Five things we learned from the Scottish football weekend
After yet another dramatic afternoon of football we take a look at five aspects of the Scottish football weekend.
Ross County are now the side in real trouble
Granted, it was just one victory for Dundee, but they had to begin somewhere, anywhere, and they will be delighted to get their first win in 10 which also ends a run of six consecutive defeats. Now the attention will be turning to Ross County and the relative merits of their ability to get out of the rut they currently find themselves in.
The heavy nature of the defeat will no doubt cause concerns but it is at the other end where problems have persisted since the start of the league campaign. Liam Boyce had netted six of their eight league goals going into their match with Motherwell and Alex Schalk’s first of the league campaign makes him just the fourth player to do so so far this season.
Last season they possessed striking options that were the envy of much of the league. All four of Boyce, Schalk, Craig Curran and Brian Graham contributed to goals at different times, and in different competitions as Jim McIntyre brought silverware back to Dingwall. Now Graham has moved on, the three that remain have all had fitness issues, Greg Morrison – expected to make the step-up this year – is still raw, while Liam Boyce, despite his goals earlier in the season, is now woefully out of form.
You may as well flip a (four-sided) coin for second-place
With Celtic stretching their lead at the top of the table in the lunchtime kick-off with victory over Aberdeen, the chance was presented to a clutch of sides to stake their claim for a second-placed finish. St Johnstone spurned their opportunity (see below), as did Hearts (again, see below) but Rangers took full advantage.
Mark Warburton’s side ran out comfortable 3-0 winners at Ibrox against Kilmarnock with goals from Lee Wallace, Andy Halliday and Joe Garner. Had Inverness held on for victory – they led 2-0 and 3-2 against Hearts – then they would have been within touching-distance of the three sides. As it stands, they are in sixth, four points behind four teams who are separated by one point.
Partick Thistle have some sort of hex over St Johnstone at McDiarmid
Despite losing to St Johnstone earlier this season, Alan Archibald’s men enjoyed a 100 per cent record against Tommy Wright last season, including two victories at McDiarmid Park. They added to that away record this weekend with a winner in the dying minutes against in-from opponents.
Even when Thistle were beginning to look marooned at the bottom of the division, we all knew they would pull a couple of results from somewhere and move up the table. They’ve done so for a few years now.
This was the week where it all came together – today’s victory coming off the back of a win over fellow-strugglers Dundee on Wednesday. The two draws before that mean that Thistle are now unbeaten in four and are now ninth, though still just two points off the bottom of the table.
Hearts can’t seem to win in Inverness, and continue to struggle in Kilmarnock
Hearts started this week looking ahead to two venues where they have struggled in recent years. Their 3-3 draw at the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium came after they had fought back from 2-0 down to get back level. Tony Watt was sent on at that stage though they blew any momentum almost instantly by conceding a third.
Despite their late equaliser, the Tynecastle side have now failed to win in their last 10 visits to Inverness and their defeat at Kilmarnock midweek means that they have only won at Rugby Park twice over the same sample size.
Hibernian are back on track ... without Jason Cummings
For the second consecutive week Jason Cummings had to make do with a place on the bench and, also for the second consecutive week, he stayed there for the entire 90 minutes while his side managed fine without him.
The other forwards in the side – Grant Holt, Brian Graham, James Keatings and Martin Boyle – have all been among the goals in their last two victories, which have seen Hibs win their last two matches by 3-1 and 2-0 scorelines.
It’s surely just a temporary measure until Neil Lennon either sees something in the young striker to change his mind, or until a time when needs must. The last two performances without Cummings, however, may just prolong his absence for the time being.