"In the recent past, the statistics involving the officials have shown a lot of red cards against us, so we have to prepare for it.”
With these words Robbie Neilson has no doubt earned himself a trip to Hampden to explain himself to the powers that be. The most surprising thing for me from his post match interview was that he made a point of saying the team had trained last week to specifically deal with playing a man down. I always assumed that that was a standard part of every teams training.
Most people seem to agree that the red card shown to Callum Paterson by fans favourite Willie Collum, was harsh. Hearts will appeal but despite Paterson winning the ball without showing his studs, I imagine a strong enough argument can be made that he used excessive force to make success unlikely. And no one had a better view of the incident than Collum. But it is not criticising the referee’s decision that will get Neilson in to trouble. It will be the strong implication he made that, at best, Hearts are the victims of a statistical anomaly whereby they receive a disproportionate number of red cards shown by a particular official, or at worst, are the victims of a biased referee who intentionally shows unwarranted red cards to Hearts players as some kind of vendetta against the team. And for that I have little sympathy.
Managers have stressful jobs and the fact that their livelihoods can in part be determined by how good the officials are at their job makes certain outbursts understandable. But for a manager to suggest that a referee is not completely impartial damages the game to the extent that it cannot be tolerated by the SFA. That’s not to say they should throw the book at him by any means. Rather, that he should know better and can’t really complain that he’s been taken to task.
How the red card impacted the eventual result is harder to say than might seem apparent. Of course the sequence of events would suggest that Collum’s decision cost Hearts three points, but you might argue they’d have gone on to lose the match anyway. The equaliser came from an individual error followed by a stunning finish, and Hearts have struggled to defend set pieces all season.
Hearts probably would have won this game, or at least not lost it, had they finished with 11 men, but that’s because Willie Collum made a bad decision, not because he has it in for the Jambos. IM
Celtic fans run out of patience with the status quo
I can't say I hold much truck with the Green Brigade, Celtic's 'ultras' group. It's probably because they once unfurled a banner at an away game in Inverness which read "Our songs were born in famine and suffering" when it was quite clear that the closest that the perpetrators had come to famine and suffering was when the local chip shop had closed early on a bank holiday.
They've certainly had a penchant for more controversial banners than that in the recent past; it is, however, unusual for them to directly criticise the team. So Saturday's display at Celtic Park - "gutless in Malmo, clueless in boardroom" is worth noting. Are Celtic fans beginning to lose patience with a seemingly neverending cycle of an easy title win but no glamour games in Europe?
There wasn't too much on the pitch here to improve their mood, as this was a routine and workmanlike win rather than a flashy one. Perhaps it was misguided of Ronny Deila to try and elicit a post-match 'roar' as well; most of the support seemed unimpressed.
The thing is, there has been enough evidence from the first month of the season to suggest that the domestic campaign might not be all that routine. The trip to Pittodrie straight after the international break already looks tasty; after all, Celtic will have more players away on international duty, and depending on the events of the next few days, may no longer have Virgil Van Dijk. LS
Is flogging Christie the right solution to ICT's problems?
Inverness simply can’t buy a win just now. Taking a point from Dens Park would have been considered very acceptable prior to the match but, for what seems like the umpteenth time under John Hughes, they conceded late on in the game to drop two points as Dundee grabbed a deserved equaliser. A simple punt up the park wasn’t dealt with by the Highlanders' makeshift defence and Kane Hemmings pounced to grab a share of the spoils.
It could have been worse for the Highlanders as earlier on Danny Devine inexplicably chose to fist away a looping cross in the box but Mark Stewart’s penalty was saved by Owain Fon Williams, his second penalty save of the season already. A match low on quality didn’t come to life until the second half when David Raven curled a wonderful shout beyond Scott Bain in the Dundee goal.
Thereafter it was classic end to end football right until the final whistle when Dundee snatched a point before Andréa Mbuyi-Mutombo crowned a forgetful performance with a needless scissor hack of Nick Ross which was reminiscent of a Black Widow take out in an Avengers film. Mutombo will now be banned for at least one game, possibly more if his punishment is increased, which would be a further blow for Hughes given his strained squad.
With only a couple of days to go until the transfer window closes there is still an opportunity for Hughes to strengthen the team; however this would appear to be predicated on selling highly rated youngster Ryan Christie who has been flogged so much in post match interviews that he may as well have been playing recently with a ‘For Sale’ sign stuck to his back. An offer from Celtic has been accepted with rumours of a loan back to Inverness also included as part of any deal.
It’s likely that any fee will be well below Christie’s true value but with the transfer window about to ‘slam’ shut (it never closes quietly of course), and Hughes hamstrung by the lack of finance available to him selling prize assets to reinvest in the side looks like his only option. It could be a pivotal couple of days for Hughes. The core of last year’s Cup winning side remain a number are out with long term injuries and the players signed to replace the likes of Shinnie, Ross, Mckay and Watkins, so far, haven’t looked up to the task. What is left of this transfer window would go a long way to shaping the rest of the season for ICT. AS
Andrew Davies - signing of the season?
Andrew Davies was an England under-21 international. In January 2008 Southampton paid £1million for him; seven months later, Stoke City paid £1.3million for him. This guy has pedigree. And he's still only 30. How on earth has he ended up playing at centre back for Ross County?
Given that Davies was a first choice (when fit, which wasn't always the case) in League One for Bradford City last season, one suspects that he commands a relatively handsome wage now he has moved to Dingwall. At the moment it looks like money well spent. For the second consecutive game he scored from a set piece (courtesy, again, of some woeful defending) but more importantly he looks like a rock at the back, someone who belongs at a much higher level. He coasted through this match against Dundee United, with and without the ball.
With another new signing, Chris Robertson, well embedded alongside him, as well as two excellent full backs, there's a case for saying that County now have one of the best back fours in the Premiership...one good enough to take them comfortably into the top six. Unless he gets crocked, Davies will be in the Team of the Year - you heard it here first. LS
Aberdeen march on
Dons fans made up 2478 of the 4940 in attendance at Firhill, 16 more than the home support. They came, they refrained from wanting to fight Kingsley the mascot, and they saw Aberdeen conquer Partick Thistle Nil to maintain their 100% record in the league.
In fairness to the Jags, the 'nil' wasn't for the want of trying, as they had more shots on goal than their opponents. Of the few shots that were on target, they also found Dons keeper Danny Ward in superb form; the best of his saves being a stunning stop to deny a Sean Welsh toepoke.
At the other end, there was a question of handball in the build up to Adam Rooney's opener - not so much whether or not it was handball (it was blatant) but how the officiating team managed to miss it. There was no question mark over the second goal, though - Tomas Cerny did well to get down to his right to stop David Goodwillie's shot across the face of goal, but was unlucky to see Kenny McLean (who was also involved in the build up) on hand to bury the rebound into the back of the net. It topped off an outstanding performance from McLean, who is turning out to be a bargain signing.
Baraclough's recruitment makes the difference
Motherwell made it clear that one of their reasons for appointing Ian Baraclough was his extensive contacts book; the Englishman has certainly used it to good effect with eight signings this summer. Theo Robinson, the Jamaican international forward, is the latest; he may struggle to get game time though given that Louis Moult, brought in from Wrexham, scored again against Kilmarnock and combined well with Scott McDonald. Moult is only in the lineup because another summer arrival, Wes Fletcher, is injured. There were solid performances from goalkeeper Connor Ripley and defender Kieran Kennedy as well.
Contrast that with Killie, whose only signing from a non-Scottish club in this transfer window is a reserve keeper on loan from Swansea. Gary Locke's insistence on signing former Hearts and Rangers players hasn't done him any good at all. This was a better performance from Kilmarnock than we've seen recently, but it came away from home against a team who had lost their previous four league games, and they didn't do enough to warrant a point. Locke says he needs more defenders, but he hasn't got any room in his budget; maybe he shouldn't have spent it on Lee McCulloch and Steven Smith? If he is given the funds, the depressing reality is that he would almost certainly use them to move for the recently released Ranger Marius Zaliukas during the international break. LS
Martin Ingram (MI) is our Aberdeen Correspondent. Legend has it that he is the tallest man in the Red Army. He writes regularly for Aberdeen fanzine The Red Final.
Iain Meredith (IM) is technically a Rangers fan, but these days he tends to support them ironically. He only agreed to help with this blog because now he can tell his wife that he's "only watching the game to help a friend out".
Lawrie Spence (LS) has ranted and spouted his ill-informed opinions on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly.
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.