that this weekend.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 26 May 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 15 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 8 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: South