Saturday, October 24, 2009

Home comforts

Another week bookended by European woes. Rangers abject on Tuesday, Celtic toothless on Thursday. Both rock bottom of groups that did not appear, at first glance, as the toughest in the competitions. The sound you can hear is our co-efficient crashing through the floor.

The natives are getting restless and pressure is growing on both Old Firm managers. But take a look at the league table. Rangers top, Celtic second. If they both win this weekend there will be a four point gap between Celtic in second and Hibs in third. Being crap is an entirely relative thing.

To the weekend action:

Aberdeen v Dundee United

Aberdeen have drawn their last three games and Dundee United have drawn their last two. More of the same here? I would say so. Both have injury problems with Craig Levein at risk of losing his defensive troika of Wilkie, Webster and Dodds. Former Ranger Maurice Ross might make a debut for Aberdeen. With that in mind both sides might look slightly unfamiliar at kick off. I'll still go for a New Firm draw though.

Hearts v Falkirk

Both sides are still searching for the spark that will bring this season to life. Hearts have at least managed to record a couple of wins at home while Falkirk have picked up one point out of a dozen on the road. The Bairns have only scored four goals in their eight SPL games, Heart have managed nine. The stats do not point to a classic. Falkirk need a win but I'm backing the Jam-Tarts in this one.

Kilmarnock v St Johnstone

A sore one for St Johnstone last week when they showed more than enough to have had the game won before Rangers overhauled them. Kilmarnock had the odd chance at Easter Road before losing to a dodgy penalty. If both teams set out their stall as they did last week then this will be a culture clash with Killie's doughty defensiveness crashing into St Johnstone's football playing philosophy. The purist in me backs an away win.

Rangers v Hibs

The leaders and champions clash with the new kids on the top three block. In the tumult over bank accounts and European gubbings it shouldn't be forgotten that Walter Smith can still inspire this team to grind it out at home. He'll be further hampered by injuries tomorrow though as an attack minded Hibs side set out to prove that rumours of their brittleness are much exaggerated. If Liam Miller and Kevin McBride can get a hold on the midfield Hibs will have a chance. Will pride allow the Rangers players to be as spineless as they were on Tuesday? A draw.

St Mirren v Motherwell

After losing at home to Celtic the Buddies have gone on to record that elusive first home victory and won on the road at Falkirk. Motherwell steadied the ship after losing to Hibs with a win over Falkirk and a draw with Celtic last time out. So tomorrow St Mirren face the start of the difficult second win syndrome against a team that continues to confound pre season expectation. The story of the season so far has been of 12 teams sharing a consistent mediocrity. That makes most games close. More of the same in Paisley with a scoring draw my favoured outcome.

Hamilton v Celtic (Sunday, ESPN)

Sitting down to watch many of the games ESPN has held all of the allure of watching the paint dry on a very large, very white wall. Will Sunday be any different? Celtic have scored two goals and managed two draws in their last four outings. Hamilton have scored two and managed two draws in their last four outings. Lied, damned lies and statistics. These are two free flowing teams who are but moments away from becoming the prolific outfits we know them to be. I'm not even convincing myself. I'll go for a Celtic win after another huffing, puffing display.

The scores on the board, Miss Ford? 14 out of 42. If I was a betting man I'd be living off bread and water this season rather than the stale rolls and Asda budget orange squash that normally fuels this blog. In mitigation I did actually predict another two correct scores last week only to overrule myself at the death.