Friday, October 26, 2012

SPL: Motherwell v Hibs

An acquaintance, for whom the glass is forever half empty, insisted to me last Sunday evening that Hibs would be in the bottom three of the SPL after the next three games.

That is mathematically possible. And this particular lover of life had, unlike me, endured the trip to Dingwall to see goalkeeper Ben Williams do a Highland fling in losing three goals and three points to Ross County.

He also told me that he "fears" for Hibs at Fir Park tonight. He didn't quantify the extent of that fearfulness but his solemnity of tone suggested Motherwell winning 3-0 or 4-0 - at 16/1 and 28/1 - wouldn't be outlandish.

Clearly I've got some really quite depressing friends. But his pessimism is indicative of where this SPL season is going.

Last week Hibs again displayed a certain fragility that earlier results might have masked.

That's enough to convince many that talk of (bottle) green shoots of recovery is overstated.

But if you're convinced that Pat Fenlon is turning things round at Easter Road you can point to some encouraging wins and some sound performances.

The optimist will argue that a win against Motherwell tonight would push Hibs into second place in the SPL table. That's progress.

The truth, as is so often case, probably lurks somewhere in between for Hibs and most other clubs.

A few weeks ago Motherwell were looking to go clear at the top of the table. They've since dropped back into the pack but a win tonight will take them from sixth to third.

16 points separate leaders Celtic from Dundee at the bottom. But only eight points split second placed Inverness and Dundee United in eleventh.

While Celtic haven't yet made the dash for glory that many predicted there does seem to have been a levelling among ten of the twelve clubs.

That might make the league thrillingly competitive or an orgy of mediocrity. Maybe it can be both at the same time.

It will also make it harder for anyone else to track Celtic if they do make a break. And it makes predicting the outcome of a majority of games something of a lottery.

It looks that way this evening.

Another Friday night experiment - although this perhaps owes more to ESPN filling a schedule hole than a commitment to improving the fan experience.

Tonight is actually a good chance to track the progress of Friday night football. This is third Friday game between these two since 1995 and the second in two seasons.

The TV free and abandoned match last year - Pat Fenlon's first game in charge of Hibs - drew an attendance of around 6700. That was a slightly larger crowd than turned up for Sky's live goalless draw in 1995.

If you're going to have an experiment it is useful to be able to draw comparisons. Tonight offers those comparisons.

Will the Friday night pioneers who turn up be entertained this evening?

Ladbrokes Game On!Goalless draws (10/1) are rare indeed in this fixture these days. This season Hibs have have looked less comfortable away from home, conceding 11 goals in 5 matches and taking just four points.

Motherwell - whose early season fluency seems to have deserted them - have taken five points from four home games, scoring six goals and conceding five.

And both come into this on the back of away defeats to teams below them in the league.

Tonight's odds - Motherwell are 21/20, Hibs 5/2 and the draw 12/5 - actually push me towards the draw.

A scoring draw.

1-1 is 6/1 while 2-2 is 14/1.

I always need to back Hibs though - although I suspect that this might contribute to whatever jinx it is they are toiling under at any given time - so I'll take a 2-1 away win at 11/1.

Combining that with Eoin Doyle as first goalscorer - for no other reason than an increasing appreciation for the cut of his jib - swells the odds to 50/1.

And because one day he must surely treat the SPL to his flying geriatric goal celebration I'll take my normal flutter on Shefki Kuqi as last goalscorer at 8/1.

One day.

Am I confident? No.

But a predictable unpredictability might be the SPL's calling card this season.

All odds from Ladbrokes #gameon

Always remembering www.gambleaware.co.uk