Josh Magennis said he had been studying Ashley Cole to assist with his transition from striker to full-back so it was good to see he paid attention to the goalscoring side of Cole’s play as well as the defensive.
With two games this week Craig Brown needs to make some important decisions about our formation. After last year’s early cup exit there must be no complacency at Dunfermline. Playing Vernon up front on his own isn’t working at the moment and we’ve looked much better when we have had two strikers. Changing to a 4-4-2 would mean the Rae/Hughes partnership would need to be broken up but the return of Osbourne and McGinn might helpand, ultimately, a second target in the box for our wingers can only increase our goalscoring threat.
After the high of the midweek Champions League game against Benfica, I expected a really tricky game and, I thought it was going to go the same way as the Saints game after Dundee created a couple of chances and Broony’s penalty was saved. For all the games I’ve seen Rab Douglas play at Celtic Park, his best have always been for the opposition!
The draw against Benfica was seen by some as a poor result but I was grateful to avoid defeat against a talented side when we lacked players such as Ledley and Samaras, who can provide a little spark.
Motherwell have had a great start to the season but, after their emphatic defeat in the League Cup, they’ll be looking to make up for it when we come calling on Saturday. Hopefully, Broony can recover in time and, with luck, Joe will be back as well to provide steel and guile.
Now we’ve got the obligatory defeat by Celtic out of the way, it’s time to start picking up some points, starting with a tasty-looking derby against St Johnstone at Dens. Despite Saints’ recent results, this is a game we should be looking to win. By all accounts they were fortunate to end Ross County’s 40-game unbeaten league run and our hastily-assembled squad has enough experience and should be getting to know each other by now.
To get things in perspective, we’ve played three of the best SPL sides in the past three games and managed to get three points. If we don’t pick up a handful of points from the next four matches – Saints, Hibs away, Inverness at home and Aberdeen away – which will signal the end of the first round of games, then I’ll accept we’re relegation favourites. But a win and two draws is not out of the question.
The Club 12th Man
IN THE last 18 months, Dundee United have had only one penalty. I’m not suggesting some sort of conspiracy but, yet again, when the game was still goalless, United were denied a stonewaller when Ryan Stevenson cleared Flood out. United had been in control and a penalty would have relaxed a clearly nervous team. Instead Hearts grabbed a quick double before half-time and it was heads down.
United have quality but, for some reason, seem lost without Mackay-Steven and captain Jon Daly. After an exciting start to the season, it is worrying to see us move backwards. At the time of writing, United face a tricky away cup tie at Queen of the South. Let’s hope when you are reading this, it is coupled with a confidence-inspiring result and not a another dent so early on in the season.
The great thing about football is the unexpected results it throws up. While some Jambos may have been confident going into Saturday’s game at Tannadice, I’m sure not many would have put money on a 3-0 win. It was a great performance, and McGlynn deserves credit for playing Robinson in behind, which worked well. Novikovas also put in a great performance and seems to have a thing about scoring spectacular goals up there. However, the star was Callum Paterson with two excellent goals. He has all of the attributes required of a striker, strong, quick, excellent in the air with a great strike but he is still very young so McGlynn did the right thing taking the pressure off him after the game. We faced Livingston last night with some of the heat off the manager. A cup run would be good for the finances but we have a poor recent League Cup record so, hopefully, that did not continue.
Hibs extended their unbeaten SPL run to six games with a thoroughly entertaining 2-2 draw against ICT last Saturday. It was disappointing to lose two points – and a chance to go top of the SPL – but most fans left in an upbeat mood, confident that, at long last, the team are heading in the right direction. Hibernian’s play in opening 35 minutes was a joy to watch after the dire recent seasons. Tenacious in the tackle, crisp passing and good movement led to a deserved two-goal lead. But we failed to build on that excellent start and had to settle for a point – proof that, while we are getting better, there is still some way to go. Next week, Hibs head up north for the ridiculously fan unfriendly kick-off time of midday in Aberdeen. As we go for seven unbeaten, boosted by the return of Leigh Griffiths up front, the chance of topping the SPL beckons once more.
There is little doubt that we have spirit in the side, as displayed in two visits to the capital. On both occasions we went two goals down and fought back for a draw. Richie Foran can be an inspirational leader and had an excellent game against Hibs. The Irishman plays for the jersey – and that really matters. We rode our luck a few times and Ryan Esson pulled off some amazing saves although he could be blamed for Hibs’ first goal. But the will to push forward and use some imagination in attack was really encouraging to watch. The defence still seems dodgy at times and requires more fine tuning. It was also nice to finish a game with all of our players on the pitch and only having picked up a single yellow card was also an improvement. The team will gel further and improve significantly as we still search for that elusive first SPL win.
Finally we get the points that our play merits. In all honesty, this week’s performance was not that much better than our showing at Easter Road, the only difference being that a few balls and a few decisions went our way this week.
St Mirren looked a better team than Hibs and, had it not been for Kyle Letheren, we could have been down by two or three goals after half an hour. A debut goal for Cillian Sheridan was only topped by the two great goals that followed. The build-up to the second was impressive with a cheeky back-heeler from Jeebsy and Dayton doesn’t appear to do simple goals, rounding two defenders then dodging a further two before scoring from an acute angle. The game was a fitting tribute to Killie legends goalkeeper Alan McCulloch and super-fan Jim Wilson, who did the half-time draw following their recent retirements.
The game at Pittodrie was not quite a defeat snatched from the jaws of victory but it felt like it. Hateley’s tweet from the homeward bound team bus summed it up: “Gutted.”
To his credit Stuart McCall put on a brave face in his post-match interviews and took comfort from the way his team played for much of the game.
Let’s take on his theme and look on the bright side. We’re a point clear at the top of the league, we’ve scored 13 goals from our seven league games and we have the highest scoring striker in Scottish football – oh, and we’re still unbeaten.
Tonight’s game against Rangers in the Scottish Communities League Cup has a 7.15pm kick-off time, courtesy of the BBC scheduler, and it will be fascinating to see how we face up to the challenge.
County’s run of 40 league games has finally come to an end, and we suffered our first SPL defeat, ironically in a game where we arguably gave our best performance of the season. For long spells, County dominated but, as has been the story of our season so far, we haven’t had the break in front of goal as yet, whereas St Johnstone were clinical. Their six attempts on goal saw two goals, and two efforts off the woodwork while County had 20 attempts with only one goal.
The loss of the unbeaten run could be a blessing in disguise, though, the last four or five matches all people and the media have been talking about is the unbeaten run, and the pressure to maintain the run has been building. The big question now is how will County respond. The last league defeat saw a terrific reaction from the team. Let’s hope for the same again.
WHAT a turnaround! A couple of weeks ago we were slumped at the bottom of the league and still searching for our first win of the season. And then we go and beat Celtic and end Ross County’s mammoth 40-game unbeaten run. In this supertight SPL season, suddenly Saints are looking up and only five points off the top.
The win over County was even achieved with ten men after the harsh-looking red card for Rowan Vine. It was interesting to hear Steve Lomas this week say that “the appeals process makes appealing Vine’s red card a waste of time”. We hear that a lot from managers these days and maybe it’s time for the authorities to see if the system can be improved.
This weekend we’ve got an intriguing derby against Dundee at Dens Park and, surely, a very real possibility of notching three league victories in a row. Onwards and upwards.
Against Hearts we didn’t have many chances and managed to win. On Saturday, against Kilmarnock we had plenty of chances and were soundly beaten. Thems the breaks. We have a pretty similar squad to Kilmarnock, despite what certain people seem to think about our budget, so to lose like that is pretty disappointing. We really need to be taking points from places like Rugby Park if we want to push on up the table, so for the game to be as good as over after an hour is a huge blow.
We have to get back to winning ways against Ross County this weekend. Nothing less than a win at home against a side that’s only been in the SPL a few months will do. Sadly, the fake Saints pipped us in the bid to end County’s unbeaten run and it could be that no longer having to defend that record works for them, rather than against them.