Rangers gave a spirited performance against high flying St. Johnstone to keep up the pressure on rivals Celtic. Nikica Jelavic’s goals continue to save Rangers time and time again, and the Croat did the same again at McDiarmid Park amid transfer speculation of his future. Jelavic made the most of a quickly taken free kick; too poke the ball past Peter Enckleman in the Saint’s goal. St. Johnstone were level against the run of play midway through the second half. A well worked throw-in down the left wing saw Liam Craig fire a high cross into the box. Marcus Haber was on hand at the far post to head back across goal; however it will go down as a Carlos Bocanegra own-goal, as it took a wicked deflection off the American which deceived Neil Alexander. Rangers regained the lead with ten minutes to go. Enckleman failed to deal with a floated free-kick, Jelavic was on hand again to score a typical poacher’s goal to give Rangers all three points as they travelled back to Ibrox.
St. Johnstone 1-2 Rangers
Whatever Rangers could do, Celtic could match, beating Dundee United by the same scoreline at Parkhead. Celtic went ahead when Gary Hooper clinically dispatched Anthony Stokes throughball, and they were 2-0 up a few minutes later. Victor Wanyama was found unmarked at the far post, and the Kenyan made no mistake in beating Dusan Pernis. Celtic appeared to be crusing to victory, until a great strike by John Rankin from 30 yards out brought the visitors right back into the match, just six minutes after the interval. Both side had their chances to score again; Jon Daly in particular will feel he could have troubled Fraser Forster with his tame shot. However the day belonged to Celtic, seeing out the game and returning to the top of the SPL.
Celtic 2-1 Dundee United
The two sides at the bottom of the table met at East End Park in a highly entertaining game of football, with Hibernian emerging victorious. Dunfermline started the better of the two teams, and took the lead on fifteen minutes, veteran striker Andy Kirk heading in from Joe Cardle’s cross. Hibs were level just before half-time. In-form striker Leigh Griffiths finishing well from an acute angle to bring the Edinburgh side back into the game. Hibs took the lead themselves, Calum Booth and Griffiths linked up well before releasing former Scotland striker Garry O’Connor who lashed an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net. Dunfermline thought they had salvaged a point a few minutes from the end when Liam Buchannan bundled a shot over the line, however Hibernian were not to be out done. Griffiths scored his second of the match, however on-loan goalkeeper Iain Turner will feel he could have done better, as Griffiths’ shot squirmed under the former Everton keeper. The win for Hibs, sees them move four points away from the bottom of the table and record their first SPL win under Pat Fenlon.
Dunfermline 2-3 Hibernian
The performance of the day belonged to Hearts as they came from behind to beat St. Mirren 5-2 at Tynecastle. The Jambos took the lead in only the first minute, captain Marius Zaliukus heading an Ian Black corner past Craig Samson. However, ten minutes later the Lithuanian was to be heading for an early bath, as he was dismissed for a last man challenge on Paul McGowan. McGowan stepped up to dispatch the penalty himself, bring the Buddies level. St. Mirren then went ahead; former Rangers striker Steven Thompson looped a header over Marian Kello to give the Paisley outfit a 2-1 advantage. Hearts weren’t behind for long, another veteran striker, Rudi Skacel unleashed an unstoppable strike from thirty yards out to equalise for the home side. In the second half, Skacel completed a sensational hat-trick to put Hearts 4-2 ahead, before out of form striker John Sutton was given all the time in the world to score with ease to complete the scoring and a fine victory for Hearts.
Hearts 5-2 St. Mirren
Aberdeen missed out on the chance to make the top six for the first time since Craig Brown took over, as they had to settle for a point at home to Kilmarnock. The two sides played out a 0-0 draw at Pittodrie, with chances few and far between. The best chance of the match fell to Killie’s top scorer Paul Heffernan, however the Irishman could only hit his shot at Jason Brown after being put one-on-one by Dean Shiels.
Aberdeen 0-0 Kilmarnock
Inverness moved within three points of Aberdeen, with a victory away to high-flying Motherwell. Again, another disappointing match saw little action, the only goal coming from Gregory Tade. The Frenchman took his goal well, spinning away from defenders and then unleashing an explosive shot past Darren Randolph. The defeat for Motherwell see’s the steel men drop to fourth in the table, behind Hearts.
Motherwell 0-1 Inverness