Friday, September 28, 2012

SPL: The Joy of Six

A Saturday Superstore tomorrow. With Neil Doncaster as Mike Read and a half time interview with Craig Brown filling in for a wacky live link with Cheggers.

A splendid SPL smorgasbord seeing out September. Alarming alliteration aside, we can sit back and enjoy six games in the top flight.

Aberdeen v Hibs


The good lord of scheduling giveth and he taketh away. Thus the joy of a Saturday game is diminished by a noon kick off.

Hibs are looking to make it seven games undefeated in the SPL, Aberdeen are looking to make it nine undefeated in all competitions.

Last week Hibs threw away a two goal lead, Aberdeen salvaged a point after being two goals behind.

They served up some fetid feasts of boredom last season but current form suggests this might be a darn good match up.

When they weren't being hauled back last week Hibs looked confident, aggressive, capable of playing a bit of football.

Far from the finished article and still lacking any real depth to the squad. But Pat Fenlon deserves praise for how his work in progress is, eh, progressing.

Fools and bairns shouldn't see unfinished jobs? A football manager doesn't have that luxury. Fenlon must work under the glare of a support still haunted by recent experiences.

He's making a decent fist of it. And that's more than his predecessor managed.

Aberdeen's start to the season - efficiently low key but lacking goals - was vintage Craig Brown but belied a summer spent assembling what looks to be a half decent squad.

A point salvaged last week and a late win against Dunfermline on Wednesday might just give them the burst of urgency they need.

This could be tight. Certainly a Hibs win at 23/10 or the draw at the same odds look better prices than an Aberdeen win at 6/5.

Regular readers will know I don't like publicly declaring Hibs predictions on the blog.

But at more than 2/1 I will be backing them.

Dundee v St Johnstone


All that time without a win, a bit of a Moaning Minnie harrumph when they lost to Hibs at Easter Road.

What a difference a month makes.

September has delivered seven SPL points from nine and a league cup win for St Johnstone.

It started equally well for Dundee but a win at Tynecastle has been followed by two defeats. Bottom of the league, four points from seven games.

Still early but it's form that makes you think of a long struggle ahead.

If they want to haul themselves out of their current fug then winning home games against St Johnstone would be the sensible way to start.

The home win is out at 23/10 though. So is the draw. St Johnstone are 6/5 to make it ten points out of 12. I suspect they'll do just that.

Hearts v Kilmarnock


Up and doon.

That's pretty much the season so far for both Hearts and Kilmarnock.

For a number of clubs actually. This could be an excitingly unpredictable season. It could also be a turgid affair with eight or nine clubs trapped together in a tedious waltz of shared mediocrity.

Depending on how full or empty your glass is.

Hearts vaulted past Dundee United last week to record their first SPL win since the opening day.

Kilmarnock eased past St Mirren to record their second SPL win of the season.

Going into this game both have played seven, won two and amassed nine points with a goal difference of plus two.

Anything John McGlynn can do, Kenny Shiels can do pretty much the same.

Which will make this a tight one today?

Hearts don't look to offer much value at 10/11, Kilmarnock might be a tad generous at 3/1.

A draw for me though. 12/5.

Inverness v Dundee United


Inverness looked in danger of being overrun as Hibs went two ahead last Saturday.

There, laid bare, were their limitations.

From adversity, strength. With Richie Foran leading the line they hauled themselves back into it with a determination and resilience which makes you think they can again be more than the sum of their parts.

If anyone stumbles across the Dundee United side that were apparently best placed to challenge for the title could they please post it back to a Mr P Houston at Tannadice.

After winning their first two game 3-0, United are now four without a win and suffered a 3-0 defeat of their own at home to Hearts last week.

Injuries haven't helped of course. But there seems to be nobody ready to take responsibility when key players are missing.

It will be a worry for Peter Houston that they've also shipped three goals in losing to Kilmarnock and Hearts.

Not scoring and not always defending very well. 'Tis a bad combination.

I'm not sure if Inverness, still without a league win, will be able to capitalise though. They're certainly thrawn but I'm unconvinced by their ability to take the initiative.

So Inverness at 2/1? Don't fancy it. Dundee United at 13/10? Not sure.

The draw at 9/4. Go on then.

Motherwell v Celtic


In the last week Motherwell have lost a two goal lead against an Aberdeen side that couldn't score and been dispatched from the league cup by a Third Division side.

That's pish, frankly.

The manner of their defeat to Rangers - not just the lack of marking at the goals, but the stumbling, pedestrian ineptitude of much of their play - should be a cause for concern.

But they're top of the league so everything is rosy? Hmmm. They are both bad results.

I'd be astonished if Celtic don't win this game.

The most interesting thing about it is the kick off time: The first Saturday 3pm kick off for a Celtic away game in the SPL since October 2005 when Livingston were on the wrong end of a 5-0 drubbing.

A drubbing inspired by "youngsters Stephen McManus and Shaun Maloney."

Gary Hooper looks in the mood. The Motherwell defence looks generous. The Celtic win is likely but it's a low value 8/13.

St Mirren v Ross County


Kenny Shiels was ebullient in his praise of St Mirren last week. But his Kilmarnock side had just won the game.

Defeat too for Ross County, that lengthy unbeaten league run finally coming to an end against a rejuvenated St Johnstone.

So something for both teams to bounce back from tomorrow.

It took St Mirren until injury time to slide past Hamilton in the league cup on Tuesday.

Ladbrokes Game On!That will please Derek Adams. County are nothing if not obstinate and he might well fancy their chances of rendering St Mirren pretty but ineffective - which is the praise Shiels faintly damned them with last week.

St Mirren go into this one as favourites at evens. The County win is 11/5.

I'd be more tempted by the draw at the same price.

Coupon crazy


OK, so where are we?

The tightness of many matches and the inconsistency of many sides is making calling SPL matches something of a challenge so far this season.

Tomorrow:

Hibs to win
St Johnstone to win
Hearts and Kilmarnock to draw
Inverness and Dundee United to draw
Celtic to win
St Mirren and Ross County to draw

An accumulator on that little lot comes in at 414.69/1. A daft bet. But this might just be a daft season.

All odds from Ladbrokes

Always remembering www.gambleaware.co.uk

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