Scott Binnie reviews the latest games north of the border after a disheartening international break for the Scots.
The SPL champions maintained their lead at the top of the table, a new challenger reared their head behind the leaders, there was another twist in the story at the top of the First Division and a giantkiller resumed their poor fare following a historic win.
Scottish Premier League
Celtic maintained their three point lead at the top of the SPL with an easy 5-0 defeat of St Mirren as they looked to prepare for tonight’s Champions League tie with Barcelona. Gary Hooper put the visitors in front after just 15 minutes before Efe Ambrose volleyed home the second a few minutes later.
Two goals from Victor Wanyama, the second of which was a lovely 25 yard effort, before half time had the game sewn up for the Hoops as the Buddies rarely threatened the Scottish champions. Tony Watt added a fifth late on and Wanyama was unlucky to see the crossbar deny him his hattrick. Celtic rarely ascended from first gear here so it was the ideal precursor to by far the toughest game of Neil Lennon’s reasonably short managerial career – Barcelona at the Nou Camp.
Steve Lomas’ St Johnstone moved into second place after their 2-1 win over Kilmarnock at McDiarmid Park. Murray Davidson put the Saints in front on the half hour mark and Nigel Hasselbaink put the game beyond Killie in the 90th minute, though James Fowler did manage to pull one back for the visitors in the last few seconds. This was St Johnstone’s fifth straight victory in the league, a feat they had last achieved in 1971.
Ross County put an end to their poor run of form with a hard fought 3-2 win at home to Hibernian. Leigh Griffiths had the visitors in front early on but Stuart Kettlewell had levelled for the Staggies before 10 minutes were on the clock. Iain Vigurs then put County ahead but James McPake volleyed past Michael Fraser right on the stroke of half time to make it 2-2. Colin McMenamin netted from close range with seven minutes remaining to win the three points for Ross County.
Dundee were consigned to their fifth home league defeat of the campaign as they were beaten 4-1 by Inverness Caledonian Thistle at Dens Park on Friday evening. Billy McKay and Gary Warren put Caley 2-0 up inside six minutes before Colin Nish netted for the hosts on 13 minutes. Late goals from Andrew Shinnie from the spot and McKay left Dundee languishing at the bottom of the table and put Inverness up to third in the table until Saturday’s games.
Danny Grainger gave Hearts a 1-0 win over Motherwell at Tynecastle, his 30 yard strike after 14 minutes enough to separate two of the sides tipped to be fighting for second this season.
Struggling Dundee United drew 1-1 with Aberdeen at Tannadice, John Rankin scoring for United after 22 minutes. Niall McGinn equalised for the Dons shortly after the break and neither side could find a winner in an exciting game.
Scottish First Division
Partick Thistle surged back to the top of the First Division with a 7-0 thrashing of Airdrie United. Goals from Chris Erskine, Aaron Muirhead and Steven Lawless got Thistle off to a cracking start and further strikes from Sean Welsh and Erskine had the Jags 5-0 in front at half time. Kris Doolan and Ross Forbes netted in the second period to give Jacke McNamara’s side their first league win in three.
Dunfermline started the day on top but they dropped points at home to Morton with a 2-2 draw. Morton have been on fire recently and they deservedly beat Partick before the international break and they were 2-0 up and cruising thanks to two goals from Archibald Campbell. Two goals in the last eight minutes from Stephen Husband and Ryan Wallace earned the Pars a draw, but it wasn’t enough to preserve their place at the summit of the First Division
Cowdenbeath and Raith Rovers put on a fantastic show in the Fife Derby, their thrilling encounter ending 4-4. Cowdenbeath went 2-0 up through Kyle Miller and James Stevenson but Brian Graham and Greig Spence both converted Joe Hammill crosses to put the Rovers level at half time. A rapid double from Lewis Coult looked to have won the game for Cowdenbeath but Patrick Clarke pulled one back for Raith before Simon Mensing equalised in injury time.
Livingston were made to fight for their first away win of the season against Hamilton Accies in a game that saw both sides reduced to 10 men. All the goals were in the first 10 minutes, Accies going ahead inside 60 seconds through Stevie May. Stefan Scougall equalised and Marc McNulty’s ninth minute strike was enough to put Livi fifth in the table and leave Hamilton second from bottom. Alex Neil and Kevin McCann were dismissed in the second half in separate incidents.
Falkirk saw off Dumbarton thanks to first half goals from Lyle Taylor and David Weatherston. The Bairns’ 2-0 win means Dumbarton are still without a win this season in the league. The Sons’ manager Alan Adamson was subsequently sacked due to the club’s poor results so far this season.
Scottish Second Division
League leaders Queen of the South dropped points at home for the first time this season with their 2-2 draw against Stenhousemuir. Mark Durnan put Queens in front after three minutes before Derek Young was given a straight red card before half time, reducing the hosts to 10 men. Nicky Clark extended the lead right after the break with a header from close range. John Gemmell pulled one back for Stenny with 20 minutes remaining and Brown Ferguson converted a penalty three minutes later to bring the visitors level. Kevin Holt was dismissed for Queen of the South in the 90th minute, leaving the hosts to finish the game with nine men.
Alloa Athletic gained ground on the leaders with a 1-0 win over Ayr United at Recreation Park, Ben Gordon’s goal right before the interval enough to earn the hosts a second successive win.
Forfar Athletic missed their chance to close the deficit between themselves and Queen of the South as they lost 3-0 at East Fife. David Muir put East Fife in front in the first half after Forfar had Martyn Fotheringham sent off early on. Goals in the last two minutes from Scott Smith and Paul McManus secured all the points for the hosts.
Albion Rovers hammered Arbroath 4-0 at home, David Crawford scoring either side of goals from Steven Howarth and Anthony Stevenson. Arbroath had Paul Currie sent off in injury time for a second bookable offence.
A first half brace from Andy Jackson got Ray McKinnon’s Brechin career off to a perfect start against Stranraer. David McKenna added a third after half time for the hosts and, much like Dumbarton in the league above them, Stranraer have now parted ways with their manager Keith Knox following a terrible start to the season.
Scottish Third Division
A second half brace from captain Lee McCulloch was enough to give Rangers a 2-0 win over Glasgow rivals Queen’s Park at Ibrox and put Rangers on top of the Third Division. McCulloch put the Gers in front after 57 minutes when he slotted home from Dean Shiels cut-back and his second came in injury time when he converted from close range after Barrie McKay’s shot from range had come back off the bar.
Elgin City would have gone above Rangers with a win but they could only draw at home against Annan Athletic. The hosts were ahead after half an hour through Jamie Duff’s header but David Hopkirk equalised minutes later. City were in front again before the interval thanks to Craig Gunn’s 50th goal for Elgin. Hopkirk earned Annan a draw right after the restart with a volleyed strike following Alistair Love’s cross.
East Stirlingshire moved from the bottom of the table thanks to a big win at home to Peterhead. Rory McAllister’s penalty in the second minute put the visitors in front but goals either side of half time from Kevin Turner gave Shire a deserved 2-1 victory. Peterhead saw Scott Ross sent off with half an hour left and the hosts were always comfortable.
Stirling Albion return to the foot of the league after their 3-1 defeat at home to Montrose. Gary Thom’s early goal looked like it would continue Albion’s momentum following their 1-0 win over Rangers before the international break but Kieran McAnespie’s own goal was followed by strikes from Leighton McIntosh and Scott Morton in the first half. There no further goals in the second half but both sides ended the game with 10 men after Stirling’s Steven Weir and Stephen McNally of Montrose were dismissed for butting heads.
Berwick Rangers were made to work for their 2-1 win at home to Clyde. Kevin Watt put the Bully Wee in front just before half time but goals from Dean Hoskins and Steven Notman earned three points for Berwick against a Clyde side that lost Ian Gray to a red card mid-way through the second period.