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Midweek SPL roundup

November 13, 2010

The midweek round of Scottish Premier League fixtures kicked off with Aberdeen manager Mark McGhee looking like a marked man. Along with the Dons entertaining Inverness Caley Thistle at Pittodrie, the Old Firm took on the two teams from Edinburgh. Dundee United went to bottom-club St Mirren, Motherwell hosted St Johnstone and on-form Kilmarnock welcomed Hamilton to Rugby Park.

Having been on the wrong end of a 9-0 drubbing to Celtic last weekend, McGhee would have preferred to welcome different opponents to Pittodrie than Inverness Caledonian Thistle. Terry Butcher’s men are unbeaten away from home in the SPL so far this season following their 2-1 win.

Given their form, it was unsurprising that they were the first side to threaten. Adam Rooney and Ross Tokeley both had headers that they will feel they should have done better with. The visitors went ahead just after the half hour thanks to a rather fortuitous penalty just as Aberdeen had started to play themselves into the game. Scott Vernon and Zander Diamond both troubled Ryan Esson with decent efforts before referee John McKendrick pointed to the spot. Stuart Duff floated over a free-kick from the right and though the ball was sailing high over their heads, Yoann Folly was adjudged to have shoved Grant Munro and the decision stood. A long delay saw a couple of protesting players booked and then Rooney dispatched the penalty superbly.

A goal down, Aberdeen looked to immediately respond. Darren Mackie raced through on a Chris Maguire pass but Esson stuck out a crucial arm and made a crucial block. The move raised the spirits of the 6,000 fans in attendance as it looked like Aberdeen could end their recent poor run that has seen them fall closer and closer to the bottom of the league table.

Four minutes into the second half, on-loan striker Andrius Velicka slipped the equaliser home and there only look like one team could go on to win. Inverness were on the back-foot for long spells so of course, they scored the winning goal nine minutes from time. Grant Munro got himself on the end of Richie Foran’s delivery to head Caley Thistle into the lead and up into fourth briefly. Aberdeen huffed and puffed for the last few minutes before were unable to conjure up the goal that Mark McGhee look desperate for.

In Glasgow, there was a game on firsts. Rangers lost for the first league match at Ibrox for 20 months as they went down 3-0 to Hibernian. It was the first time this season that Hibernian have kept a clean sheet in the league and the win is also the first points that the Hibees have won under new manager Colin Calderwood.

Liam Miller and John Rankin both left Allan McGregor grounded with two stunning strikes in the first 20 minutes as the Edinburgh club raced into a 2-0 lead. They were a complete change from the frustrated side that had lost 2-0 to Hearts in the Edinburgh derby on Sunday and were good value for their resounding win over the league champions. Rangers were shell-shocked by the emphatic start of the visitors and struggled to dominate possession. Passes were constantly misplaced but they almost started a comeback through David Weir. The veteran’s header was cleared off the line by Valdas Trakys and Mark Brown was called into action more and more as Rangers got their act together.

Kenny Miller, Kyle Lafferty and Madjid Bougherra were all denied by the stopper who looked in inspirational form and just when a goal for Rangers would have set-up a very nervy finish, Hibernian killed the game. A corner from John Ranking was headed down by Sol Bamba to his defensive partner Frances Dickoh. The new signing smashed the ball home for his first ever Hibs goal as Hibs held on for a memorable victory.

Despite their bitter rivals losing for the first time this season, Celtic were unable to take advantage and jump to the top of the Scottish Premier League table. They went down to a 2-0 defeat to Hearts at Tynecastle in a game that saw midfielder Joe Ledley and manager Neil Lennon sent off.

Despite having only won once at home this season, the Tynecastle team were superior from the very start. Hearts hit the bar before Ian Black’s shot deflected off Daniel Majstorovic to put the Jambos in front and ten minutes into the second half, just after Ledley was shown a straight red, David Templeton raced onto the end of Rudi Skacel’s cross to double the lead.

Celtic looked to be suffering from a hangover following their record-breaking victory over Aberdeen at the weekend and were unable to really trouble the Hearts defence. Having gone two up, they looked ready to park the bus but their Glasgow opponents were unable to really pressure. Enjoying the numerical advantage, Hearts played out a rather routine victory to remain two points behind Motherwell.

Speaking of Motherwell, Craig Brown’s young squad dispatched of St Johnstone with a comprehensive 4-0 victory. Thanks to a clinical first-half hat-trick from Nick Blackman, the ‘Well maintained 3rd place in the league and thanks to other results, they actually closed the gap on the Old Firm.

The on-loan Blackburn striker was on hand to complete three excellent attacking moves for Motherwell as they swept the Saints aside with three efficient finishes. John Sutton rounded out the scoring as he smashed home late on.

Three week ago, Kilmarnock were gripped by fears that they could potentially be pulled into a relegation scrap. Struggling to play well and seemingly with a one-way ticket towards the bottom of the table, Mixu Paatelainen’s side have completed the most incredible turnaround and on Thursday morning woke up following their third 3-0 win in succession. Following two wins away from home, Killie defeated Hamilton 3-0 at Rugby Park thanks to two strikes from Conor Sammon.

Ben Gordon had opened the scoring with a glorious strike on 34 minutes before the on-form Sammon cracked home two goals. A thumping volley was followed up with a powering header as Hamilton were brushed aside. Nigel Hasselbaink and Damian Casalinuovo both blazed over the best opportunities for Hamilton as the superior finishing of Killie told.

In the other game of the week, St Mirren lifted themselves off the bottom of the SPL at the expense of Hamilton. The Buddies defeated Dundee United 2-1 at Tannadice with Michael Higdon firing in two superb goals. Prince Buaben scored a fabulous free-kick with just four minutes left to go and while it was a lovely goal, it didn’t leave the Arabs with enough time to clamber for a vital equaliser.

Results

Tuesday

Aberdeen 1-2 Inverness CT

Wednesday

Dundee Utd 1-2 St Mirren, Hearts 2-0 Celtic, Kilmarnock 3-0 Hamilton, Motherwell 4-0 St Johnstone, Rangers 0-3 Hibernian

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