A look back at the midweek action in the Ladbrokes Premiership
Since defeat to Rangers at the end of 2019, the Scottish champions have won five straight league games, scoring 19 goals to open up a ten-point lead over their city rivals at the top of the table. Celtic struggled at times against Hearts in the first half at Parkhead but eased to victory after the interval with Callum McGregor continuing his fine form - four goals and four assists in 2020. But praise has to go to Neil Lennon. He was rightly criticised after defeat to Rangers but has reinvigorated Celtic with a switch in formation, getting the best out of McGregor and Olivier Ntcham in midfield, as well as a burgeoning partnership in Odsonne Edouard and Leigh Griffiths.
Jack Ross is showing previous boss Paul Heckingbottom how to get the best out of players the Englishman signed. Christian Doidge reached double figures in the league in the 3-0 win over Ross County, while Joe Newell impressed once more, but this time in a wing-back position. Greg Docherty and Vykintas Slivka were excellent in midfield but Newell, featuring in his third role for the club showed his quality going forward as well as a willingness in defence to be in the right position. A very useful player for the squad to have.
It is hard to pick out a single individual as St Johnstone made it 10 points from 12 in the league in the 2-1 win over Motherwell. Tommy Wright made his feelings known about the club's struggles in terms of recruitment and contracts. There was the feeling that this was a boss at the end of his tether. Yet, there is no putting the Northern Irishman down. He has fielded the Saints in a 3-5-2 system recently but opted for a 4-3-3 against the Steelmen. A decision which was queried by some fans prior to the game. The first half may have been even but Saints were by far the better team after the break. Callum Hendry was Lyndon Dykes-esque in his leading of the line, David Wotherspoon continued his renaissance, Jamie McCart was faultless at the back and Jason Kerr provided moments befitting a captain.
The Wolf and the captain
Kilmarnock put in arguably their best performance over 45 minutes this season as they came from behind to beat Rangers 2-1 at Rugby Park. Eamonn Brophy was a nuisance in attack, constantly getting the ball into feet, turning and firing shots at Allan McGregor's goal. More than anything it kept the pressure on as he won a number of corners before slamming in the winner with an exquisite finish. It's now four goals in his last three league outings, amounting to six points which has kept pressure on the top six. He may not even have been Killie's best player with Gary Dicker in fine composed form in the centre of the pitch.
The Livi hitman was linked with a move to Rangers in January and you can understand why. He was once again a focal point for Livingston in their 2-1 win over St Mirren. He won a penalty which was converted by Steven Lawless to open the scoring before running through and showing composure to double the lead. Now on 12 goals for the season, he will be in demand in the summer, simply because he offers so much more than goals. Livi are in contention for Europe, Dykes will play a pivotal role.
St Mirren fans
Kudos to St Mirren fan group the 'Northbank'. They made a stand during the week by boycotting their side's visit to Livingston. They have been campaigning for a £20 cap on away ticket prices. Their view was that £25 for a midweek match in the middle to the winter is "obscene". Their belief is that by hitting clubs in the pocket they "will take notice".
The travelling Aberdeen fans broke into a chorus of "oh Derek McInnes" at one point during their 3-1 win over Hamilton. It is a change from telling him to "f*** off". The Dons had this game won by half-time with McInnes fielding an unorthodox 3-5-2 system with Matty Kennedy and Connor McLennan as wing-backs. They had Accies pinned back for most of the half with Curtis Main, in for Sam Cosgrove, putting in a stellar display capped by a fine finish to open the scoring. Aberdeen are now third.
Rangers' title hopes are all but done for. The Ibrox side looked in control away to Kilmarnock having taken the lead through a fierce Scott Arfield strike, but as the second half progressed they fell deeper and deeper, appearing to wilt. There was criticism of Gerrard who failed to make the necessary changes to win back control of the match, not helped by some schoolboy defending. The team will feel hard done by with regards to poor decisions made by John Beaton, namely the handball in the build up to the Killie equaliser and apparent push from Alfredo Morelos when he seemed to head Rangers back into the lead. But, when it comes down to it, Rangers just haven't been that good since returning from the winter break.
It was a night to forget for some goalkeepers in the league. Joel Pereira once again cost Hearts a goal with flap to set up Olivier Ntcham. His outfield team-mates resembled lions who had just been bothered in their enclosure by a bumbling zookeeper. Happy they were not. But Pereira's wasn't the most egregious of errors. That feat belonged to St Johnstone goalkeeper Zander Clark. Answers on a postcard people. Killie goalkeeper Jan Koprivec didn't cover himself in glory with the Rangers goal either.
Sixteen goals conceded in five games. They have managed to get themselves off the bottom but injuries are starting to take their toll and defending like what was on show against Aberdeen will make it very difficult for them to survive. A huge trip to relegation rivals Hearts up next.
Hearts were sent a warning early on in their 5-0 defeat to Celtic. Christopher Jullien was allowed to waltz into the box as free as someone who had just been let out of jail. His first header went over the bar. When he was allowed to do so the second time, just after the interval, he made no mistake. Under Daniel Stendel, Hearts defend zonally at corners. It makes it very difficult to defend against a 6ft4in powerful centre-back who is able to get a run on the Tynecastle defenders.
The Steelmen look a team devoid of ideas. The first goal conceded against St Johnstone came from slack play from the back. Something which is becoming more common is the two centre-backs playing between themselves before clipping the ball long. They have hit a bit of a speed bump and are clearly missing the talents of James Scott and Devante Cole who proved effective in the first half of the season. They have St Mirren, Hamilton, Ross County and Hearts up next in the league to try and re-find their form.