Rangers' quick fix, change at Hearts, good Hibs team and VAR controversy - 5 takeaways from Scottish football
It was Celtic who took the derby spoils, winning 1-0 at Ibrox, while Motherwell were 1-0 victors against Hearts to maintain their excellent start to the season. Hibs prevailed 2-0 at Aberdeen, St Johnstone battled back draw 2-2 at home to Dundee, Ross County won 1-0 at Kilmarnock, while Livingston and St Mirren shared the spoils in West Lothian. We cast our eye over five talking points from the weekend’s actions:
Beale needs quick fix
The Rangers supporters were not shy in making their feelings known towards manager Michael Beale and his players following the 1-0 defeat by bitter rivals Celtic. They have lost two of their four league matches, trail their Glasgow rivals by four points and are out of the Champions League. Being early into a squad rebuild will not cut Beale any slack with the fans, and he will likely need to embark on a winning run once the league resumes to try and curry some favour back with the Ibrox faithful. Another early slip-up in the league could be catastrophic for their title chances and long-term belief in Beale’s project, given the vitriolic aftermath of the first derby.
Change coming at Hearts?
Hearts’ start to the league season has been far from inspiring as well, taking just four points from their opening matches. Jeers rang around Tynecastle following the 1-0 loss to Motherwell and now out of Europe, it is anticipated that current technical director Steven Naismith will be promoted to the title of manager, with Frankie McAvoy taking a step back. Naismith’s lack of UEFA Pro Licence denied him the chance to manage in UEFA football, but that is not an issue now. Regardless of who picks the team against Aberdeen on September 16, the Jambos – and also the Dons – need an upturn in fortunes given their poor starts to the season.
There’s a good team at Hibs
Caretaker manager David Gray deserves immense credit for the way he set out his team at Pittodrie, playing in a pragmatic fashion to eke out a 2-0 victory. Hibs looked more balanced and structured than under Lee Johnson and while it is unlikely that Gray, so early into his fledgling coaching career, will get the job this time around, he has done his reputation no harm whatsoever with the result in the north east. He has also proven that there are good players at Hibs, and that whoever comes in has a strong chance of success with them.
Refereeing controversy – again
Kilmarnock can rightly feel aggrieved at referee Kevin Clancy’s decision to blow his whistle too early in awarding them a penalty, rather than letting play continue a second longer to allow Stuart Findlay’s header to stand. Dan Armstrong subsequently missed from the penalty spot, and Clancy’s hastiness undoubtedly cost Killie an equaliser. Then there was the VAR-assisted call to overturn Rangers’ goal against Celtic, with Cyriel Dessers adjudged to have fouled Gustaf Lagerbielke in the build-up. It was decision that polarised onlookers and proves once more that technology will never stop controversy within Scottish football.
Green shoots at St Johnstone
After their dreadful Viaplay Cup group-stage performances and losing their first two league matches, St Johnstone were condemned by many to relegation so early on. Rookie manager Steven MacLean, however, can take heart from the 2-2 draw at Dundee, earned by two late goals to salvage what looked like a nailed-on defeat at home. By MacLean’s own admission, Saints were poor in the Tayside clash, but they showed spirit and determination to battle back against the Dees. MacLean has signed 11 new players and will now use the next two weeks to gel his players together. Saving a point against Dundee on the back of a 0-0 draw at Celtic will at the very least increase confidence levels at McDiarmid Park.