SPL Fanzone: The fans have their say
SUPPORTERS of the twelve SPL clubs give their opinions on the past week for their team.
After the “fun” of the International break, it was back to good old-fashioned league business at Tannadice on Saturday.
Games in Dundee have always been popular with Aberdeen fans and the travelling support was out in force again, with some rumours suggesting that the away fans outnumbered the home ones.
It was also a BBC Alba game and, in the past, this has spelled disaster for us. With the team, along with many fans, being delayed on the A90, things did not bode well at kick off. But Craig Brown is nothing if not a seasoned campaigner and, after a sluggish first half, the team dug in to carve out a deserved draw. We now face the other Dundee side on Saturday and hopes that our unbeaten run can continue are high.
Saturday’s result was as unexpected as it was enjoyable. In fact, like Efe Ambrose, I found it flipping fantastic as Celtic hadn’t managed to score more than two goals at St Mirren’s new stadium before.
However, the result was mainly due to the Buddies appalling defending rather than Celtic having to be too brilliant. However, any confidence boost before facing Barcelona in the Champions League last night was surely to be welcomed.
Whatever happened in the Nou Camp
last night, Spartak Moscow’s evening win
over Benfica means we will be in at least second place at the halfway point of the group stage as you read this, a situation which I’m sure Lenny and every Celtic fan would have bitten your hand off for before the competition started.
What a nightmare this is. OK, Barry Smith said we weren’t nearly ready for the SPL but I thought the signings looked good and didn’t think it would take long before we consolidated something like ninth place. Instead, the stats make horrific reading. Four points out of 30, with four goals scored in ten games, two of them from the penalty spot.
Our midfield is stodgy and devoid of flair, and that’s where our main problems lie. We are making basic mistakes in defence but that can be sorted out. On the plus side, Nish has scored twice despite meagre rations and Riley is looking lively on the right, which was the only plus that could be taken from our 4-1 hammering by Inverness.
On Saturday we will be defending a proud record of being unbeaten in the league against Aberdeen at Pittodrie since October 1993.
The club 12th Man
Although Saturday’s kick-off against Aberdeen was delayed by 15 minutes due to traffic congestion on the A90, it was well worth the wait.
After some lacklustre performances of late, it was more like the United of old as they earned a share of the spoils in an entertaining 1-1 draw. On the evidence of this display it won’t be long until we are climbing up the table from the currently disappointing position.
Mark Miller has had to bide his time but he should be proud of his performance in what was his first competitive start. The midfielder signed from Falkirk must have been wondering what he had to do to get into the team but if he keep performing like that, it will be hard to get him out of it.
Hearts secured a much-needed three points on Sunday thanks to Danny Grainger’s spectacular strike. This allied to the news that the outstanding wages have now been paid make it a reasonable week for the Jambos. The game itself was a pretty low key affair, not helped by the ludicrous kick-off time and the paltry support from Motherwell. But we looked solid at the back and again created chances we weren’t able to take. Hopefully this result will give the team some confidence and we can go on a run. If Romanov can pay the wages on time next month and we can re-sign Skacel, there would be reasons to be positive for the rest of the season. The league table now looks a bit healthier for us, with Ross County to come on Saturday. As the game on Sunday showed, the first goal in SPL games is massive and, if we can get it, then another three points should be achievable.
It’s unlikely that our first visit to Dingwall on league business will hold many happy memories, especially for keeper Ben Williams, who was glaringly culpable for two goals. Williams has been a big improvement on the recent incumbents in the Easter Road goal but he has also cost us a few goals.
Indeed, the defence as a unit has probably been conceding far too many for the manager’s liking.
Overall we can probably count ourselves a little unlucky not to get at least a point from the Highlands but we quickly get an opportunity to get back to winning ways with a Friday night trip to Fir Park.
With Motherwell having just been mugged by Hearts, this game has all the hallmarks of a cracking encounter with a large Hibs crowd expected to make the trip through. Let’s hope that, this time, the lights stay on.
Going into a two-goal lead against Dundee is not always a good thing for us as we usually throw it away. That seemed likely again when Colin Nish pulled a goal back – which was inevitable as he always scores against us no matter who he plays for.
But to say that we are enjoying our good run of results just lately is undeniable. The win at Dens Park wasn’t as comfortable as the scoreline suggests, however, as Dundee seemed to have most of the ball. Our defence was solid and Reguero made some outstanding saves. The team is really starting to gel now and to be sitting in the top half of the table makes a pleasant change. It’s rare to be coming away from a game for the third time in a row feeling good about the way we are playing. However, a sterner test is waiting when St Johnstone come visiting.
Our day out in Perth started well as we had been invited to the social club at the ground by St Johnstone for the first time and, suffice to say it was much better than traipsing around trying to find somewhere for a beer and a pie.
That was about as good as it got, though, as defensively we are all over the shop and there was not much happening at the other end either. It was good, however, to see Cammy Bell back from injury and between the sticks. Hopefully he will soon be back to last season’s sparkling form.
We did get a consolation goal at the end but, to be honest, St Johnstone were well worth the three points and we could have lost by a few more goals.
Next up, a trip to Celtic Park beckons. . . I hope they remember it wasn’t the fans who abstained!
This week’s encounter between Motherwell and Hibs will be the third Friday night meeting of the teams at Fir Park.
The first such experiment was in January 1995 when a dire 0-0 was played out on live TV. Next was the aborted attempt last season. The idea was that no TV companies would cover the games and the hope was that fans would turn out in bigger numbers than usual, underlined by Motherwell slashing prices to £10. Unfortunately, the game was abandoned at half-time following a floodlight pylon fire.
Friday’s game will have ESPN present and standard admission prices will apply. It will be interesting to see what numbers are attracted to Fir Park when the cheaper and cosier alternative of an armchair and a flat screen is available.
Five in a row in the SPL, six in all competitions. Given where we were just a few weeks ago this is dreamland. Saturday’s win over Kilmarnock was among the most enjoyable St Johnstone matches I have attended in years, with attacking football and no end of chances created. It’s a shame we didn’t take a few more of them but it was heartening to see us tearing through a defence with ease like that.
Our next match at Inverness will be the toughest test since our victory over Celtic. A point would be a good result but I hope we can go one better. A final thought – Gregory Tade has been a revelation. I don’t remember him being as good as this when he played against us. He gives 100 per cent, never gives up, has shown great flashes of skill – including setting up Hasselbaink’s clincher against Killie – and plays with a smile.
Saturday was nothing short of a disaster. Losing to Celtic isn’t unexpected but the nature of last weekend’s defeat was shocking. It’s not too bad if you make the Old Firm work for their goals or they score a few worldies, but we kept making defensive mistakes and gifting them chances. In the end we were lucky it was only five goals.
Our defensive record in the last few weeks is poor to say the least. We may have found out how to score goals this season but we are shipping them in horrendous numbers, with nine flying into our net in the past two home games. We have to tighten up at the back and be fully switched on for the whole 90 minutes.
Saturday’s game against Dundee United is massive. They are on a poor run of form at the moment and we have to beat them and push on up the table.
It was good to get back to winning ways. After three defeats on the trot it was worrying to face an in-form team such as Hibs but, in truth, County hadn’t played badly in any of those three games and we simply weren’t getting the breaks that the performances merited.
The SPL is proving to be one of the closest for years and almost any team can beat any other on any given day. County proved again that they are capable opponents in this league.Scoring goals appeared to be the problem at the start of the season but we seem to have solved that problem and keeping clean sheets is now the issue. We let in two soft goals but, on this occasion, were able to outscore Hibs.
It was also nice for youngster Steven Ross to start. I’ve seen him in several U20 matches, where he has been prolific. He fully merited his first-team start and didn’t look out of place.
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Friday 24 May 2013
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