As the end of the season approaches, some games take on added importance with European places at stake and relegation to avoid. My tendency in trying to forecast the outcome of these matches is to err towards the team who have something to play for, over the team who are playing only for win bonuses. On that basis my predictions for this afternoon would be wins for St Johnstone, St Mirren and Inverness Caley Thistle. Those poor souls out there who follow my musings on the beautiful game will not be surprised to see that I have gone for none of the above!
Take ICT v MOTHERWELL, for example. The home team sit in third place, one point ahead of the chasing pack and having already played Celtic post split. Terry Butcher’s team desperately want that third place and European football next season. Their opposition today have already achieved that feat and are virtually guaranteed second place in the SPL. The Steelmen have an unchanged squad from last week. ICT have defender David Raven suspended, and Esson, Warren and King remain injured.
And so, to my theory then. ICT are at home, desperate for the three ‘European’ points and are playing a team whose season is all but ended. Motherwell players will be thinking of summer breaks and saving themselves for Europa league qualifiers. A Caley win, surely? I’m afraid I can’t do that! Motherwell are eight games unbeaten, including two victories over Celtic. Last week’s second half performance against the champions was magnificent. Another statistic favouring the Fir Park men is that they have beaten ICT convincingly in all three league meetings this season – including a 5-1 thrashing at today’s venue.
Prediction: I am ignoring my ‘theory’ and looking at form – an away win for Motherwell.
At Tannadice, DUNDEE UTD v ST JOHNSTONE in a match that has great importance for the Perth club. They are one point behind ICT in the race for Europe, courtesy of a vital 1-0 victory over the Highland club last week. The Saints hope to have Murray Davidson back for today’s clash but midfielders Mehdi Abeid and Patrick Cregg may not make it. For the home side, Barry Douglas is suspended and Gavin Gunning is very doubtful. United may have a boost with the possible inclusion of Johnny Russell back in the squad. All three encounters between these teams have been drawn this season, and today’s match has another very tight look about it. My ‘theory’ dictates that I should tip St Johnstone but….
Prediction: home advantage and Jackie McNamara still trying to put his own mark on the club equates to a United win.
At Tynecastle, HEARTS v ST MIRREN could decide the fate of Dundee, who play tomorrow. A point for the Buddies will effectively relegate the Dens Park side, the Paisley side’s goal difference being far superior. The home side are in disarray off the park, with administration looking inevitable. The Edinburgh side will be hoping that happens AFTER the season ends, so that they avoid an eighteen point penalty and subsequent relegation this season. (Dundee may not be doomed yet!)
Andy Webster is suspended for the home side in today’s match while fellow central defender Danny Wilson may also miss out due to injury. St Mirren captain serves the final game of his two match suspension this afternoon. Danny Lennon’s side boast two home victories plus THAT League Cup Final victory over Hearts this season. The Edinburgh side won 1-0 the last time they played at Tynecastle.
Prediction: part ‘theory’, part form based, I believe St Mirren will get the draw they require.
Written by Mark Williamson