Another game, another feather in the cap of John Hughes. This time it was Dundee United who were effortlessly brushed aside as Caley Thistle leapfrogged the Tannadice side into second place. With Ryan Christie suspended, James Vincent returned to the side and showed how effective he can be playing behind the striker rather than being hung out on the flanks. By dropping slightly further into midfield alongside Ross Draper and Greg Tansey, Vincent and his team mates strangled the United midfield and prevented any real creativity coming from the centre of the pitch.
With their attackers subdued and lacking service, United were reduced to a single solitary shot on target during the course of the 90 minutes. ICT's second successive 1 - 0 victory was ultimately far more comfortable than the scoreline suggests. Yogi has now presided over the most successful first quarter of a top flight campaign of any ICT manager after Saturday's victory took him to 23 points from the opening round of games. Whilst some doubters still remain, they are definitely dwindling in number with more and more each week tucking into some humble pie. Long may that continue! AS
The two poorest sides in the Premiership?
What lessons should we take away from the draw in Paisley? Well, firstly, I hope no-one tried to tell Jim McIntyre that dodgy decisions balance themselves out over the course of a season - the offside decision that denied Michael Gardyne a goal and Ross County a 2-0 lead was an inexplicable error from the assistant, and is the primary reason why the Staggies remain bottom of the pile.
Secondly, and more prudently, this looked like a match between two relegation contenders. The fact there were four goals was less down to both sides being adventurous and impressive in attack and more to some dreadful defending. If County and St. Mirren play like this for the rest of the season, they will be the bottom two sides at the end of it..though I wouldn't like to predict which order they would finish in.
County of course can point to the influx of new players, and claim that once they have a settled team, performances and results will improve. It's certainly possible. Tommy Craig doesn't have nearly as good an excuse for his side's travails. The return of Ellis Plummer in defence and Steven Thompson up front will help, but how much? LS
St. Johnstone manage to stop the rot...
Pregame, Tommy Wright would have taken a goalless draw and a borefest at Firhill if you had offered it to the St. Johnstone manager, as it ends a run of five straight defeats. But it was hardly an encouraging performance from the Perth Saints, who continue to struggle up front. Even during their successes of recent seasons, their style has been more pragmatic than pretty, but the number of long diagonals from the back towards big Brian Graham is deeply unpleasant to watch for fans; one wonders how James McFadden feels as the ball goes sailing over his head again and again.
Thankfully for them, Partick Thistle have their own problems in attack; the drop-off in quality in the final third during Kallum Higginbotham's absence has been staggering. Whilst they dominated possession, they were hopelessly short of guile in the final third, and in fact it was the away side who passed up the best chances of the game. But it's hard to see what either manager can do until he gets important players back from injury - Higginbotham and Gary Fraser for Partick, Steven Maclean for St. Johnstone. Until then, they grind on the best they can, but with Partick eight points and St. Johnstone nine points adrift of the top six already, those reinforcements are needed pronto. LS
Motherwell blatantly went to Pittodrie looking to shut up shop and bring an end to their horrendous run of late...a plan which Jonny Hayes wrecked within two minutes of kickoff on Friday night. When picking the team, Stuart McCall must have felt caught between the devil and the deep blue sea; Hamilton proved last week that the Dons' back line can be got at, but Motherwell's own back line is bereft of confidence itself and a heavy defeat at Pittodrie would only have lowered heads further. McCall stuck with pragmatism even after the early concession, only throwing on some attacking subs with fifteen minutes left.
However, it just isn't happening in any area of the park for the Steelmen. In defence, Stephen McManus is having a terrible season (and loanee Mark O'Brien was dropped after a string of poor performances), while up front John Sutton is in a funk and Henrik Ojamaa is still playing catch-up after arriving at the club short of fitness. The midfield is the biggest concern though - I dispute that Fraser Kerr, Josh Law and Zaine Francis-Angol are good enough for this league, and Keith Lasley looks like his legs have gone. Which makes it all the more baffling that Lionel Ainsworth can't get a game. The winger is the epitomy of inconsistency, but his ability to create and score goals out of nothing makes him far more qualified for a place in the starting lineup than almost all of his teammates.
Motherwell are in Perth on Friday night. That'll be a game for the diehards only. LS
Celtic still aren't firing on all cylinders
Celtic's third win on the trot was helped no end by the first half red card for Killie skipper Manuel Pascali. A turgid affair up until that point, the game was decided by two moments of quality - a flash of inspiration from John Guidetti and a second goal in as many games for Stefan Scepovic.
In the first 20-30 minutes, Killie were more than equal to a Celtic side that seemed to be suffering yet another European hangover; Craig Gordon had to be imperious once more between the sticks for the home side. But when Pascali was dismissed for a professional foul on Scepovic, it was double jeopardy for the visitors as Guidetti smashed the resultant free kick into the net for his fifth goal of the season. Allan Johnston’s side dug in but the second goal killed the game. The best move of the match began with with wonderful vision from Emilio Izaguirre to pick out substitute Mubarak Wakaso; he found Scepovic peeling away from the Kilmarnock defence and the Serb cut the ball back across Brennan’s goal to seal the points for the home side.
The results are beginning to come together - up to fourth in the league, seven points in the Europa League group after three games, and a possible League Cup semi-final if they can outgun Partick Thistle on Wednesday night. Things are looking up for Ronny Deila, but there's still plenty of room for improvement for this Celtic side. PF
Dundee are in the top six mix
Hamilton might have taken a few teams by surprise this season, but Dundee played them four times in last year's Championship, so Paul Hartley knew what to expect. Whilst Accies were a bit unlucky - they missed several chances before the quickfire double from David Clarkson and Greg Stewart - there wasn't much of a difference in quality. Hartley pointed out afterwards that he brought in more new faces than Alex Neil, and feels that only now are his side beginning to gel.
Given that they are currently within touching distance of the top six, and have a genuine goalscoring threat in Clarkson (four goals in four games!), it's quite realistic for the Dark Blues to aspire towards a finish in the top half. LS
Andrew Sutherland (AS) occasionally writes for When Saturday Comes. He would never miss an ICT match unless he was offered a date with the lead singer of CHVRCHES...who he would then take to said ICT match.
Paul Fisher (PF) is content producer for Celtic Live, so you can guess where his allegiances lie. His dayjob is as a journalist for the Ardrossan Herald. Believe it or not, he's big in the Scottish Lawn Bowls scene, if there is such a thing.