Saturday, January 21, 2012

SPL Today: The £35000 Man

Today's SPL. All of our dirty dozen are in action. Here's a very quick look ahead.

St Mirren v Celtic

Ah, St Mirren. 2-1 up last week with their opponents down to ten men. They lost 5-2.

A season in 90 minutes. The promise, the impressive moments, the entertainment and the frequent disappointments.

If Danny Lennon finds that frustrating, Danny Lennon will tell us. And Danny Lennon will keep working to find the right formula for St Mirren and Danny Lennon.

They did sign Dougie Imrie this week which could prove a wise buy. And, in this barren transfer window, the excitement of Lennon pipping Peter Houston with a cheeky bid of £35,000 must pass for entertainment.

Celtic roll on and on. And this week they signed Rabiu Ibrahim, the "African Lionel Messi."

One thing Neil Lennon will never be short of is short of options. Big squad, big title challenge.

The problem with a winning run like the one Celtic are on is that it has to end sometime.

It will probably survive today though.

Dundee Utd v Motherwell

Plaudits aplenty for Dundee United after their performance at Celtic last week. Just a shame they gave their hosts a two goal lead.

The barely scintillating Dougie Imrie transfer saga would seem to illustrate two things: Peter Houston is keen to evolve his squad and he'll need to do that under the strictest of housekeeping budgets.

That's a big ask and a conundrum that suggests that United's current SPL position - 26 points, seventh place, a degree of inconsistency - might be where the find themselves for a couple of consolidating seasons.

Motherwell cut a dash through the SPL autumn but have now gone a month and four games without a league win.

Last week they relinquished third place, albeit they've got games in hand, to a resurgent Hearts. It wasn't supposed to be like this.

The early success was built on a tight unit and that always ran the risk of injuries, loss of form or a few lapses in concentration causing problems. So it's proved.

I'm backing the draw today.

Hibernian v St Johnstone

A big, big, big win for Hibs at Dunfermline last week. That game - loss of an early goal, recovery, loss of a late goal - showed the weaknesses that have haunted them.

But the late winner also gave a glimpse of the resilience and belief that Pat Fenlon has been trying to bring to a squad that had lost all confidence.

An important three points but not a genuine moment of rebirth. That will take more time.

St Johnstone might very well still be incandescent about the correct procedure for the positioning of free kicks after last week's narrow loss to Rangers.

I didn't see much wrong with it myself but others will disagree.

St Johnstone are still very much in the mix for third place. Narrow defeats to Rangers might be expected but it's trips like today's that will have a greater impact on their season.

I'm expecting goals today. But I fancy the away team might just nick the three points.

Inverness v Hearts

A good win at Motherwell followed by a cup win at Dunfermline made this a good week for Inverness.

A good win against St Mirren followed by an almighty SPL rumpus made this an utterly bizarre week for Hearts.

The players have carried on regardless despite the fracas over their pay. That's very much to their credit.

Tricky trip this though. Don't know why but I've got a feeling this could very well be a home win.

Kilmarnock v Dunfermline

Dunfermline could really have done with ending their dismal run last week.

They didn't. An appalling record lies behind them, a hell of a struggle stretches ahead of them.

They lose too many goals and don't score enough. The result is 14 points from 21 games.

Kilmarnock are capable of great things, poor things and, like last weekend's goalless draw at Aberdeen, best forgotten things.

The top six was the aim this season. They currently lie sixth. If they're going to stay there they need to win games like this.

They probably will today.

Rangers v Aberdeen

Rangers continue to fail to convince. They also, largely, keep winning and tacking close behind Celtic.

Aberdeen have done enough to persuade us they aren't as bad as they looked earlier in the season. But nor are they as competent as Craig Brown would have hoped.

That doesn't give me much confidence in a game of games at Ibrox today. They might prove me wrong.

Or Rangers might overcome a thrawn Aberdeen by the odd goal.

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