Motherwell Top SPL After Week 3

Motherwell go top of the league with a 1-0 win over Hearts. Celtic also win as Dundee United, St. Mirren, Inverness and Dunfermline each get a point from their games.

Severin and Izaguirre Suffer Horror Injuries

Dundee United's Scott Severin and Celtic's Emilio Izaguirre suffered horrific injuries in this weeks matches. The United man suffering a triple leg break, while the Celtic star broke his ankle.

Rangers Shocked By Swedish Champs

Rangers exited the Champions League in an ill disciplined game, with the Scottish Champions finishing with nine men and losing 2-1 on aggregate..

Sectarianism in Scottish football survey

If anyone could complete this Sectarianism in Scottish football questionnaire, I would be extremely grateful.

Many thanks.

SPL Weekend Review

On Thursday I asked if the SPL would continue with the draw and close games that had so far been played. Turns out the answer was no. Over the weekend four of the matches were won by two or more goals, and a total of 18 goals were scored. Here is a look back at the best of the action.

Saturday Fixtures:

Inverness 0 - 2 Rangers

Inverness vs. Rangers BBC Video

Rangers picked up their second away win of the season under fortuitous circumstances in Inverness. Rangers got their first with a penalty from Nikica Jelavic, however, the decision to award the penalty was very dodgy, with Ross Tokely looking to win the ball from Steven Naismith who went down under the challenge. Inverness has further room for complaint as the big defender was also sent off for the tackle. Rangers doubled their lead with Maurice Edu converting after Jelavic had missed a second penalty. Again though, Terry Butcher had the right to complain, with Rangers centre half, Dorin Goian going down very easily under the challenge. Edu seen his game finish early though, with a second book arriving late in the second half for a rashly timed tackle on Nick Ross. Rangers though get the three points to move them up to third in the SPL.

Hearts 3 - 0 Aberdeen
Hearts vs. Aberdeen BBC Video

Hearts got their first league victory under the control of Paulo Sergio as they demolished a very average looking Aberdeen side. Arvydas Novikovas got the first goal for the Jambos, as a cross from Danny Grainger was cleared by the Aberdeen defence, however the ball fell for Novikovas, and the Lithuanian found himself in tonnes of space to fire past the Dons keeper. A sharp run from David Templeton into the Aberdeen box, saw him square the ball for the unmarked John Sutton who tapped the ball into the empty net from a few yards out to give Hearts the two goal cushion just before half time. Sutton got his second and Hearts third in the second half, a toe poke from Templeton deceiving everyone and the ball ran through for Sutton to place the ball past Gonzalez for the third. Aberdeen still haven’t scored in the SPL this season, while Hearts get their first win of the campaign.

St. Johnstone 0 - 1 Dunfermline

St. Johnstone vs. Dunfermline BBC Video

Dunfermline got their first win of the season, as St. Johnstone continued to struggle for goals. A corner from Dunfermline was played short and picked up by Jason Thomson and his long range effort was turned in by Andy Kirk for the only goal of the game. St. Johnstone had their chance to draw level, Francisco Sandaza being brought down by John Potter in the box, and the ex St. Mirren man was sent off for the challenge. However, Liam Craig seen his penalty saved by Paul Gallacher in the Pars goal, and Dunfermline held on for the remainder of the match to pick up a well earned three points.

St. Mirren 0 - 1 Motherwell

St. Mirren vs. Motherwell BBC Video

Motherwell remained top of the league after the fourth set of fixtures in the Scottish Premier League after defeating St. Mirren with a late winner. Motherwell dominated the second half of the game, after an even first half, but it took them until injury time until they got the breakthrough. Gary Teale conceded a free kick on the edge of the area, after taking down Nicky Law. Motherwell midfielder Tom Hateley stepped up and curled a delightful shot past the outstretched arm of Craig Samson to get a well deserved three points for the Lanarkshire side.

Celtic 5 - 1 Dundee United

Celtic vs. Dundee United BBC Video

Celtic continued their flawless start to the season with a commanding win over Dundee United. Anthony Stokes continued his record of scoring in every game in the league for Celtic so far as he tapped home from a corner, however, Dundee United fought back and Johnny Russell equalised, as a mishit shot from Garry Kenneth fell to the youngsters feet and he comfortably slotted past Zaluska. Celtic though were back into the lead only a few minutes later, Mulgrew’s cross being met by Stokes who watched his header hit the bar only for the rebound to fall for Gary Hooper who put the ball in the net. A superb flowing counter attack by Celtic gave then their third, Scott Brown and Kris Commons working well to play Ki Sung Yeung in, and the Korean finished well. Joe Ledley got his first of the season, after good work from Shaun Maloney down the right wing, and the Welshman was in the right place to tap home the Scotsman’s cross. Celtic wrapped up the victory with Jamie Forrest finishing a well worked goal for the Glasgow side.

Sunday Fixture:

Kilmarnock 4 - 1 Hibs
Kilmarnock vs. Hibs BBC Video

Kenny Shiels got his first league win as Kilmarnock manager with a rout over a lacklustre Hibs side. Paul Heffernan got his first for his new side after only three minutes, a lovely floated pass from Rory McKeown being brought down by Heffernan and he slid the ball under the onrushing Graham Stack. Garry O’Connor drew the Edinburgh side level though, after a poor pass by Ryan O’Leary was picked up by Wotherspoon who fed the Scottish internationalist, and he showed all his class to chip the ball over Cammy Bell in the Killie goal. The skilful James Dayton created Killie’s second his twisting a turning taking him past the Hibs full back and his cross was met by the outstretched leg of Paul Hanlon who sent the ball into his own net. Dayton got a goal of his own when he curled a free kick into the top corner from twenty yards out, after Wotherspoon had brought down Danny Buijs. The goals were completed in the 71st minute as Heffernan found space in the box and he connected with a cracking cross from Buijs to power the ball past Stack and give Killie the three points.

SPL Weekend Preview

The fourth week of fixtures in the Scottish Premier League will see all sides compete in the same weekend for the only the second time this season. Both the Glasgow sides will compete on the Saturday, with Kilmarnock and Hibs playing in the Sunday game on ESPN. With the SPL now in full swing are we now going to see a change in results or will the league continue to be as tight as it has started out as? Starting with the Saturday fixtures here is a run down of this weeks SPL previews.

Saturday Fixtures:

Inverness vs. Rangers - 12:45

Rangers make the tricky trip to the North to take on Inverness in what should be a close contest. Inverness have started the season playing well but not getting the points or goals that their play deserves. Rangers meanwhile are unbeaten and will be hoping to keep that run going with a win at Inverness. However, Inverness always raise their game when the Old Firm come calling and this one will be tighter than many people may be expecting. Rangers should still sneak it though.

Inverness 2 - 3 Rangers

Celtic vs. Dundee United - 15:00

Celtic are the only team with a flawless record in the Scottish Premier League at this early stage, with two wins from two games. Dundee United meanwhile have an unbeaten run of two draws and one win, so something will have to give in this fixture. United are still looking for their perfect strike partnership, and the injury to Scott Severin is a major blow for United. Celtic are still to concede a goal, however they have concerns over midfield talisman Beram Kayal who suffered an ankle injury playing for Israel in midweek, while their hunt for a ‘keeper continues. Celtic to win by a two goal margin seems the likely outcome though.

Celtic 3 - 1 Dundee United

Hearts vs. Aberdeen - 15:00

The only fixture this week which features two teams that have already suffered a defeat in this years campaign. Hearts getting beat from Dundee United and Aberdeen getting defeated by St. Mirren. Both teams will be looking to kickstart their seasons and start climbing the table. Mehdi Taouil and Andy Webster are likely to miss the game for Hearts, while Aberdeen are waiting to see whether Fraser Fyvie and Chris Clark are match fit to feature at Tynecastle. Both teams are very goal shy with the Dons will be looking for their first goal of the season, while Hearts have only scored one goal. A low scoring draw is the reasonable assumption.

Hearts 1 - 1 Aberdeen

St. Johnstone vs. Dunfermline - 15:00

Francisco Sandaza is likely to get his first start for his new club St. Johnstone against newly promoted Dunfermline. The Saints have been needing a goal scorer over the last few matches, and they hope the former Dundee United striker will be that man. Dunfermline have had a decent start to the season, with two draws from two games. However, these games were against teams which finished bottom six last season in Inverness and St. Mirren and they will have to start picking up wins against teams around their level before they start facing the bigger teams in the SPL. St. Johnstone are another of these bottom six teams, however, I still wouldn’t bet on the Pars getting that victory.

St. Johnstone 2 - 2 Dunfermline

St. Mirren vs. Motherwell - 15:00

The two surprise packages of the SPL thus far with St. Mirren playing some sublime football while Motherwell sit at the top of the table with seven points from three matches. Nigel Hasselbaink is missing for the Buddies after losing his appeal against his dismissal last week, while Steven Saunders misses out for Well with an injury to his Achilles tendon. While St. Mirren have been playing very well, Motherwell have been winning matches by catching the opposition on the counter attack. They also managed to subdue Kilmarnock in their second fixture of the season, and while St. Mirren are higher in the table than Killie, Killie are probably the better passing side. Motherwell can catch St. Mirren out and should take the three points.

St. Mirren 1 - 2 Motherwell

Sunday Fixtures

Kilmarnock vs. Hibs - 12:15

Osasuna striker, Jorge Galan finally received international clearance a couple of hours ago and goes straight into the side for Killie’s game against Hibs. The Spanish Under 20 Internationalist joins on a season long loan from the La Liga side and will add to the firepower already at Killie. Hibs may also have a few new faces in their side, with Junior Agogo and Isaiah Osbourne likely to play some part. Both teams are likely to get the ball down and the crowd are sure to be entertained by a free flowing match. Scoring goals has been a problem for both sides in recent matches, and both managers will be hopeful that their new signings will make the difference.

Kilmarnock 2 - 1 Hibs

Is The SPL Destined For Its Tightest League Ever?

The SPL season will have its first full schedule of games this weekend, however, if the first few weeks are to be considered then it is very likely that draws may be the order of the day. Seven of the first 15 matches played in the Scottish Premier League this season have ended in draws, while another five have been one by the odd goal and only four of the matches have seen a team score more than one goal.

So what is resulting in the increase in draws between clubs? The Full Ten Yards argues that an increase in the quality of the so called ‘bottom six’ , plus the continued closing gap between the ‘other’ ten and the Old Firm is causing games to be tighter and the inevitable increase in draws is due to the ten teams outside of the big two slowly becoming on level par with each other.

Last season, it was only Killie that upset the top six, rising from 11th the previous season to a 5th position finish. However, this season it looks as if any of last seasons bottom five plus newly promoted Dunfermline could challenge for a top six position.

The Full Ten Yards looks at the strengthening of the bottom six and the increase in quality throughout the league.

Last Season’s top four outside the Old Firm: Hearts, Dundee United, Kilmarnock and Motherwell have all lost big players from last season, with only Hearts seemingly replacing their lost talent. However, Hearts do have the poison chalice of their managerial position and the pressure that has been put on new manager Paulo Sergio to follow Jim Jefferies third placed finish last season. From last season Hearts have lost Lee Wallace, while bringing in Jamie Hamill, Danny Grainger, Mehdi Taouil and John Sutton. At first look the players seem good additions, but again it is the manager and how he performs that will decide where Hearts finish this year.

Dundee United and Kilmarnock have been the two biggest losers of their stars, Craig Conway, Morgaro Gomis, Prince Bauben and David Goodwillie leaving United, while Taouil, Bryson, Hamill and Eremenko departed from Killie. The respective managers at both teams have tried to replace them, but it is how the new players gel with the squad that will decide where they finish.

Motherwell have only lost John Sutton, and if they can keep a hold of Jamie Murphy they should do well. However, the have also lost Steven Saunders to a season long injury, and it is making sure if they do lose Murphy that Michael Higdon is a decent enough replacement who will get them goals.

So the top four outside the Old Firm have lost key players/managers and that will bring them back to the level of everyone else, making the league as open as ever. Furthermore, while the top four have been weakened, the bottom six have added to their squads and look stronger than they did last season.

Aberdeen have lost Zander Diamond and Chris Maguire, however, both were very hot and cold with some moments of brilliance but also some horror moments from both individuals. Their replacements are steady decent players and the returning Ricky Foster is a good boost for the Dons. The other positive is this being Craig Brown’s first full season at the club, and he is sure to have the defence sorted out and not conceding as much as they did under Mark McGhee.

Calum Woods was the only loss for newly promoted Dunfermline, as he left to join Huddersfield in league one. Moreover, Jim McIntyre has added to his squad very astutely bringing in some players with experience in the SPL and also players who have played for a while in the First Division that now deserve a chance at a higher level. From their opening two games, they have shown that they will be no pushovers.

Colin Calderwood has also not lost many players at Hibs, and those he has lost, he has replaced with better players in Garry O’Connor, Ivan Sproule and Isaiah Osbourne. If they manage to sort out their goalkeeper curse, or if one of their current ‘keepers finds a bit of form then they are likely to have a very good season.

Inverness have lost their talisman Adam Rooney to Birmingham, however, they have strengthened in other positions with both Greg Tansey and Gregory Tade looking exciting acquisitions. If Terry Butcher can find a goalscorer who can score double figures in a season then they will win games against everyone else.

St. Johnstone have lost of a few good players but they have replaced them with experienced SPL players in Frazer Wright (5 years at Killie), Carl Finnegan (3 years in SPL at Falkirk), David Robertson (5 years at Dundee United) and Cillian Sheridan (3 years in SPL at Celtic and Motherwell). All these players are solid players at SPL level, however, it is scoring goals that could be St. Johnstone’s problem.

St. Mirren have started the season in a blaze of glory, receiving praise from all areas of the press for their silky football. Danny Lennon really has made his own team this season, and the signings of Gary Teale and Steven Thompson have added experience to the side. Nigel Hasselbaink has also shown more than he did at Hamilton last season and looks to be a player who can add a bit of flair to the Buddies.

All six of the bottom six teams last season have strengthened, while only Hearts and maybe Motherwell could say that in the top six. This season shall show a closer league and a very open division below the Old Firm. All teams will be able to take points off each other and shall do for most of the season. The teams in the top six this year will be those that can put together decent unbeaten runs in the middle of the season. The lowest points separating third from bottom was 22 in the 08/09 season and if things continue going the way they have started it is very likely that that total may be close to being matched or even beaten. It is safe to assume that this year will be the most open SPL in years.


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