Saturday, September 01, 2012

SPL: Celtic v Hibs


After they both enjoyed SPL wins last Saturday the week rather diverged for Celtic and Hibs.

Celtic progressed to the Champions League group stage, that promised land where the streets are paved with gold and the couches upholstered with £50 notes.

24 hours earlier Hibs were dumped out of the League Cup by Queen of the South in a display that seems to have flitted between pathetic and miserable.

Pat Fenlon said he was "disgusted" with the performance and well he might have been. He should also have been mildly nauseated by his own decision to rejig the team with a series of changes that made Hibs weakest in the very areas where Queen of the South were strongest.

After taking seven points from three games - Fenlon's best SPL sequence - it was an unfortunate return to the amateurism that has pockmarked Hibs' recent travails.

The result wasn't the end of the world. But it was hugely unfortunate.

Fenlon remains very much on trial with a lot of supporters. If he wants to win them over he can't afford to take a couple of steps back just when he seems to be moving forward.

Can't afford to lose too many players out of his starting eleven either.

He looked in the cupboard on Tuesday night and - as most of us would have guessed - the cupboard was bare.

No such worries for Neil Lennon who has taken Celtic back to the group stages of the Champions League, returning the glamour of Barcelona to Celtic Park along with all that thunder.

The SPL is warmed by the reflected glory of Celtic's qualification even as it increases the inequality between the haves and the have nots.

For now Hibs need to try and cope with the inequality on the pitch.

60 points separated the two teams last year and a goalless draw in Glasgow couldn't hide how woefully Hibs fared against the teams at the top end of the table.

In 18 league clashes with top six teams Hibs managed just six points, that draw at Celtic joined by draws with Motherwell and Dundee United and a home win against St Johnstone.

Fenlon himself was only in charge for the 1-1 draw with Motherwell.

It's a record that has to be improved. The last three games have indicated progress - a step in the right direction but not a destination.

Certainly Fenlon will feel that he could have done without facing a buoyant Celtic in Glasgow today.

Odds of 12/1 on a away win suggest there's a mountain to climb.

Trying for a repeat of last year's 0-0 would be a risky strategy although with Ben Williams in goal and James McPake at the heart of defence Hibs look capable of being more organised this season.

Fenlon's favoured midfield four - not enhanced by any deadline day deals - might lack creativity but look reasonably well configured to help out a rearguard action while Leigh Griffiths and Eoin Doyle would attempt to take the pressure off with constant movement up front.

That could be the theory anyway. So 14/1 on a no scoring draw might tempt me.

If I had any faith that Hibs will be able to keep a clean sheet.

I don't.

Which would lead me to the conclusion that Celtic will probably prevail.

Ladbrokes Game On!
A 3-1 Celtic win at 10/1 looks enticing.

The head can't rule when Hibs are involved though.

2-1 Hibs with Griffiths getting the first goal. 125/1.

If dreams can come true you might as well make a few quid off the back of them.

All odds from Ladbrokes

www.gambleaware.co.uk