After another exciting weekend of action, we take a look at five aspects of the Scottish Premiership weekend.
Aberdeen and Hearts’ slow starts have allowed them to creep under the radar
Much of the media focus early this season surrounded whether or not Rangers have what it takes to challenge for title. Some spoke of them in terms of the closest challengers to Celtic, fewer went a step further and labelled them champions-elect. More common was for them to be spoken about in the same breath as Aberdeen and Hearts. Sure, Rangers’ budget may trump that of the two clubs, but they would do well to match or better the stability those two clubs have managed over the last few years.
Hearts began the season with early exits from the Europa League and League Cup and no wins in their first two league matches. This led some questionable questioning of who was actually in charge of the Hearts side. When the attention inevitably turned back to events at Ibrox, Hearts built on their slow, but nowhere near disastrous, start to the campaign with wins over Partick Thistle, Hamilton and Motherwell, which took them into second-place before today’s matches.
Aberdeen also exited Europe earlier than they desired before starting their league season with two scoreless draws. A less-than convincing victory at home to Partick Thistle arrested this disappointment before the usual thumping at Celtic Park. Since then, four consecutive victories over Dundee, St Johnstone, Rangers and Kilmarnock mean that they now occupy second place, four points behind leaders Celtic.
Hamilton still can’t hold on to a lead
After their 1-1 draw at Dens Park, their third league match of the current campaign, Martin Canning said that his side should have been joint top of the league with seven points. As it stood, they sat much closer to the bottom with just two points. That’s despite taking the lead in all three matches. In the middle of all that they exited the League Cup Second Round after taking the lead against Morton.
Since then, Accies have gone ahead versus Ross County, Hearts and St Johnstone - as well as this weekend against Inverness - but have only walked away with one victory. The only league match they haven’t gone in front was against Motherwell where they were three goals down within 21 minutes.
The issue is that Canning’s side has never been ahead by two goals in a their eight league matches so far and this has resulted in them dropping 14 points from winning positions. The margins are likely to be fine in the basement of the league and Hamilton are going to struggle if they don’t start holding on to or extending these advantages.
Inverness have become the late goalscorers this season
One of the biggest problems for John Hughes last season was the amount of late goals his side conceded. Eleven were scored in the 85th minute and beyond - seven of which came in injury time - against Inverness, costing them 13 points.
This season they are doing the opposite. Liam Polworth’s 93rd minute equaliser versus Hamilton was their fourth goal in the 87th minute and beyond, which have contributed four points to their overall tally. Were it not for Alex Fisher’s later equaliser versus Celtic, Josh Meekings’s winner at the death against St Johnstone, or the goal from Polworth today, Inverness would still be bottom of the league, a point behind Partick Thistle.
If Liam Boyce doesn’t score, Ross County don’t score
Even though it’s been a decent start to the season for Jim McIntyre, he must be concerned about the current lack of goals in his side. The 2-0 defeat at home to St Johnstone leaves County with just seven league goals this season, the same as bottom-placed Partick Thistle.
September’s player of the month Liam Boyce has scored six of those, which all came across just three matches. Alex Schalk is missing through injury and Craig Curran, who forged an excellent partnership with Boyce last year, has health problems that may hinder his ability this season. Brian Graham would have surely deputised but he was allowed to move to Hibernian in the summer, leaving Ross County short of options. Callum Morrison, whose development was cited as one of the reasons for Graham’s departure, was given a start this weekend but was unable to get himself on the scoresheet.
County will likely be fine, especially when Schalk returns, but a dearth of goals from anyone other than the Northern Irishman is bound to worry those affiliated with the club.
Dundee are in trouble of finding themselves in a relegation battle
One clean sheet in seven matches, 12 goals conceded, no wins in seven, one win overall and just eight goals scored pretty much sums up why Dundee currently sit in 10th place, one point off the bottom of the league. Greg Stewart and Kane Hemmings have not been replaced, Yordi Teijsse and Faissal El Bakhtaoui look out of their depth, there’s less quality out wide than last season - and that’s saying something - and the centre of their midfield is neither scoring or creating goals.
Add to this a porous defence, which looks to have been reinforced by the signing of Kevin Gomis, and it appears Dundee are only heading one way. Last season the quality of Stewart and Hemmings was enough for them to snatch a bundle of draws, on their performances so far this season they’ll be lucky take anything from similar fixtures this time around.