SPL Fanzone: The fans have their say on their team
SUPPORTERS OF the 12 SPL clubs give us the views from the stands on their team’s fortunes over the past seven days.
Another home game and another 0-0 but another impressive performance. It says a lot about how far we have come since Craig Brown took over when visiting teams seem delighted at getting a draw. It’s both frustrating and encouraging, though, that the draws are a result of our misfiring in front of goal rather than teams outplaying us.
Given our lack of goals, the decision to release one of our strikers prior to the close of the transfer window, without bringing in a replacement, may have seemed slightly odd. However, after the success of Ryan Fraser’s introduction to the first team, it may be that the answer to our goalscoring problems may be found in the youth players like Smith and McManus who have been consistently doing the business at the youth levels.
Delighted to be back in the Champions League and to do it by winning all four qualifying games with the loss of only one goal is a remarkable achievement. I am puzzled that a Celtic qualification which released an additional £1m payment to the SPL didn’t appear to be included in the doomsday calculations, nor was it widely publicised.
A game of two halves on Saturday. Celtic should have been out of sight in the first half but for sloppy finishing. Hibs showed a resilience that was lacking last season to come back in the second 45. Although always disappointed not to win a home game, I thought a young Celtic team gave a very good account of themselves.
While no marquee signings were made in the transfer window, Neil Lennon looks to have strengthened the team in the areas required with solid signings.
Well, that was a bit unexpected. We lose to Queen’s Park, Hearts almost beat Liverpool at Anfield, then we go to Hearts and grab a welcome three points. It was all about magnificent defending from Rab, Grassi and Co. We had little else going for us going for us on Sunday, but it proved enough – just. Our next game, at home to new league leaders Motherwell on Saturday week, offers a different challenge. Can we play some football, score a goal or two and dominate the game the way Hearts did? While still defending like maniacs, of course. Apart from conceding three penalties in eight days(!), McGregor has been a rock at the centre of defence alongside new cult hero, the Great Grassi.
The international break should help our injuries clear up. Come back Nicky Riley, we need you!
The Club 12th Man
Most United fans gave a sigh of relief when the transfer window closed on Friday. A host of bids were expected for Johnny Russell and Gary Mackay-Steven but all we got was the one bid from Huddersfield, and a paltry one at that. United are in no rush to sell these stars, who will be key as we look to pick up the form we had in our opening few games. That said, it would have been good to have got at least one additional player in before the window shut but, as we are constantly reminded, cash is tight.
After a drab 0-0 draw, some United fans felt the need to get on the backs of the players. United have kept three clean sheets out of the four SPL games played and yet people were moaning about the standard of the defence. Some fans are never happy!
It has been a rollercoaster week. It was more in hope than expectation that we travelled to Liverpool but the players did the club proud and, had we not conceded when we did it, may have been very different. The Jambos were in superb form, the atmosphere was amazing and it was another memorable away trip in Europe.
To lose Templeton to a Third Division club the following day was very disappointing but the over-riding emotion when the transfer window closed was of relief that McGowan had decided to stay. Stevenson could prove to be a useful addition to the squad, but I still think we should be looking at free agent strikers, as we remain short up front.
This was clear on Sunday when we couldn’t score against a very poor Dundee team. I’m not convinced that the formation the manager is adopting suits our squad, particularly Taouil and Sutton.
A week is a long time in the life of a football fan. Especially a Hibs fan. From the highs of beating St Johnstone, to the lows of a cup humbling by QoS. Back on high with anticipation as to who was going to sign as deadline day approached only to be swatted down again as we brought in a solitary defender. And then came the visit to Celtic.
After the cup exit, nothing much was expected and, at half-time, being a goal down was a great scoreline given the low-key opening half performance. However this team proved again it can play – if only for 45 of the 90 minutes just now – and a big effort saw us take a well-deserved point.
While the transfer window did not fill key positions as most fans wanted, it saw the next phase in the Pat Fenlon squad clearout with two permanent departures and another three away on loan.
After overcoming the potential banana skin cup tie at Arbroath in midweek, we could have been forgiven for thinking we could have gained a decent result in Motherwell. There was an opportunity to capitalise on their tiring trip to Spain but we failed to do that. The two quick goals that were gifted to them gave us a mountain to climb. The game itself wasn’t as one sided as the scoreline suggests but it still hurts.
That’s eight SPL goals we’ve conceded in the last two games and that spells big trouble if we can’t match the total at the other end. We still maintain we’re playing much more attractive football than last year but, after the defensive displays of the last two weeks, we are entirely justified in feeling worried about the season ahead. It’ll be interesting to see how Terry Butcher’s new defenders respond to this.
Saturday saw another first for the Killie faithful. Well for most of us at least as, apparently, we played Ross County in the cup in nineteen canteen. In league terms it was our first trip to Dingwall and the game was probably as much of a damp squib as the weather and certainly fitting of a no-score-bore moniker. Ross County have a terrific unbeaten record but barely threatened and much the same could be said of Killie. A massive faux pas by the otherwise solid Letheren almost gifted County all the points but veteran James Fowler was literally on the line to save the day. We had a decent support of four hundred-plus who vociferously backed the team and pilloried the chairman in equal measure. Good luck to young Matt Kennedy, who went to Everton for a reasonable fee given his lack of experience. He’s a nice lad and we wish him all the best.
The international break has been welcomed by Stuart McCall as his injury-ravaged squad need some respite following a hectic August. The scale of the sick list is illustrated by the defence that faced Inverness on Sunday. One aged 22 (Page) and three 19-year-olds (Kerr, Cummins and Francis-Angol). They may not be well known outside Fir Park yet all have had European experience this season.
The star of the show at the weekend was Michael Higdon. Not only did he score a hat-trick (on his birthday, too!) but he continues with the defensive role that adds some badly needed height when the opposition have the opportunity to deliver the ball into the box.
Motherwell are still without defeat in the league and are currently atop the table with three draws and a couple of wins – who needs activity in the transfer window?
Kilmarnock manager Kenny Shiels had a bit of dig at County after the game, referring to County as playing anti-football. Maybe he should look at the stats from the game and see that County just edged it with more possession, while attempts on goal and shots on target were actually the same as Kilmarnock’s.
Shiels is not the first manager to have a dig at County’s style of play, with Falkirk’s Steven Pressley, Partick’s Jackie McNamara and Dundee’s Barry Smith all having a go last season. Where I agree the style may not be the free-flowing style of Barcelona (not many teams in the SPL are) County’s style is effective and the team are organised. Derek Adams has got the best out of the players available to him and he should be getting credit for that. But Shiels does like a good moan. Maybe he was still grumpy after the mammouth trip North!
Better – but still no win on the board. Saturday’s game was a vast improvement on the last home match against Aberdeen, but yet again we lacked the killer instinct that has been missing so far this season. We made enough chances – with Peter Pawlett in particular impressing out on the right, creating for himself and others – but couldn’t put anything in the net.
That’s going to have to improve but, with Celtic the next visitors to McDiarmid Park, it will be a tough ask to put full points on the board in our next SPL game. Hopefully by then Craig Beattie will be available for selection. I believe he and Rowan Vine would make a great partnership.
Goals are the key in our upcoming games, otherwise we could find ourselves locked in a basement battle before autumn even starts.
Players score against their old clubs. A team has an upturn in form when a new manager takes over. Now to football’s unwritten rules we can add: St Mirren and Aberdeen always draw. Saturday made it four times in a row we’ve shared the spoils with the Dons and we could really do with turning some of those into wins. Our problem last season was we drew too many games and it’s beginning to look like that problem could recur.
We’ve had a decent start to the season, albeit two points worse off than we were this time last year. The start isn’t too bad when you consider the players we’ve lost and the fact Darren McGregor is sadly injured again. If Paul Dummett shows why he’s so highly rated by Newcastle and Franco Miranda returns there’s no reason why we can’t get some wins after the international break.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 26 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 15 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 8 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: South