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SPL Weekend Preview: Saturday 9th March

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spl1As the ‘split’ draws ever closer and matches take on an ever increasing significance, it could be called, as our own knight of the realm has said in the past, “squeakie bum time!” It is certainly a time for both individuals and the collective to stand up and be counted.

Today’s five fixtures and tomorrow’s Edinburgh Derby ( Special Derby Preview tomorrow ) all have a very tight look about them. A case could be made for a draw to be the outcome of each match. That scenario may seem highly unlikely but stranger things have happened. Or maybe not!

Speaking of draws, the last time ABERDEEN v MOTHERWELL at Pittodrie the result ended 1-1. Aberdeen are on a horrendous run at the moment, their last SPL victory dating back to December 2012. Manager Craig Brown puts this down to a combination of bad luck and some bad performances. Motherwell, on the other hand arrive here with back to back victories over Celtic and Hearts. Stuart McCall’s team sit proudly at the top of the mini-league behind Celtic. They defeated the Dons 4-1 in the Fir Park fixture. They will be looking to cement that place and have obvious aspirations for European football next season. The Dons, despite their disastrous run are currently only two points behind sixth position. They could still make the top six if a swift run of victories were to ensue. In today’s match Joe Shaughnessy returns but Osbourne, Considine and Clark remain sidelined. Motherwell are missing the suspended Shaun Hutchison but defender Simon Ramsden is available for selection.
Prediction: Motherwell victory

In the DUNDEE v INVERNESS CALEY THISTLE match, the Dens Park outfit go into this match knowing they have already been on the receiving end of two 4-1 defeats from Terry Butcher’s men. They also go into it on the back of a midweek victory over Saint Mirren. In a match they won 2-1 after going behind early on, they really should have been dead and buried in the first half, where Saint Mirren totally overwhelmed them. John Brown will point to their comeback, however, and wants his players to use that win as a catalyst for more victories. Declan Gallagher returns for Dundee today after suspension while ICT have no injury doubts. The Highland outfit are in third place and have a chance of qualifying for Europe while Dundee, despite that midweek upset, look doomed to life in the second tier next season.
Prediction: ICT to take all three points.

The ROSS COUNTY v CELTIC match at Dingwall in the early part of the season ended in a 1-1 draw, Kris Commons equalising with the last kick of the ball. Celtic strolled to a 4-0 victory when the teams met in Glasgow. To Celtic first: the soon to be crowned SPL champions have an injury list which is lengthy to say the least. A further four casualties have been added to that list after their midweek defeat in Turin. Celtic did Scotland proud in their magnificent Champions League run, with the 2-1 victory over Barcelona the jewel on the crown. Neil Lennon’s men must now refocus on the domestic tasks ahead. Tony Watt is available again to help them do that. ROSS COUNTY, on the other hand, are on a simply superb run of ten games unbeaten in the SPL, and Derek Adams wants to make that eleven today. Captain Richard Britain is suspended for this match, which is an obvious blow to Adams’ men. This should be a keenly contested match and it would be no shock if Ross County were to remain undefeated. However….
Prediction: Celtic to win.

At Perth where ST.JOHNSTONE v KILMARNOCK, the Saints have already recorded two 2-1 victories and lie in fifth place in the league. Kilmarnock lie in seventh place, just three points behind today’s opponents. Kilmarnock have an extensive injury list so Kris Boyd and Sammy Clingan may start for them today. Enough words have been written about their embarrassing defensive display against Hibs in the cup last week. St.Johnstone, who have Patrick Cregg suspended and Frazer Wright doubtful, know that a victory today will put them six points in front of their Ayrshire rivals.
Prediction: St.Johnstone to pick up three points

In the ST MIRREN v DUNDEE UTD match, the home side will still be smarting from their midweek defeat, a game they should have sewn up by half time. That defeat makes it highly unlikely that they will have any chance of competing in the top six after the split. They do, however, have a cup final at Hampden next week against Hearts. Will the players be properly focused on today’s game? Danny Lennon makes all the right noises about his players treating this match in a professional manner. Lee Mair is out and Jim Goodwin is doubtful. Steven Thompson may return after suffering from a groin strain. DUNDEE UTD are missing the very unfortunate Johnny Russell due to his leg fracture. Gavin Gunning is also missing. New signing Rory Boulding and the Swedish defender, Marcus Tornstrand, may get some game time today. United currently lie in eighth place but are only one point behind sixth position. The players have responded well to the new stewardship of Jackie McNamara and he will most certainly want them to make the top six. A victory today would be a positive building block towards that goal.
Prediction: Dundee Utd to win.

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