SPL fanzone: As the supporters see it
Football is a cruel mistress. Every week she drags you away from your home to various places round the country with the promise of excitement and entertainment and, if you’re really lucky, she’ll treat you to a foreign trip or two. But everything comes at a price.
On Saturday, she had taken us to Glasgow and, before many had taken their seats, she showed her darker side as Celtic sped to their first goal. After that, though, she showed what keeps you coming back for more. Nice attacking football had most fans in ecstasy by the hour mark. But then she broke their hearts, leaving them to trudge home, look at their families and ask why they fell for her again? At least there are two weeks to recover.
Once the elation of the last-minute winner passed, I was left with the obvious question of, what’s going on with our defence that we’ve conceded eight goals in our last three league games?
I have no idea whether it’s down to changes, fatigue, poor attitude or a collective loss of form, but we appear to have the breaking strength of a soggy kit-kat right through the middle of the team. Just look at how easily Wilson was robbed by Magennis for the first goal. However, the team deserves some credit for recovering from the shock of going 3-1 behind and going on to win the game.
You can’t begrudge St Mirren the League Cup win. It’s like a throwback to the 80s with a regular run of different cup winners at Hampden and, even though my own team suffered more than most, it is refreshing to see!
Well, we certainly got stuck into United. Gary Irvine did, anyway, right from the first whistle, going in far too hard on Gary Mackay-Steven. He was lucky he didn’t get sent off there and then. As it was, Irvine did see red 20 minutes later for a foul probably less severe than the earlier one. The game itself was a mess, played on a spongy pitch. I expected Dundee to play a lot better, but they were preoccupied with stopping United playing.
And it worked until a few minutes from time. With Dundee leading 1-0 through a superb Ryan Conroy goal, United resorted a favourite tactic, lumping the ball up to Daly to flick on. Another point from a 1-1 draw but, after five games in charge, John Brown has yet to take his team outside the city. And there’s a sixth game in Dundee coming up, when we’re at home to Motherwell a week on Saturday.
The Club 12th Man
OH WELL, as much as we would love to, we can’t beat Dundee every time we play them. Mind you, it will give the Dundee fans something to cherish for years to come: “Dad, remember that time we almost beat Dundee United?” There has been much discussion around the inclusion of Old Firm “colt” teams after league reconstruction and, if United were also to be invited to enter a colt team, then Sunday provided a great opportunity to see how the United reserves could cope against an alleged SPL opposition.
Whether this is the last Dundee derby of season remains to be seen. United must up their game if they are to clinch a top-six spot. With two tough games to come against Aberdeen and St Johnstone, we will need our top players back to fitness as soon as possible.
There was disappointment for the huge number of Jambos that made their way to Hampden for the League Cup final. We started the game really well, scored the first goal and should in truth have had the game wrapped up in the first half-hour. The key moment was the Sutton header off the post when he should have scored. Credit to St Mirren for the way they fought back into the game, but we made it easy for them with yet more shambolic defending which has already derailed our season. Overall, I felt we were a bit unfortunate, but congratulations to St Mirren.
The appointment of Gary Locke as permanent manager seemed to take everyone by surprise. It’s probably a good move through to the end of the season but until the ownership of the club changes there will be huge uncertainty surrounding everything about the club.
Our chances of finishing in the top six of the SPL this season were left hanging in the balance by Friday night’s Fir Park flop. Not for the first time this season the entire team managed to play badly. Our second half display was as complete a demonstration of the art of losing as you are ever likely to see. That’s not to take any credit away from Motherwell, who played some lovely stuff. It’s a pity our players stood back in admiration rather than get stuck in themselves. Still, every cloud has a silver lining and, in this case, it was yet another promising appearance by young Alex Harris, the only player in a Hibs shirt who could hold his head high as he left the pitch. Our points total and current league position seem to show that we have improved on last year’s dismal efforts. After Friday night, though, it certainly didn’t feel like we have taken a great leap forward.
That probably wasn’t the best Highland derby of the season but it was another one surrounded by controversy. The penalty claim is difficult to decide upon, even after several re-runs of the video. The ref gets one call at it and, on first appearances, it seemed the right one. Some say it makes up for the one we didn’t get in Dingwall a few weeks ago. Whatever the debate, the result still stands and, with other results going in our favour, this has secured our highest SPL finish. This is a magnificent achievement for a club on a very limited budget.
From now until the end of the season it is about our performance and taking one game at a time. The prize of European football is still very much up for grabs and it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that both Highland clubs will reach that goal. How good would that be!
IT IS hard to believe that it was a whole year ago that Killie defied the odds and won the League Cup for the first time ever. That day and the celebrations that followed will live long in the memory, such is the difference when you follow one of the so-called “smaller” teams. The hard core remember plumbing the depths of the divisions and don’t take the good times for granted. I dare say the same will go for St Mirren’s fans after their team lifted the Cup on Sunday. It was good to see a final without either of the twisted sisters for a change and I offer my congratulations to the Buddies and commiserations to the Jambos and hope that the west coast media will wake up to the fact that there is life in Scottish football outside Glasgow. Tickets are still available for the Association’s player of the year dance following the Dundee game. Details are available online at killiefc.com.
IF SOMEONE could bottle the best bits of last weekend, there would surely be Motherwell fans queueing round the block to buy multipacks of joy. The icing on the cake came on Saturday with Dundee United’s dropped points and Aberdeen’s late collapse, but the cream centre had already been delivered on Friday evening. Motherwell perhaps did not deserve to trail to Hibs at half-time but the enforced substitutions of Law and Lasley seemed to doom a comeback before it even started. Not so, and the whole team deserve a huge amount of credit for a remarkable 45 minutes. There are already rash calls for James McFadden to return to the Scotland squad. Of course he has the talent, but this was his first complete 90 minutes in over two years. Patience, not panic, is what he needs and in due time he will surely deliver.
Congratulations to St Mirren on winning the League Cup. This was one of these games where I wasn’t overly bothered as to who won the cup, having no allegiance to either team. I have mates that support both teams, so I was quite happy for the Buddies, who deserved a bit of cup joy after a 26-year drought. Hearts, of course, had cup joy last season but, given the turmoil they have had to suffer this season, it was a bit of a blow for them not to win.
I believe the last six major cup competitions in Scotland have been won by six different clubs – St Mirren, Hearts, Kilmarnock, Celtic, Rangers and Dundee Utd. Who says that there is no competition within Scottish football?
The SPL this season has been the most competitive it has been for years, Celtic will win by a big margin, but the race for Europe and the top six is fierce. Are changes really needed?
Boredom. Tedium. Withdrawal symptoms. That’s what I had on Saturday with no Saints game to look forward to. And there isn’t one for the next two Saturdays either. Great.
Fortunately, the results over the weekend were almost perfect for us – meaning that even a draw with Dundee United in a fortnight will more than likely be enough for a top-six place, barring a series of unlikely results. A win will secure it once and for all.
That’s great – but will the three-week lay off help us? Certainly the players should come back fighting fit and ready – but will we lose momentum from our win over Kilmarnock last week?
Hopefully not – and a couple of good results against United and then Inverness four days later could give us a push on to fight for a European slot post-split.
How do you describe a day like Sunday? It’s days like that you dream of and pray for but doubt they will ever come. After half an hour parties, trophies and open-top buses were the last thing on my mind as we didn’t get going. Then after I realised Teale’s worst shot ever was actually a fantastic pass to Goncalves we were suddenly in business. For once, we didn’t St Mirren things up. Everyone who played on Sunday – and was involved in the cup run – will rightly go down as a club legend.
Queen’s We Are the Champions starts with the lyrics “I’ve paid my dues”. That’s exactly what we’ve done. We’ve been through relegation dogfights, battled to save our club and seen far too many heavy defeats and embarrassments. Those forgettable days are what make the events of Sunday that little bit sweeter.