Jonathan Sutherland introduces highlights of the weekend's matches in the new SPFL Scottish Premiership, with comment on and analysis of the week's main talking points.
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It was a goal fest the last time County and United met. United won
4-2. Terry Butcher will be looking for festive cheer as his side host
Saints. Harts will be hoping to avenge their Scottish Cup drubbing
as they travel to Parkhead. The Buddies will be at Fir Park with
both sides desperate for all three points. The play-off place gets
interesting. And the battle for second spot heats up as Aberdeen
travel to Inverness in the Game of the Day. It's promising to be a
Christmas cracker of a football schedule.
Good evening and welcome to Sportscene as we start the first
course of some serious festive football indulgence. A
mouth-watering feast over the next couple of wees and questions abound
in this make or break part of the season. Who will emerge triumphant
in the race for second place? A Hearts doomed for relegation? Who
will get sucked in through the trap door. In our troop door is Billy
Dodds and the Northern Ireland manager, Michael O'Neill.
Almost half of all premiership goals will be scored in just the one
match. We start in the Highlands. Aberdeen were taking on Inverness.
Watching for us there was Rob McClean.
For his first home game as Inverness manager, Hughes making one change.
Williams in from the start. Hector into central defence for
Aberdeen. Inverness seven games unbeaten.
Looking to get second spot in the premiership table.
Great touch from McKay. Very close. Denied the opportunity by Anderson.
Clips the edge of the post. Handball. It's a penalty for
Aberdeen. Vernon ducked under the ball. Scored from a corner kick last
weekend. And Robson scores from a penalty
kick this weekend. And Aberdeen are ahead. Blahhinged home by Robson.
McGin on the move. Vernon. Back again with Pawlett.
Robson. The double for Aberdeen. Two goals in, ten minutes from the
veteran midfielder. It's a really well judged header, drifting inside
the post, past the despairing hands. Vernon. Make that 3-0! Pawlett. This
is a stunning first half from about deern. Vernon's been outstanding for
them up upfront -- Aberdeen. Aberdeen have a three goal
advantage. Inverness look shock and stunned, as
well they might be. And now, McGin threatens and scores. -- Mcginn.
Four goals for Aberdeen in 22 first half monies.
And even already, it looks like game over. McGinn's ninth of the season.
Christmas coming early for the Dons fans.
Looking for a quick response. It will have to be something dramatic
to turn this around. Tremarco. . McKay scores.
Just what they wanted. Making the scoreline look a little bit better.
Scramble in the six yard box. McKay with the finishing touch. His 16th
of the season. Anderson. Long ball from Tremarco.
Dorran. McKay. Ross. McKay is in again. Langfield.
It's two in ten minutes for the Inverness top goal scorer! 17 goals
in 19 games for him. It's a remarkable return and it's brought
this game back to life for Caley Thistle. Dancing around Langfield
and he's still got a bit to do. Manages to squeeze that past Hector.
From nil four at half time, now two nurse. Tremarco. 's corner. It could
so easily have been 4-3. What an amazing game in the Highland
capital. Warren. Graham Shinnie in the 90th minute 3. An incredible
Caley Thistle comeback from 4-0 to 4-3. The first half shows what we
are capable of, second half showed me there is still a lot to be done
here, but overall the players worked haar for the points -- hard for the
three points. We stay undefeated. To beat Inverness twice home and away
is good going. I just didn't anticipate the manner in which we
did it. You cannot win a match if you concede four in the second half.
Second half we showed what Inverness were all about, we were about spirit
and were on the front foot and almost pulled it off.ade cell to the
players, pride still in the dressing room and hopefully in defeat, I'm
still very proud of them. First of all, we should say an astonishing
game, Billy and a great advert for the Scottish premiership? Brilliant.
Wish I was doing it yesterday for the radio, but John had that lucky
job. I must admit, it was just two teams in the form of their life.
Inverness, you you know what you get from them, confidence, team spirit,
Aberdeen, good blend of youth and experience and it was no surprise
that Inverness ended up coming back yesterday. Aberdeen got four goals
up and you still couldn't write Inverness off. It had everything in
it. Michael, welcome to Sportsscene. McGinn and McKay, their record is
fantastic. McKay 37 league goals, McGinn 29 and one cup goal, a total
of 74 with McKay's seven cup goals. Must be great to have them here?
Great stats there. I wasn't aware it was as high as that, but two players
who've been consistently good. Made a huge impact last season and again
Billy particularly doing it this season with 17 goals and Niall
scoring a variety of goals, plays in many positions, centrely or wide. We
saw him yesterday scoring from the wide area, so long may that
continue. Two goals from McKay yesterday but first, McGinn, how
impressed were you by him? Playing off the left yesterday which I think
is his favourite position. Good movement from Vernon to take the
centre back away. He's got himself against the centre back and there's
only going to be one winner as space opens up for him. We see him there.
That's instinct isn't it, to drift into that space? Yes. Let them go.
Exactly. Find a wee bit of space and he's sharp enough to poke it in.
Nice goal this because he is centre again and picks the ball up, nice
bunkup play off his chest, but straightaway, he knows where the
space is. Hector steps up and Billy knows where he wants it. We see the
quality and composure. Good finish. 17 goals for McKay this season which
is remarkable in itself in 19 games for Inverness. He's played four
times for Northern Ireland, still to hit the back of the net for Northern
Ireland, but how good do you think he can be? I think he's a player
that continues to improve. I think week-by-week. The statistics, as we
showed earlier, are exceptional. He probably deserved more of a chance
than he's had, if I'm honest and certainly I intend to give him that
chance at the start of the Euros. Can he bring that form for Inverness
on to the international scene? It's different in the sense that he may
not get as many chances as he would for us. He's at the top of his game.
He's come back here, come up to Scotland, had a couple of
disappointments at earlier clubs and has rebuilt his career up here.
Doing a great job for Caley Thistle. Dundee scored at least four goals
per match lately. You can understand that Ross County travel toed to
Tannadice with trepidation. John Barnes is the commentators.
One change as the rightback spots are at earn negotiated -- at earn
negotiated. Injury means one change as well for
County. Trying to set up Armstrong.
A fine intervention from McClean. Had to time that tackle to
perfection. It was Quinn who was caught in possession in the middle
of the park. And United almost punishing them.
Lovely Pass through for Robertson and it was in the net, but the flag
is up. Offside.
Not quite sure whether it was against Robertson or Graham. It will
be the full back. Kerry with the free kick. Awkward
one. Off the bar! Scary moments there for the Dundee
United defence, in particular the goalkeeper. That lethal left foot
deceiving everyone. Graham looking to add to his tally
for the season. He's got three so far. But straight at the keeper.
He really needed to hit the target there, but good, creative build-up
from Ross County. That is a great crossfield pass.
Wilson does well to get there. It is Graham! And Fraser wins the contest
with the big striker again. Excellent delivery in by Wilson. And
a good stop by the keeper. Not a bad effort from John Rankin.
He has had a few in recent weeks. Just to hide this time. -- just too
high. A double substitution. Gold and Graham come off.
What an introduction that would have been, within 30 seconds of coming
on. Jackie McNamara changes his strikeforce and almost produces a
goal. Good -- David good Willie should
have kept that one down. Here is Goodwillie. Armstrong. And
Dundee United are in front. Gary Mackay-Steven eventually finds a
hole in the Ross County rearguard. Set up by Armstrong. Gary
Mackay-Steven with his seventh goal of the season, his fifth in the last
five matches. And it could secure six wins in a row for United. I
think the players are disappointed to come away with nothing today,
because they kept Dundee United very quiet, from the point of view that
they hadn't scored eight goals up until we make a mistake. We kept
plugging away, we were very patient and we got our just rewards in the
end. They were trying time wasting at times, but we kept going in the
second half, and then towards our own fans and we got what we
deserved. Younger viewers may not remember that you were a Dundee
United player in the late 80s and early 90s. How impressed have you
been by your former side? They have been fantastic, they are the good
news story in the SPL this season. Not only with the young players that
were already there, but the players he has signed, they just have a real
flair about their game, a real openness about how they play.
Yesterday, they had 21 corners, which shows you how badly they tried
to win the game. They are on a great run, but he will be as happy with a
1-0 victory as he will be with the goals they have scored in recent
weeks. Eight hard-working performance by Ross County but did
they let themselves down with the goal? Well, they thought they could
go on and win it. It is a forward move from Ross County, and because
the defenders are so high up, the United players have the quality to
expose you. That is the area where he might have been, and it is a
lovely pull-back and a great finish by Gary Mackay-Steven. They are
probably the one team, along with Celtic, that counterattack better
than anyone else. TUC Dundee United as the favourites to finish second?
-- TUC. I think they are in with a chance. Aberdeen have more
experience in key areas. They will have to have a dip at some point so
the real challenge will be to manage them through that but at the moment,
confidence is sky high and I sure they will be looking forward to the
festive period, the fixtures come thick and fast. How nervous should
Ross County be about display of trapdoor at the bottom the table? --
about this play-off trapdoor. Well, they are there, but they proved it
last year, they went on a run and got themselves up the league but you
can see they are losing confidence. They nearly got some yesterday with
a great result but it turned out not to be the case. They have the
experience to get away with it, they have had a big turnover with players
but they need a result. Plenty more to come tonight, plus there are
extended highlights all the games at the BBC sport website. A busy week
for Santa and for us. On Boxing Day, join us for all of the
Sportscene results at 4pm and we will bring you all the premiership
highlights from Boxing on Friday, and 11pm start on BBC One. Next, we
are off to Celtic Park, where hearts were hoping to avoid a repeat of
their recent league cup hammering. Pukki with another chance to
impress. Hearts will be looking for some redemption after the Scottish
cup humbling against the same opposition. It could be a long shift
for Colin Paterson upfront. He has squeezed it through for Kris
Commons. The man who scored a hat-trick against Hearts in the cup
tie is denied by Jamie MacDonald. He is probably anticipating a busy
afternoon, is the Hearts no-one. -- number one.
The goalkeeper has got a touch to that. It is a good job he did.
Celtic still come. Anthony Stokes with this chance, the
first glaring opportunity of the game, coming on eight minutes. It is
a great save by MacDonald. Gary Lock, not much to work with as the
Hearts manager. The last time they won here in the league, it was
almost a team of stars. Good save again. He has actually had
a pretty decent season. A good ball and MacDonald again to
deny Joe Ledley. Either side of the goalkeeper, that is a goal. Take
nothing away from the slave, he had to make it.
Celtic unbeaten so far this season. They looked like they will maintain
it, that is the target Neil Lennon and his staff have said. And what a
turn by Kris Commons, and guess who is there again. Jamie MacDonald
comes out on top in this duel between him and Commons.
Well, that should have been a Hearts throw, Dylan McGavin making that
point. -- dilemma gallon. It came off Pukki last.
It is a great ball for Kris Commons. The slayer of Hearts does it again.
Good finish at the angle, what a ball from Brown. Commons across
MacDonald, who could do nothing this time. And Celtic's top scorer comes
to the fore again. It has been over a year since Celtic
last lost a league game here. James Forrest, dazzling on the wing. In
towards Ledley and it is Jamie MacDonald at his near post. Hearts
have defended resolutely this afternoon, it hasn't been a walk in
the park for Neil Lennon and his team.
Headed off the line by Commons from McGowan. That would have been quite
sensational, Hearts's first real attempt on goal.
Georgia Samurai is, on as a sub, one of the contract rebels. He squeezes
it through to James Forrest who finishes it off. -- Giorgio
great finish by James Forrest with the outside of the boot. That makes
things more comfortable for Celtic, who took a long time to break
through the Hearts resistance today. James Forrest, on as a half-time
sub, and it is 2-0 to the champions. After the result couple of weeks
ago, we were all hurt badly, and we knew that coming here today, we
would have to change the way we normally play. I like to see a
Hearts team on the front foot, but we had to learn our lesson from the
last time and I felt the boys acquitted themselves brilliantly
today. They obviously made it hard for us, we couldn't really make
accurately to break them down as much as we would like, but three
points into Christmas is nice. So, Celtic, unbeaten so far, grinding
out a victory. A bit of a flat game, Hearts cautious after the
seven -0 hammering, but it took sitting into a whole new level
yesterday. -- 7-0. But I can understand it, after that one of cup
game, you can see: Paterson, that was his starting place. They needed
a lot over 90 minutes not to get picked up and Celtic eventually got
the breakthrough, but that is the way Hearts set their stall out. A
huge amount of bodies behind the ball, no outfall at times, but they
frustrated Celtic for long periods. They get to half-time at nil half
full -- 0-0 and they think job done. Did they have no choice but to play
that way? They could have had a focal point and one up, but Celtic
pin you back. They nearly nicked an equaliser in the last minute, so
Gary Locke was trying to say, they didn't want to lose any more
confidence than they already had but it didn't look good for a Hearts
fan. A touch of forging the Celtic when it came to the Commons goal. --
fortune. Yes, it is played of Pukki, but the linesman on that side is in
the opposition half, so it is a long way to see it. But they are still
set up, there are a lot of bodies behind the ball. What they don't do
is get out to the ball. We see here, Walker sees Fisher on the right-hand
side, that is fine, but he takes that little step and it is their own
doing. Just that little Campbell to go and face up the ball and that was
the downfall for Hearts. They nearly got through it, just that bit of
inexperience. The distance is too great and it actually makes Scott
Brown's mind up for the past and it is a good finish. Are Hearts down?
It would take a minor miracle, with the boys they have got and the
amount of points they had to catch, it is too much to ask. For almost
two months, Kilmarnock fans have been deprived of the site of a home
win. A leaky defence hasn't helped. They started the day the bottom, but
with Kris Boyd and Chris Johnston upfront, always the chance of goals.
They took a Partick Thistle side where, apart from Kris Doolan, no
player had scored and -- in open place in September. Could their
fortunes improve on the road at Rugby Park? No doubting Partick
Thistle brought a freshness to the premiership this season. Not taking
chances is an issue. Lawler's shot failing to hit the target.
At the other end, calls for hand pal shrugged off.
-- handball. As the match crept towards half time, it looked like
0-0 until Chris Johnston took his chance to put Kilmarnock 1-0 in
front. The break of the ball falling kindly and the 19-year-old with his
third goal in four games. For Kris Doolan, it was six goals so
far this season going into this match. Number 7-4 minutes after the
restart. Partick Thistle's Christmas would be
looking less festive without him. In recent times, he's carried the
goal-scoring responsibility single handedly.
A real feature of Partick's play has been the threat they posed down the
flanks. Great wing play from Higginbotham and the ball found
Lawler but he missed the target again.
Kilmarnock new a victory would see them leapfrog the visitors at the
bottom end of the table. This effort too hot for Fox to handle.
In the 73rd minute, the knock down from the free kick landed at the
feet of Jackson Irvine. His last effort touched in by Kris Boyd and
Kilmarnock had the lead. The instinct, no doubt about it, the
former Rangers striker claiming his ninth of the campaign.
A superb piece of passing play from Partick Thistle. A great stop and
the manager Alan Johnson knew just how valuable three points would be.
He had his keeper to thank before the end.
Sampson flew to the rescue. You look at the league table, three
points off Hibs, a lot of games we came in over the festive period and
we can go higher up the table. I staid to the lads, we are still in a
good position but we have to start taking chances. I thought we
dominated the game, and to be fair, Sampson was man-of-the-match again.
Plenty of chances, Billy. You were at the match yesterday. Should
Partick Thistle have taken something from it? Yes. I really enjoyed the
game. We have said that to many times about them this season, all
the football, create chances, dealen's scoring goals now so you
would take him out the equation -- Doolan. They are just not winning
games. Can't seem to hit the target too regularly. What was the defining
moment for you? No doubt one each. Higginbotham down the left hand
side. Mis-hit there and you see the other angle, it Faws to Lawlers. --
falls to. They fraught a freshness to the
premiership this season. It's getting to the point where they need
somebody else to take on goal-scoring responsibility, not
just Doolan? I think so. There's been a lot of, I suppose,
responsibility on him and he has scored goals this season. I saw him
in the First Division and was impressed last season and they have
done well to do as well as they have done at this point. I think
Archibald will be maybe looking at the January opportunity to maybe
bring one or two in just to help the team that he has now in the second
half of the season. How big a win was that for Kilmarnock, Billy?
Huge. I mean, Kris Boyd has been doing it, I think that's three goals
in the last three games, a good return. He led the line well, it
wasn't just about scoring goals, but they didn't play will, but Alan
Johnston will say they played better. It evened itself out. Huge
three points with that Kris Boyd goal. . Inverness and Aberdeen
dualing it out for second place. Motherwell are below the radar this
season. St Mourn never lost to Motherwell at
Fir Park during the Stuart McCall era, could they keep that going? --
St Mirren. Motherwell look to record
back-to-back victories for the first time since September. Harkins
starts. Corner. Header. Good save pushed
away. Ramsden was up.
Back in again. Good corner. Well attacked by
Ramsden. Got it on target. Good one-handed stop.
Hamill. In again. Well worked. Advanced
position. Little chip across. Good goalkeeping. Raced off his line.
Good passing play again. Ainsworth. McGregor. Once, twice. Scores!
What a classy opening. Four goals in his first ten appearances for
Motherwell. Just one since and he's found the score sheet today.
Simply lashed the ball. Classy goal from Motherwell.
Ahead after 51 minutes. Scruffy from Saints. Hasly with the
intercept. Opt attack again. Sutton gets on. 2-0! One touch. Motherwell
and Ainsworth who scored on his debut, scores for Motherwell as a
Motherwell player. Nestled it in at the post. Nothing the keeper could
Something out offal nothing there for St Mirren. McGinn with the
follow-up shot. Lennon there. Oh, a chance. 3-0!
What a great finish. Again, one touch from Motherwell. How about
that for a finish? ! It's his first double for
Motherwell. Motherwell are 3-0 ahead.
Style and swagger. Ramsden. Lawson. Under control. Drives it.
That was done in style today. I thought last week's game was
scrappy. Today, really good performance, clean sheet, three
really good goals and a bit more like us. Motherwell made better
decisions all over. Anier today was absolutely terrific. That caused us
a great deal of problems. In the past, it's something we've handled
well. It's pleasing that we have another game come Wednesday to try
and put that right and we must get back to doing what we do best. I was
there yesterday, Anier very much the star of the show, Michael, and a
player that you have some previous knowledge of? Yes, when I was
manager at Shamrock Rovers, we played a European Champions League
qualifying game and he played there. He was their best player. He is a
threat and not only off crosses, but he's strong, he has good technique.
A great finish off as well on his right hand side and I think he
challenges all the time. He can go in behind, he leads a line well as
well. He's direct. Not played every game this season. Left him out a
couple of times, but a good replacement. That's all technically
wrong, but so right. An unbelievable finish. You see him score the first
one which is right foot and the second was I which is left. Anier
was in the stands yesterday watching him score the goals.
They want Anier back in mid-January, his old team, but Motherwell will
presumably do all they can to tray and keep him? They will. He's scored
a lot of goals for them. They'll probably find somebody, if he ends
up having to go back, but they have been a big find for him. His return
was a lot of goals which is a good thing for the club. They struggled
for a bit. Stuart's done well to pick him up. The result for St
Mirren? Bit flat yesterday, then Dundee coming own Boxing Day? Danny
had a bit of pressure early on in the season and, to be fair, he's dug
in and turned them around. Motherwell is a difficult place to
go, so he won't be too concerned. He'll look forward to the next game
and it will be a difficult one. I like watching St Mirren play, they
play good football and should be a good game on Boxing Day.
Motherwell's great contenders for second place? Yes, but I think it
will be difficult for them this year with the turnover of players. They
might lose Anier and for me, Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness are that bit
stronger. We shall see. Despite the arrival of
Terry Butcher, Hibs remain very much at bottom six. That wouldn't change,
no matter what the result at St Johnston yesterday. Hibs need
someone to score goals regularly for them. They only managed ten in the
league all season. St Johnston only scored six league goals on their
travels and have drawn a blank in the last two, both of which ended in
defeat. Chances of a 12-goal thriller, looked slim yesterday at
Easter Road. 2013 has been frustrated for Hibs with just two
league wins in the last 12 months and again, they struggled to find
the net. Davidson was struggling after an
early knock and was replaced by former Hib mate.
This was a late lunge on Cairney. A straight red shown by Alan Muir.
Little option for the man in the middle. Many Hibs fans were
surprised wealther spoon was allowed to leave in the summer to join his
hometown club. Almost set up an opening for May. Strong defending by
the Hibs rear guard keeping the 21-year-old at bay. A good cross
from Wetherspoon but an except lent block by Scott Robinson.
-- except lent. -- excellent. This cross was kept out.
Robertson with the cross. Teenager Jason Cummings almost had a
dream start coming within inches of this cross from Liam Craig. Hibs
boss Terry Butcher watched from the stands as he served a one-match
touchline ban and Collins almost gave him an early cross mass
present. Foster with a cross, Manus at full
stretch. One final piece of drama. . Challenge from Easton. A tangle of
legs but the referee says no penalty, so no goals at Easter Road.
We 'll look back on it as a great point. I thought for the last hour,
we were magnificent. Hibs had very few chances and I think in the first
half, we had the best chance. Couldn't get enough on the ball,
May, to stick it in. St Johnston went a man down, were very resolute.
With May upfront they are a threat even on his own. The defenders
worked well today. Full credit to Tommy Wright and the team. They
withstood a lot of pressure from us and we couldn't get the killer ball.
Some sad news tonight about the death of Hibs youth player David
Paul. Also a young Hearts junior player Jimmy Skinner who died during
a match in Edinburgh. Our thoughts are with the families this evening.
What was your view of the sending off yesterday? I thought at the time
it was harsh, to be honest, but having seen the tackle, it's
wreckless, to say the least. Just calm on? Yes, I feel sorry for
Paddy, you see when the ball comes back, his reaction is to get the
ball back. You see the tackle from the other angle, it's the trailing
leg that's coming in here, Billy? Wreckless and out of control. But it
looks worse than what it actually is. I don't know what Tommy Wright
will be thinking. Fallon the other week, you think that will never be
that, and he takes 20 seconds off it.
Should the ref make any allowances given the fact he's just come on and
it's a clumsy challenge or is it a follow-through? Me maybe should make
an allowance. I think when a player is sent off, around the halfway line
as well, there's nothing in the challenge, you know, it's not going
to effect a goal-scoring opportunity or anything like that there. I do
think that obviously the ref's under a bit of pressure to follow the
letter of the law and he is off the ground, so because of that,
obviously, the ref's given him the red card. Hibs had a penalty shout
turned down. T Johnston had a got keeper who was inspiring yesterday?
Yes, he played very well, has done consistently well for St Johnston,
made a number of good saves. His defender does well as well. This is
a great save, great reaction. Never expects the ball to come off his
defender. This is the puck of the punch, good
header, good save. I think Alan consistently has been excellent in
the SPL since he's come here. One thing he has in his character, every
time he's asked to step up a level, he adjusts and does well. In the
game he's played for me, he does well. Signs of life for Hibs but not
any more? I say it every week, step by step. They still need to pie a
couple of more quality play players. I think he's trying to pick your
team for you? ! McKay, McGinn... He might do a better job to be fair! To
judge Terry is obviously when he's eight to ten months in the job when
he has chance to make changes. After all that, the Scottish premiership
table looks exactly like this: Celtic ten points clear at the top.
Well, Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat, Celtic are on top,
but enough about that, plenty of questions remain unanswered about
how this season will unfold. Join us for the next chapter of the Scottish
premiership Christmas story on Friday. Until then, from all of us
here at sport scene, do have a very merry Christmas. Good night. --