Monday, February 16, 2009

The Scottish Football Weekend Gala Roundup

When I was first asked to write about the Scottish game for SPAOTP, I made it quite clear that predictions where not my thing. I mean, just look at my desperate attempts in this weeks 'Four to Follow'. The only game I got right was the Inter v AC game, and that based on no other insightful punditry other than that - in my opinion - Inter have a nicer shirt than AC.

In another case of over-hyping a fixture, this Sunday's Old Firm derby - about which I waxed lyrical earlier on in the week and predicted a home win - turned out to be a massive disappointment. Sure, there where all the things you'd expect to see in one of these games (controversial decisions by a referee making his Old Firm début, a goal-line stooshie and plenty of bookings) yet the game never really became the end-to-end affairs that meetings between these two teams generally serve up.

Celtic maintain their lead - however slender - while Rangers should feel aggrieved at the penalty not awarded in the second half. Aside from the referee, two others made their first appearance in an Old Firm game: John Fleck made Walter Smith's starting line-up, as did Willo Flood for Celtic. Both played a decent game, but neither remained on the pitch for the entire game, with Fleck substituted for Kenny Miller, while Flood made way for Aiden McGeady. There's one more Old Firm fixture to come this season; we can only hope that there's still the two points between them when they meet again - it should make for a more exciting game than the one yesterday.

By far and away the best goal at the weekend (and possibly the season) was Aberdeen's goal scored at Tynecastle in their 2-1 defeat against Hearts. Darren Mackie, who recently signed a new contract with the Dons got onto the end of a defence-splitting pass delivered by Charlie Mulgrew from the half-way line to volley the ball past Hearts keeper Balogh from the edge of the area. As Mottie would have said: oooh, I say! Aberdeen went on to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, conceding two sloppy goals including one that took me back to a funny incident during my years in goal for my school football team, and which involved a particularly large seagull, a right-back who was not looking where he was going and the old football cliché of 'playing to the whistle'.

Elsewhere, leading Falkirk 2-1 with six minutes to go, it looked as if St. Mirren could finally hang out the bunting to celebrate the first win at their new stadium. It was not to be though, as a handball in the area by Jack Ross had Falkirk's Scott Arfield scoring from the penalty spot to level the scores and a share of the points.

Former Wolves and Reading manager Mark McGhee' has been suffering second season blues with his side, Motherwell. The Steelmen finished third in the SPL last season to round of a great campaign. Their subsequent adventures in European football are best forgotten (a first round exit to French mid-tablers Nancy) and they've been finding this season tough going. A poor run of form at the beginning of the season saw Motherwell struggling near the bottom of the table for long spells, but lately they've been finding their form again. That good form continued on Saturday with a win against Hamilton Accies in the Lanarkshire Derby. A single goal by David Clarkson. was enough to secure the three points.

Derek Riordan continues to do for Hibernian what he failed to do for Celtic, namely score goals. His first-half strike against Kilmanock on Saturday was deflected off Manuel Pascali into the net past Alan Combe. Riordan's effort would eventually be cancelled out by a Jamie Hamill goal with fifteen minutes left to go. Kilmarnock might have won the game had Connor Sammon, deployed alone up front in a Killie side ravaged by injury and suspension not missed from six yards out. The game ended one goal apiece,and Kilmarnock's elusive search for their first win in the league since the end of December (ironically a 4-2 win against Hibernian) continues.

Terry Butcher nearly won his first away game with his new side, Inverness Caley. Thistle got off to a good start, taking the lead through former United player Eric Odhiambo with fifteen minutes on the clock. Things looked to be getting even better for Butcher as United where reduced to 10-men, but substitute Andis Shala, with pretty much his first touch of the ball provided a cross for Lee Wilkie to squeeze the ball over the Inverness goal-line for a share of the points.

A special mention goes out this week to troubled Second division side Stranraer. Effectively living on a week-to-week basis, it is uncertain whether the club will survive to the end of the season when the club hopes to launch a share issue to raise much needed funds. However, judging by the shockingly low attendance at Saturdays game, the Stranraer board may want to consider alternative means to raise money - a crowd of only 277 turned up to watch The Clayholers get pumped 5-1 by Arbroath.

With a monthly wage bill of around £20,000 per month, Stranraer's survival chances where rated at being no more than 50%. But a group of the clubs supporters have come together to help secure the future of the club. The "Save Stranraer FC" campaign, whose focus is to pay the outstanding creditors as a first step towards securing the long-term future of the club, raised over £1,500 in the first week of campaigning; the group now estimate the club's chances of survival to be around the 90% mark, but a lot of work still needs to be done. Despite the overall future of the club looking a little more secure, the future of Stanraer as a Second division side looks anything but: Saturday's heavy defeat leaves them 11 points adrift at the bottom of the table.

Right, that's it for now. If there's any aspect of the game from 'the ither part o' Britain' you'd like us to cover, leave a comment and we'll get right on it!


Kevin said...

while Rangers should feel aggrieved at the penalty not awarded in the second half.

You are having a laugh? Eh? C'mon I can't believe you typed that. It was never a pen as the ball had went oot for a shy well before Mick made contact wie Kenny Misser.

The game was poor but the M.I.B didn't help it whatsoever. He was terrible and should never darken the SPL doors again.

Did John Fleck play?

Seb said...

John Fleck played, yes. He's a cracking wee player, a real prospect. He didn't have a great game, but then again it wasn't a great game to begin with, so we'll let him off.

As for the penalty, Miller's shot was heading for the corner flag :-) right enough and, as Walter Smith has been saying all week - a foul's a foul. I've seen them given for less. The ref was poor, they really shouldn't have first-timers like Murray in games like this.

It keeps the league interesting though. Still two points between them, the pressure to not mess it up (for both teams) will make for some edgy games. I hope that by the time they meet again after the league splits that there's still those 2 points - it'd make for an interesting fixture.

Kevin said...

John Fleck played, yes. He's a cracking wee player, a real prospect.

Was just having a wee dig at the press wie ma comment. Fleck, having seen him at youth level, is a cracking player and was always going to make it at some level in the game as he stood oot.

But....the new rooney, the new messi? A future mid table EPL player is my bet.

I remember I tipped Jamie Smith for greatness as well after seeing him play at yoof level.

- a foul's a foul.

Kicking Kenny Miller is never a free kick.


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