Scottish Premiership winners and losers – Celtic’s new right-back, ticket protest, McInnes’ Aberdeen masterclass, Rangers’ lack of creativity, Hibs winger shines, Hearts’ best player, daft defending
A look back at the weekend’s Premiership action.
Celtic fans were on the receiving end of some unjust criticism regarding banners protesting ticket prices on their visits to Hamilton Academical and Hibernian earlier this season. Fans of other clubs were not slow to raise the point that Parkhead is one of the most expensive away days which can include a restricted view.
However, the Celtic support wanted to raise the issue as a league-wide concern, rather than simply just Celtic. On Saturday, against Ross County, the home support unfurled a series of banners which read: “Motherwell v Celtic – £30. Hearts v Hamilton – £39. Celtic v St Johnstone – £30. Lower prices for all fans. Celtic – set the trend. Twenty’s plenty.”
If rival fans had any doubts about their motives they should be put to bed now and Scottish football fans should support one another for once to make a real, meaningful change in terms of ticket prices.
There were a number of excellent individual performances from the weekend’s action but few were as impressive as Jeremie Frimpong.
The 18-year-old was hailed by the Celtic support. Signed from Manchester City in the summer, the right-back had already impressed in the Betfred Cup. Against Ross County he was a de facto winger. Time and again he would drive forward taking opponents.
Michael Gardyne has probably never had a tougher assignment in having to constantly chase after the precocious talent. He then wrapped Ross Stewart in knots after the County striker moved wide.
Fans loved watching his approach. Leading 5-0, he bombed after a ball, preventing it from going out for a throw-in. It’s that attitude which gets fans on your side. More players need to learn that.
For the first 20-25 minutes, Hearts delivered the type of performance fans have been demanding on a consistent basis. Craig Levein’s side took the game to Rangers, who started the weekend as league leaders, and were unfortunate not to be leading by more than their one goal, something Steven Gerrard noted.
It was full of vigour, tempo and the correct attitude. This was something which came out of the Hearts camp after the game, how they need to start games against ‘lesser’ teams with the right mentality. They had Rangers on the ropes early on and rarely looked like being overwhelmed by a team who had netted 17 goals since they last conceded in the league.
In addition, the performance of Michael Smith was sublime. He is fast becoming the most popular player among the Hearts support. No matter if he plays left-back, right-back, wing-back, centre midfield or centre-back he delivers. Fielded in the centre of the defence, he read the game superbly, dovetailing well with Christophe Berra who went up against Alfredo Morelos. He just goes about his business. Understated and underrated for so long, some fans are already announcing him as the club’s player of the year already.
St Mirren’s forwards
Three goals in eight games, one of which was an egregious goalkeeper error, coming into the weekend’s game. There have been concerns about the quality of Jim Goodwin’s forwards. Just when it was required they produced. Jonathan Obika produced a moment of invention to open the scoring with an overhead kick. Danny Mullen thundered in a second after the interval to secure the win.
There were some signs in the previous outing at Motherwell that the duo could work together, and if they were going to get off the mark the worst defence in the league presented the perfect opportunity.
The Buddies have a decent home record but need to take the positive result on the road and start to put room between them and their fellow Saints.
Defenders in midfield
Wailing or laughing. There were the two responses on seeing Aberden’s starting XI ahead of the Motherwell clash. Derek McInnes lined up with seven defenders – if you count Jon Gallagher who can play full-back – and no centre midfielders, with three sitting on the bench. But credit to the Dons boss, he got it spot on.
Greg Leigh and Zak Vyner were instrumental in the middle of the pitch having spent the previous evening watching highlights of midfielders. They broke up play and drove the team forward.
Aberdeen fans have not enjoyed going to games so much recently but they loved their trip to Fir Park with three excellent goals. A cracking curler from Niall McGinn, fizzing shot from Vyner and a sumptuous lob from Sam Cosgrove. Add in Joe Lewis’ excellent penalty stop from James Scott and it was a fantastic away day.
There wasn’t a lot for Hibs fans to celebrate on Saturday, failing to win again after losing a lead to Hamilton. However, there was a positive in the performance of winger Joe Newell.
The summer signing hasn’t set the heather alight since moving to Easter Road but he was a constant source of possibility for the visitors, driving forward, taking on former Hibs youngster Scott Martin, who was out of position at right-back for Accies.
Slowly and quietly, Kilmarnock are climbing the table under Angelo Alessio. They are now in a position to jump to third next weekend if they defeat St Mirren. Motherwell and Aberdeen above them face either side of the Old Firm.
They are a team which are very hard to beat and that starts with the midfield three of Alan Power, Mohamed El Makrini and Gary Dicker. The latter opened the scoring against Livingston.
It has been a slow process but as a team they are capable of controlling games and shutting them down professionally.
An investigation is taking place regarding alleged racial abuse directed by a Hearts fans towards Rangers striker Alfredo Morelos.
It has to be reiterated that this is alleged so not much can be said. But it is incredibly disheartening to be hearing of such incidents again in the league.
With television cameras and fan footage it is much easier to catch culprits now who should know that they can no longer get away with such disgusting abuse.
One of the loudest cheers at Tynecastle on Sunday as Hearts drew with Rangers came early on. The home side, pumped full of adrenaline, were haring around the pitch like a group of small kids wired with Haribo. It saw fully committed challenges, such as Jake Mulraney’s on assistant referee David Froome.
The Irishman’s momentum took him past Borna Barisic and into the linesman, bringing him to the ground. He was more fortunate later in the half when he showed quick reactions to duck to avoid a hefty clearance which veered towards his coupon.
“Ultimately I am letting the club down at the minute, but the players are certainly letting the club down.”
That was Tommy Wright’s verdict on the defeat at St Mirren.
St Johnstone fans should be worried with the team at the moment. There is plenty of quality there but they look like a team devoid of a bit of personality, missing the standard bearers in Steven MacLean, Steven Anderson, Chris Millar et al. Players who know what it takes to dig in to win matches.
Saints are missing that stuffiness, the hard to beat quality which has been associated with them for so long under Wright.
Coming into the game at Tynecastle on Sunday, Rangers averaged 22 shots in their eight leagues fixtures. That figure dropped to four against Hearts as Joel Pereira was rarely troubled.
Sheyi Ojo and Scott Arfield had little effect on the match and unsurprisingly both were replaced in the second half, while it passed Joe Aribo by. It left Rangers with few avenues in which to trouble the home side.
They got some joy pushing Borna Barisic high down the left but on the other side James Tavernier had a nightmare. He was at fault for the home side’s goal, while his crossing was appalling. Of his eight crosses, his accuracy read: 0 per cent.
In a game such as the one at Tynecastle it needed players with clear heads, that wasn’t the case.
Ross County likely knew it was going be a long day at Parkhead on Saturday with Celtic wanting to send a message. They conceded six but it could easily have been 16.
Not helped by some awful defending, namely Keith Watson who tried to head a ball which was about 3mm off the ground prior to the second goal. Effective? No. Funny? Absolutely.
Euan Anderson wrongly awarded the penalty to Motherwell for a perceived foul by Joe Lewis on Chris Long. The Steelmen forward’s dive was clearly smart enough to look like he had been felled by the Aberdeen goalkeeper. It was so elaborate he hit his own head on ground as he sunk to the turf.
James Scott saw the resultant penalty expertly saved by Joe Lewis.