This afternoon’s four SPL clashes all have a very tight look about them with only two of the eight competing teams having currently managed to string two successive SPL victories together. Relegation issues may be sorted out this afternoon with all of the bottom six clubs playing.
The early kick off at noon, however, involves two teams in the top half, competing for a place in Europe. At Perth, ST.JOHNSTONE v INVERNESS CALEY THISTLE, we have fifth playing third, with ICT holding a four point advantage over the Saints. With Ross County having won their game last night and ICT having got their game with Celtic ‘out of the way’, the Perth side will be looking to take all three points to keep their European hopes alive. They have gone a fantastic nine home league games undefeated with five of those being draws. All three league games this season with ICT have been drawn also, with a grand total of two goals being scored! A draw for ICT this afternoon would be no disaster, giving them a three-point advantage over Highland neighbours County – who have still to play Celtic. I am sure though that Terry Butcher will want his players to bounce back from last week’s defeat and take all three points. Steve Lomas is an equally determined character and his team’s need for maximum points is greater!
St Johnstone have midfielder Liam Craig back after suspension but Murray Davidson is not certain to play due to an ankle injury. Long term casualties David Robertson and Jamie Adams remain out. ICT’s Chris Hogg may make a return after a serious knee injury. Gary Warren, on the other hand, is out with a knee knock he suffered at Celtic Park last week. Ryan Esson and Simon King remain sidelined.
Prediction: Draw – I can’t separate these teams in what should be a fiercely fought contest.
At Easter Road HIBERNIAN v ST MIRREN, the Edinburgh side may come under the microscope after being accused in some quarters of players ‘downing tools’ in preparation for their Scottish Cup Final. Pat Fenlon is quite rightly outraged at such suggestions and dismisses such speculation as nonsense. In St Mirren they have opposition whom they hold a 100% record over this season, albeit that the three games were won by the odd goal. This record, along with home advantage should give the Edinburgh side a fair degree of confidence going into today’s match. St Mirren are still not arithmetically clear of relegation, although I believe it is only a matter of time before their safety in the top flight is confirmed. I have been wrong before, take heed!
Pat Fenlon may rest Tim Clancy and Kevin Thomson this afternoon. Ryan McGivern is available again after suspension while Gary Deegan and Scott Robertson are back in training. St Mirren captain Jim Goodwin is suspended but Goncalves returns after serving his two match ban. Lee Mair is also in line to make the starting eleven.
Prediction: Hibs to maintain that 100% record over the Saints and achieve a home win.
At Pittodrie, ABERDEEN v KILMARNOCK, Derek McInnes is in charge for his first home match, having drawn on his ‘debut’ away to Hibs on Monday. He no doubt wants to get his first win and Kilmarnock may present a great opportunity for him to do so. Honours have been even so far this season with one win apiece and a solitary draw. The Ayrshire team, however, for no apparent reason, appear to be in free fall, throwing away their chance of a place in the top six and losing at home again last week in their first match post split. Whether Kenny Shiels’ men can put a stop to this slump only time will tell.
Aberdeen have no new injuries but Kilmarnock will be without forward Rory McKenzie. Jude Winchester and Ross Davidson are both training hard after injury and may get a place in the squad.
Prediction: Home win for Aberdeen.
At Dens Park in the DUNDEE v HEARTS game, we have the ‘in form’ teams of the ‘lower tier’. Yes, it is bottom versus third bottom but these are the teams I alluded to earlier, who have both won their last two successive SPL games. Something will have to give this afternoon! John Brown has done a magnificent job in his short tenure and has been rewarded with a two-year deal. Despite their recent revival, the Dens Park men still look doomed, although Mr Brown will ‘not surrender’ (sorry!) until that fate is official. Dundee actually hold a 2-1 advantage over Hearts this season in the three games previously played. ‘Bomber’ will surely have them ‘pumped up’ for another ‘cup final’ this afternoon! Hearts have beaten Kilmarnock and Ross County in their last two games and will obviously want to keep this winning run going and move further up the table. They also have their own ‘cup final’ to look forward to, in the form of the final Edinburgh Derby match of the season.
Other than long-term casualties Stephen O’Donnell and Jamie McCluskey and ‘out of favour’ Rab Douglas ( understated?), Dundee have no new injury worries. Hearts have doubts over Danny Wilson and Michael Ngoo. Sixteen year old defender Jordan McGhee may be added to the squad by Gary Locke.
Prediction: So close to call and surely to be a dramatic day at Dens! I will put my head above the parapet, however, and go for John Brown’s Dundee to continue their winning run!
Written by Mark Williamson