Today is one of those unique occasions when there is a full card of matches, all being played at 3.00pm on a Saturday afternoon. Perhaps someone could comment and let me know when that has last happened in our top division! All six matches look tight affairs and the gamblers among you may think about some draw permutations.
At Parkhead, CELTIC v INVERNESS CALEY THISTLE, in the battle of the ‘one hundred per centers’. Today at least one of these teams will lose that record. ICT sit proudly on the top of the division, with three wins and no goals conceded. They travel to Celtic Park with no injury worries and more importantly – no fear! Billy Mackay’s strike in last week’s victory over Motherwell was arguably the goal of the weekend. Celtic, on the other hand, go into this game on the back of THAT 2-0 first leg defeat in the Champions League on Tuesday. The return leg is this Wednesday and is Celtic’s game of the season. What kind of team Neil Lennon will field today, I have absolutely no clue! I got it so wrong in last week’s game against Aberdeen, second guessing incorrectly that Celtic would field a weakened team and would consequently lose the match. Celtic do have several injury doubts for this afternoon and yet again I do believe players will be rested for Wednesday’s £15 million play off! Regardless of which team Celtic field, they are at home and wouldn’t want to lose this last game before Wednesday. I don’t think they will lose but will they collect three points against a buoyant Caley side?
Prediction: I don’t like picking draws but I will here – one point apiece – a scoring draw.
DUNDEE UTD v ST.JOHNSTONE at Tannadice this afternoon, with the Arabs still to register a league win this season. The Saints, however, are unbeaten, with seven points on the board and some proud performances in Europe. They certainly are the form pick of the two. I have expected better from United and still believe that with players of the calibre of Mackay-Steven and David Goodwillie, they will improve and eventually go on some kind of run. Will it be today? Gavin Gunning is suspended but old boy Mark Wilson may make an appearance today. The Saints will still have Steve Banks in goal. United looked liked beating Hibs last week until the double sending off, which seemed to galvanise the Edinburgh side as they fought back for a 1-1 draw. St Johnstone’s strength has been their home form and they drew their only away match at Kilmarnock. Today’s first goal will be so important.
Prediction: I find this really difficult to call but will plump for a United home win.
At Tynecastle, HEARTS v ABERDEEN in what looks a very tasty fixture. Seventeen points split these sides due to the penalty imposed on Hearts for going into administration. Goalkeepers featured strongly in their respective previous matches. McDonald of Hearts was outstanding at Firhill and stole a point for his team, in my opinion. Aberdeen were acquitting themselves very well against a strong Celtic side last week until Jamie Langfield gave away a penalty and was subsequently red carded. Celtic converted the penalty and played out the rest of the match comfortably, eventually winning 2-0. Derek McInnes was rightfully upbeat despite the loss, and the opposition this afternoon is a very young and inexperienced Hearts side. Nicky Weaver continues in goals for the suspended Langfield.
Prediction: The young Jambos will obviously give their all, willed on by the vociferous home support. The Dons, however, carry a stronger goal threat and I expect them to bounce back with an away victory.
Neither of the teams taking the field at Rugby Park today have chalked a win in the league as of yet. KILMARNOCK v HIBERNIAN in what I think may be an entertaining match. Killie coach, Allan Johnston, feels his side have been unlucky in the matches they have drawn. Kris Boyd’s sending off at St Mirren last week was a game changer. He had already put the Ayrshire side ahead and I thought he was a bit unlucky to get a red card, his ongoing duel with Jim Goodwin ending with Boyd pushing him in the back. The St Mirren captain went down like the proverbial ton of bricks, strangely holding both hands to his face – strange reaction to a push in the back! In their previous home match against St Johnstone, Allan Johnston felt his side squandered many excellent chances that afternoon. Today surely presents a great chance for a first league victory, as they face the beleaguered Pat Fenlon’s side, a coach who this week got the dreaded vote of confidence from chairman, Rod Petrie. Leigh Griffiths netted an injury time penalty winner for Wolves last night. How badly are Hibs missing him? Boyd is suspended this afternoon as is Kevin Thomson for Hibs.
Prediction: The nail holding Pat Fenlon’s jacket to get even shakier! Home win for Killie.
MOTHERWELL v PARTICK THISTLE at Fir Park, where I expect another exciting spectacle – have The Jags not provided that in every match so far this season? The unbeaten Firhill side have been a breath of fresh air this season and should arguably have more than the five points accumulated so far. Motherwell, alas, are suffering badly from the mass exodus of players during the close season and have beaten only a hapless Hibs side so far, as they lie two points behind today’s visitors. There was nothing Stuart McCall could do about those players leaving and his squad is one of the most recognisably weakened from that of last season. Their overall lack of pace is well documented. He has a full squad to choose from today, on the plus side, and McCall must see this as an opportunity to get another three points on the board. His Maryhill counterpart, Alan Archibald, will be looking for ‘more of the same please, lads’. Will the Firhill fairy tale start to the season continue?
Prediction: In what is one of the most difficult matches to call, I hope I don’t jinx the Jags again by tipping them for an away win!
At Dingwall, ROSS COUNTY v ST.MIRREN in an encounter between two teams who have accumulated the grand total of one point! That honour goes to the Paisley side who drew 1-1 with Kilmarnock last week. Ross County’s home form last season was the foundation of their successful campaign, losing only three games at Dingwall. They go into this match on the back of a 4-0 thrashing by St Johnstone last week and one can only harbour a guess at the confidence levels of the home side. Manager Derek Adams pulled no punches as he publicly berated their abysmal performance. He will have worked them hard all week although he has some unnamed injury worries for this afternoon. Danny Lennon will be hoping his Saints can be spurred on by that vital point gained last week. They have David van Zanten back from suspension and players such as Paul McGowan and Steven Thompson could give the home defence a headache.
Prediction: An away win for St.Mirren.