Monday, August 11, 2014

Talking points from the Premiership weekend

European hangovers can have a big effect...
On Thursday night at Pittodrie all seemed right with the world.  The ground was full, the sun was out (please can we have summer football?), and the home side gave as good as they got against La Liga's seventh best team.  Could Aberdeen perhaps dream of mounting a serious challenge to Celtic?

It was back to earth with a bump on Sunday against Dundee United, their old rivals and likely closest challengers for 2nd place come May.  For the last 10 minutes against Sociedad the Dons looked dead on their feet and no doubt that contributed heavily to this performance...though Ash Taylor only played for those last 10 minutes, so I don't know what his excuse for that suicidal backpass to Ryan Dow is.

It will be interesting to see whether playing some draining Europa fixtures before the season starts is a blessing or curse for the Dons.  There was surely a hope that they’d be able to hit ground running, but the worry is that the tank will be empty come the second half of the season.  

United fans will be reassured that they could cope with losing Andrew Robertson and Ryan Gauld.  Gary Mackay-Steven's performance was particularly encouraging, as he took advantage of Aberdeen’s woeful lack of pace at the back in a way that Real Sociedad couldn’t.

It would be good to see someone keep Celtic honest into the business end of the season. With neither Rangers or the Edinburgh clubs in the Premiership, could this season be a new dawn for the New Firm? IM

...or can they?
Less than 72 hours after playing in Slovakia, St. Johnstone must have thought they were back in Cold War-era Europe, but that's an easy mistake to make when you're visiting Dingwall (takes cover).  Tired legs, no Stevie May - the Perth Saints would have been forgiven for losing this one, but their away win was rather deserved in the end.  

In fairness, Ross County gave a debut to seven players and it showed.  The defence, with three debutants in the back four and one in goal, looked in a terrible state for both St Johnstone goals.  It'll be a month or two yet before Derek Adams' new signings can be properly judged.  But why oh why would he leave Melvin De Leeuw on the bench?  Hasn't he learned from last season?  LS

Past comes back to haunt Goodwin
Jim Goodwin's reputation came back to haunt him on Saturday.  In another game, a referee might not have shown Goodwin a yellow card for either challenge, but the Irishman has long lost the right to any benefit of the doubt.  His first booking was for a tackle that did win the ball but appeared a bit reckless, while his second was for managing to connect with the back of John Sutton's head with an elbow while going for a header.  Other players might have been able to argue these were accidental or due to overexuberance; the trouble is that the world and his dog know that Goodwin would hack his grandmother with two feet if it broke up an opposing attack.  After a few years of clandestine niggly fouls that refs kept ignoring, officials are making up for lost time.  LS

Accies need to shake off naivety
It's a bit cliched, but it's also true; newly promoted teams won't get away with mistakes as easily as they did at a lower Mikey Devlin discovered after only 10 minutes when his dreadful passback allowed Billy Mckay to nip in and score.  While ICT's second goal did involve some lovely buildup play by Ross Draper and Danny Williams, the chance came about because Accies lost the ball in their own half.  It reminded me of Caley Thistle's first ever top flight game in 2004, a 3-0 thumping at Livingston.  The Highlanders learnt pretty quickly; Alex Neil's side need to do the same.  LS

Gary 'Iron Man' Harkins
Tony Stark puts on an Iron Man suit and becomes a superhero; Gary Harkins puts on a Dundee strip and the effect is roughly the same.  Harkins was dreadful playing out wide for St. Mirren last season, but Paul Hartley appears to have found a way to make it work.  Harkins won the penalty that he scored, and his willingness to drive infield gave the Kilmarnock backline a real headache.  Dundee will need him to play like this every week if they are to finish well up this league.  LS

Youth policy
This is a brief window of opportunity for Lee Erwin - with Henri Anier and James McFadden gone and Craig Moore injured, and no new strikers brought in, Motherwell have pretty much no other option to partner John Sutton.  And Erwin seized the day, not only scoring the winning goal against St. Mirren but putting in a strong, energetic performance.  Erwin impressed on loan at Arbroath last season and looks like he could make the step up; it would certainly make Stuart McCall's life easier.

Erwin wasn't the only youngster to hit the net; Ryan Christie popped up to tap in for Inverness, while Kilmarnock's Craig Slater curled in a sumptuous free kick.  St. Johnstone's Scott Brown didn't score, but his performance at the base of St. Johnstone's midfield in Dingwall was superb.  Expect to hear his name mentioned a few times this season.  LS

Some players need a trip to Slimming World
Maybe big St. Mirren forward Callum Ball is just big boned.  Or maybe not.  Meanwhile, ICT's Aaron Doran was left on the bench because it seemed unlikely that he could drag his spare tyre round New Douglas Park for 90 minutes.  LS

And one more thing...
That pass from Nadir Ciftci to Gary Mackay-Steven?  Absolute phwoar... LS


Anonymous said...

Stumbled on to your blog a few weeks ago. Brilliant stuff. Pre-season summaries are not something we can get here in the States ...

Chris said...

Agreed, Scottish football coverage is next to nothing here in the states. This blog is excellent.

Anonymous said...

Top read.