On a day when Celtic extended their lead at the top of the Premiership, Inverness continued their resurgence and Queen of the South clung on to the top of the Championship, Craig Cairns takes a look at five things to take from the afternoon action.
Paul Hartley is under pressure
When predictions were being drawn up at the start of the season, many anticipated a tough time for Dundee after they lost their two player of the year nominees to English lower league clubs.
Some even went as far as to predict Dundee for the play-off spot, others earmarked Paul Hartley as the first manager in the division to leave his post.
A predictable poor showing in the League Cup, despite the favourable group, was followed by an impressive 3-1 win in Dingwall on the opening day of the league season. Since then and before today’s match, Dundee failed to win in five and did not score more than one goal in any of them. Signs that Hartley is feeling the pressure came to light during an interview this week when the Dundee manager called out unnamed, so-called “experts” for their negativity towards his side. It is difficult to see where Hartley is coming from and it evokes memories of a similar attack on Pat Nevin last season, again when he was feeling pressure.
To make matters worse, Dundee suffered a 3-1 defeat to Inverness, their second such scoreline in as many matches. It means that Dundee have not beaten Invenrness in 16 attempts and have never won an away fixture there. That record in an of itself won’t trouble Hartley too much, but their league position, brought about by a leaky defence and a lack of a cutting edge in attack, will.
Celtic have a striking dilemma
So who does Brendan Rodgers pick to lead his attack in Wednesday night’s Champions League clash with Manchester City at Parkhead? Moussa Dembele or Leigh Griffiths?
It’s certainly a nice problem for the Celtic manager to have.
A month or so ago the answer would have been obvious. Griffiths had started the campaign in the same way he had finished the last one - banging goals in left, right and centre. He had scored vital efforts in the Champions League qualifying matches and cracked a beauty into the top corner against Aberdeen on 27 August. But then he sustained calf and hamstring injuries ahead of Scotland’s World Cup qualifying match in Malta and, until yesterday, Griffiths hadn’t been seen since.
In the meantime, Dembele has filled his boots in some style. The 20-year-old had also scored crucial goals early in the campaign but became a real hero among the Celtic supporters when he grabbed the perfect hat-trick (header, right-foot, left-foot) in the 5-1 mauling of Rangers. The Frenchman’s two goals against Kilmarnock yesterday took his tally for the season to an impressive ten.
Griffiths wasted no time in returning to the fold against Killie, scoring within two minutes of replacing Dembele, but will it be enough to earn a starting spot against City? It’s more than likely Dembele’s match sharpness will get him the nod but it’s a close call.
Alim Ozturk’s future is still unknown
Ok, so it would have been premature to predict that Alim Ozturk’s Hearts career was over, even if this week he was stripped of the club-captaincy, but he is now in the final year of his current deal and is struggling to even get back into the side after John Souttar and Igor Rossi formed a solid partnership.
However, at today’s match at Tynecastle, Ozturk came on to the field of play in the first half after Souttar sustained an injury. The 23-year-old may have quickly resorted back to his occasional tendancy to send aimless long balls towards the attackers, but he remained solid defensively for the remainder of the match, contributing to his side’s clean sheet.
Ozturk may suffer from an instict to over-complicate things at times, but at his best is a top centre-half at this level.
Even still, his manager Robbie Neilson appears to like the balance of Souttar’s ability to bring the ball from the back and Rossi’s no nonsense approach. When everyone is fit, Ozturk may be the one who finds himself out of favour again.
Kilmarnock are getting goals from their strikers
Last season, Kris Boyd struggled to get into the side for large spells, while Josh Magennis, for all he improved in his time at Rugby Park, hit a ceiling of 10 league goals.
This season, though Kilmarnock have struggled to get going, they appear to have much more cutting edge in attack.
Boyd slammed in one against Rangers, a match in which they took a vital point, before following that up with another versus Partick Thistle the week after. Souleymane Coulibaly started the season with two comical, wayward efforts versus Motherwell before his stunning strike versus Hamilton. Since then, each goal has been better than the last, including bicycle kicks and 40-yard howitzers.
So far Kilmarnock have scored eight league goals, two more than at the same stage last season. This time, they are being shared between their strikers - Boyd and Coulibaly have scored six between them.
Hibernian remain favourites for the Championship despite stuttering
It would take a brave man to bet against Hibernian winning the Championship this season, even if they have failed to win in their last two. A point away to top-of-the-table Queen of the South may seem an oppotunity missed in the short-term, however, Hibernian’s strength, their deep squad and the fact that those expected to challenge have got off to a slow start, mean they remain firm favourites.
Dundee United and Falkirk closed the gap with their victories this weekend but remain six and four points behind, respectively.
As for Queen of the South, not much was expected of Gavin Skelton’s side, but they have been lifted by the arrival of Stephen Dobbie, who already has nine goals to his name.
Out of all those mentioned, Hibs are probably happy that it is Queens and not the other two who currently sit between them and the league’s summit and will be confident the likes of Jason Cummings and Andrew Shinnie will give them enough to eventually pull away at the top of the league.