Joel Sked looks back at another entertaining weekend of Ladbrokes Premiership action.
The veteran winger was close to calling it a day before the arrival of Steve Clarke at Kilmarnock. The player had grown frustrated as the team struggled prior to Clarke’s arrival but despite a frustrating time with injury in the second half of last season the 34-year-old signed a new contract in the summer. He has started every league game this campaign having only started nine in the entirety of last season as he has become a key cog in Clarke’s plans with his work rate and game intelligence.
He was one of the standouts, alongside the likes of Stuart Findlay, Aaron Tshibola and Alan Power as Killie defeated Celtic. Not only did he score a wonderful equaliser from outside the box but he epitomised the home side’s work ethic and structure, while still posing a threat on the break with his pace.
This has been the first season since Hamilton returned to the Scottish Premiership via the play-offs where they have not been tipped by many to finish bottom of the league with the presence of a Jack Ross-less St Mirren and Livingston. However back-to-back defeats to St Johnstone at home and Livingston saw those relegation fears return.
Martin Canning, who has had his critics among the Hamilton support, has one job on his hands: keep the team in the division. He had made a number of changes to his side but it was one player signed at the start of the year who has appeared as the key man.
Mickel Miller is a talented, albeit raw, forward. He is inconsistent and can drift in and out of games. But when he is in the game Hamilton have a threat. He was posed in all three goals in the win over St Mirren, scoring twice and playing a key pass in the build-up to the opener. He can dribble, can eye a pass, shoot and is quick. If Canning can unearth his talent on a regular basis Accies will avoid the trapdoor.
Neil Lennon waxed lyrical about his speedy winger after Hibs eased past Dundee at Dens Park, taking advantage of the red carpet Neil McCann’s side lay out for opposing teams. The Hibs boss labelled him “outstanding” as Australian team-mate Mark Milligan talked about his international chances with the Aussies, due to Boyle’s father being born in Sydney. Meanwhile, former Scotland assistant manager Peter Houston has talked up his chances of a Scotland call-up.
Since signing for Hibs Boyle’s career has been on an upward trajectory and shows no of stopping. Stopping him was one thing Dundee couldn’t get to grips with. The best defences in Scotland struggle to cope with Boyle’s searing pace, so what chance do Dundee’s collection of dunderheads have? Yet, he displayed his vision to set up Florian Kamberi with a fantastic pass for the opening goal before putting Dundee on the back foot and firing in for Hibs’ second.
Jacobs and Pittman
Hearts fans were left frustrated with their team’s performance in the goalless draw with Livingston. A number of key players were off form. However, much of the credit deserves to go to Livingston who make life very difficult for their opponents. Their combative and direct style of play may not win a lot of praise but for some, this writer included, it can be fun to watch and adds to the differing styles in the league.
Their energy, organisation and endeavour have to be admired. It is something which is a hallmark of the team, from back to front. In the middle, the engine room of Keaghan Jacobs, Scott Pittman and Shaun Byrne define the team. They must be horrible to play against, hunting opponents down, suffocating them but the trio can play a bit as well and look to get forward.
Jacobs made his 250th first-team appearance for the club against Hearts, becoming the first player to reach the particular landmark, while it was announced prior to the game that Pittman had signed a contract extension until June 2020.
Only the bottom two Dundee and St Mirren have scored fewer goals than Aberdeen so far in the league. Therefore it was a massive boost for Derek McInnes to witness James Wilson get off the mark six minutes into his first start for the club since joining on loan from Manchester United.
The goal itself was excellent, the 22-year-old showing quick, attentive movement, collecting the ball and getting it out in front of him in one touch before firing across Trevor Carson, who had made a quick recovery from a suspected broken ankle.
Aberdeen rarely looked like adding to their early opener and have only scored more than once in any competition on one occasion this season. However, Wilson’s strike is timely with trip to Hibs and Celtic coming up in cup and league.
Rangers were rampant against St Johnstone. Scott Arfield and Alfredo Morelos were the key individuals as they continued a burgeoning relationship. The Colombian played his part in four of the goals as he constantly drifted right, exposing the space behind Scott Tanser and to the side of Joe Shaughnessy.
Shaugnessy is one of the better centre-backs in the division but was truly battered and bruised by Morelos who was supported regularly by Arfield. The Canadian international was breaking forward getting into positions where he could hurt the Saints backline, whether that be through scoring or laying on the decisive pass.
These runs from midfield can be so hard to defend, something which is missing from Celtic’s play without Stuart Armstrong. With a bit more selflessness, Morelos could record a significant number of assists alongside his goals.
During his first season at Celtic Scott Sinclair not only scored 25 goals but he terrorised and toyed with defences in Scotland. He made playing numerous full-backs look like primary school children thrown in against secondary school pupils. It was a mismatch and at times it simply looked unfair.
The Englishman stagnated last season and then began to regress. That regression has continued. He was brought into the team against Kilmarnock having started on the bench for the club’s previous three games.
Killie equalised in the 64th minute. Sinclair was subbed in the 65th. Rodgers was looking to turn the game back in Celtic’s favour and clearly didn’t trust Sinclair to be the player to help the team do just that.
Up against Killie right-back Stephen O’Donnell, it was Sinclair who looked like a primary school pupil playing against the big boys. How the mighty have fallen.
Boos rang around Tynecastle as Don Robertson signalled the end of the goalless draw between Hearts and Livingston. More than 17,000 Hearts fans turned up in expectation rather than hope as the team looked to make it six wins from six in the Premiership. And they let their feelings known at the end.
Some of it can be put down to sheer frustration, fans sensing a missed opportunity. Yet, the reaction was more in keeping with one of the team’s dreary performances during the previous 18 months.
Patience is not a known quality of the Hearts support in general. The fans are demanding but they have to take a step back and realise the progress the team and club have made in a short space of time. There will be frustrating days but they still lead the league by five points.
As Steven Naismith said: “There is a lot of frustration after the game and it’s probably hard to keep that in check, but for everybody involved and for the good of us, if we want to do something special this season, we have to stick together.”
Another week and another away calamity for St Mirren. It appeared the team had turned the corner with their 0-0 draw with Celtic but that may have been a false dawn. The Buddies were well beaten by Hamilton, so much so that 3-0 didn’t flatter the Accies in the slightest.
In their 4-1 defeat at Hearts which brought the curtain down on Alan Stubbs’ short spell at the club, Steven Naismith scored a penalty for the home side. A penalty which should have been kept out by Craig Samson.
Roll forward a couple of weeks and another penalty for the opposition which should have been kept out by Samson.
The opening goal was another which the Buddies No.1 may have felt he could done better with. He made a first save but pushed the ball into the one area where an Accies player was following up.
Samson is not St Mirren’s main issue. He was key in their Championship winning campaign but he is not one of the division’s better goalkeepers and the club have moved to bring in Dean Lyness for back-up/competition.
It is only right Dundee are left until last considering that is the position they sit in the Premiership table. Although they don’t much sit. It is more accurate to say they are anchored to the foot of the league.
What an absolute rabble Neil McCann’s side are. They have scored the fewest and conceded the most. Not a good ratio.
Previously the team were creating good openings but were let down by hapless finishing, now they are struggling to break down the opposition, while they are continuing to present opponents with easy chances. Not only is that through individual errors but a collective error. They are the most disorganised side in the league.
A couple of years ago Pat Nevin drew the ire of then Dundee boss Paul Hartley for his analysis of the side’s defensive vulnerabilities on Sportscene. If Nevin was to do the same for McCann’s ‘vintage’, the BBC would have to reschedule their Sunday programming and devote a whole afternoon and evening to Dundee’s defensive dreadfulness.
So, Dundee are not good in attack, rubbish at the back and are mentally weak. The final word goes to midfielder Paul McGowan.
“We’re f*cking weak-minded as a team, we’re weak-minded. We played good football in the first-half, Hibs rarely threatened us. We looked very good, passing the ball. The goal f*cking kills us. And that’s just the mentality we’ve got now.”