SIMPLY THE REST – THE BLOG THAT PUTS UP WITH WATCHING MICHAEL STEWART SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO
Hibernian 1-1 Celtic
Hibernian Football Club, thank you. A controversial game at Easter Road ended in a draw and as such Celtic dropped their first points of the season. Hibs took an early lead after a couple of good reverse passes set Christian Doidge free in the right channel. Happily for Rangers, Doidge was too wide to shoot himself and this gave him the excuse to square the ball for the onrushing Kristoffer Ajer, who displayed James Cracknellesque footwork to accidentally plant the ball past Fraser Forster at his near post.
Unfortunately, Hibs are still rank rotten and were unable to hold their lead for long. The Hibees have conceded the most chances of any team in the league this season, and it is no wonder given the way they switched off at a free kick near the halfway line – Glenn Middleton in particular making the kind of mental error which he will hopefully get out of his system while on loan – with Celtic sweeping up the pitch to score through a Ryan Christie header. From then on, Kevin Clancy became the star of the show: sending off Paul Heckingbottom for kicking a water bottle; not sending off Olivier Ntcham for repeatedly shoving Josh Vela; then not giving Celtic two clear penalties; which lead to another hilarious open letter to the SFA from Joe O’Rourke at the Celtic Supporters Association; to whom I say, grow up.
Hamilton 2-1 Livingston
Despite Rangers recent travails against Livingston, I'm beginning to think that Gary Holt is not the brilliant tactician I thought he was. Saturday’s game was a match between the two sides that bring up the rear of the (nerd alert) xG league table, and therefore it was perhaps not the surprise it initially seemed that Hamilton ran out the victors. Livingston did take the lead, with Alan Lithgow taking advantage of Hamilton’s exposed defence to nod in at the back post.
Hamilton’s equaliser in first half injury time was perhaps the least aesthetically pleasing goal of the season thus far – a quite obviously illegal long throw from Alex Gogić led to pinball in the Livingston box, with Blair Alston eventually slotting home the loose ball. Neither side impressed in the second half, but Hamilton eventually won out thanks to a controversial penalty award. While Livi keeper Ross Stewart did sort of wallop the back of Marios Ogboe, he did so in the way that you would normally expect a goalkeeper to get away with. Referee Steven McLean felt differently, and substitute Ross Cunningham dispatched the penalty. Rangers have Hamilton at Ibrox in our next league game, and the evidence very much suggests that it will be a game of shooty-in for the Gers.
Kilmarnock 0-0 Ross County
So little happened in this game, other than Osman Sow missing a penalty for Kilmarnock in wretched fashion, that I was reduced to googling “Osman Sow pig’s ear” to see if anyone had made that joke before. Sadly, Stephen McGowan did in the Daily Mail after Sow scored that last-minute winner for Hearts at Ibrox back in 2014, so I don’t even have that to offer you. Dreadful fare between two clubs that will likely be battling it out in the long midtable this season.
St Johnstone 0-1 Motherwell
Motherwell continued their strong start to the season with a victory over winless St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park. Motherwell dominated in the early part of the game, with Devanté Cole guilty of the worst miss since Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous when he somehow put the ball over the bar from a yard out. Cole did however atone for his sitter within minutes, slamming home a knock down from Declan Gallagher after a good Liam Polworth corner. Motherwell are particularly good at set pieces, with Gallagher the biggest threat in the league alongside our own Goldson and Katić, and given Rangers’ propensity for offering up chances when defending dead balls this is something that we will need to watch out for when playing the Steelmen.
St Johnstone were offered the chance to get back into the game after being awarded a nonsense penalty by referee Gavin Duncan (me neither) after Richard Tait made minimal contact with Murray Davidson as a cross came into Motherwell’s box. Mark Gillespie saved Scott Tanser’s weak effort and St Johnstone did not really look like scoring from open play either. At this stage it’s not clear that Stevie May will ever score a goal again such is his complete lack of confidence. St Johnstone may not have looked like the worst team in the league on their performances, but they are nevertheless already 5 points behind the likes of Livingston and Hamilton and will need to pick up points soon if they are not going to become marooned at the bottom of the league. Finally, in injury time Motherwell’s Liam Donnelly was perhaps unfortunate to be sent off for his failed/successful hurdle/stamp over/on Chris Kane.
St Mirren 0-0 Hearts
Craig Levein is prone to periodically picking a team and formation that looks like he’s had 12 cans of Tennent’s, fired up Football Manager on his work laptop and decided it would be a laugh to arse about with Ian Cathro’s Hearts save. So it was on Saturday, when the Jambos inexplicably started the game with a back three consisting of two full backs and only one centre half. That one centre half was Craig Halkett, and he only lasted 25 minutes before his knee exploded and he had to be replaced with Christophe Berra. With Loïc Darmour also picking up an injury in the first half, Hearts now have more injuries than the number of ellipses in an average Ann Budge statement.
While Hearts cannot keep players fit, St Mirren simply cannot score. As Jim Goodwin pointed out after the match, the Buddies have conceded the least goals in the league outside of the Old Firm, but have scored the least number of goals. Chance creation is not necessarily a problem, but it is not yet clear that they have the quality in the squad to convert enough of these to win games. Nonetheless, their underlying performances would suggest that they may well have enough about them to finish ahead of some of the other jobbers at the bottom end of the league.
Saturday 5th October
Aberdeen v Hibernian
Hearts v Kilmarnock
Motherwell v St Mirren
Ross County v St Johnstone
Sunday 6th October
Livingston v Celtic
Rangers v Hamilton