Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Talking Points from the Premiership

Pressure shifts to Kilmarnock
A brief flash of light in the darkness?  Or the start of the greatest comeback since Elvis?  It's too early to say, but this was the sort of performance and result that United are certainly capable of, if they avoid a stupid defensive blunder (or at least leave it till they are five goals up) and their attackers play to their potential.

Whilst the pressure is still very much on the Terrors - they remain eleven points adrift - a chunk of it now shifts to their vanquished opponents.  Every time Kilmarnock seem to put a wee run of results together, it all falls apart in the form of a spectacular heavy defeat.  This was the fifth time this season that they've conceded four or more in a single game.  Gary Locke's side now face back to back league games against Motherwell and Hamilton (which sandwich the traditional 'lie down and offer no resistance' cup tie at Ibrox).  United too have a run of games against sides bottom of the table.  Can they carry on the momentum? LS

If you’re not part of the solution…
The ICT v Partick match saw supporters offered the opportunity to 'pay what they can' to attend. Just over 3500 were in attendance to witness a match which was drab to say the least - just three shots on target between both sides.  Whilst Thistle were particularly negative and seldom threatened to cross the half way line let alone trouble the home goal, Inverness toiled to create chances of note.

The crowd was over 400 greater than the same fixture played earlier in the season, although this took place on a Wednesday night, and over 800 greater than when the sides met in December 2014.   Whilst a number of factors affect attendance at football, cost is almost certainly the primary reason as to why fans stay away.  Had this offer not been in place ‘walk up’ supporters would have faced shelling out £21 for a ticket at a time when money is quite scarce after the festive break so credit to Inverness for looking at ways to boost the crowd. Hamilton allowed fans to attend a game against ICT for 10p, as part of their ‘celebration’ of Alex Neil's tenure at the club, and over 5000 fans were in attendance indicating an interest in football at Hamilton albeit one that can be promptly curbed by prohibitive ticket prices.

Fans of Ross County bore the brunt of some criticism from journalists over the weekend when 144 fans made the trip to watch their side play Motherwell.  Whilst this is a poor away crowd it’s no different from some of the away trips seen in Inverness or Dingwall from sides who, by comparison, have to make fewer trips up and down the A9 than the Highland teams.

Unfortunately, this seems to be lapped up by journalists covering the game in Scotland, typically those still bemoaning the loss of Rangers to the old Third Division, and much is made of low crowds at games. Indeed, numbers to date actually show that most clubs in Scotland’s top tier are experiencing an increase in their average crowds yet almost nothing is heard of this. It shouldn’t really be a surprise to most that fans are happy to attend games when they can but are not prepared to spend £20 to do so every week. Perhaps instead of criticising clubs like Ross County for the level of their away support it might be more helpful if some journalists actually attempted to investigate what stops fans from attending games on a more regular basis? AS

Dons more impressive than narrow win suggests
There are apparently folk on Aberdeen message boards laying into Adam Rooney.  Presumably these are people who have something against strikers who score many goals; maybe they yearn for the days of Calvin Zola's unthreatening meanders around the opposition penalty area?  These people should be banned from Pittodrie and the sooner facial recognition technology can be brought into the stadium so that we can more thoroughly police these faceless and unrecognisable social media users the better.

Rooney is already over the 50 goal threshold for the Dons, a feat achieved before he'd even seen in his second anniversary at the club, and his 16th league goal of this season was the difference against Dundee on Friday Night Fitba'.  Given that he is the defending Premiership top goalscorer, and this season only trails the runaway favourite for player of the season in Leigh Griffiths, it is hard to imagine (a) who critics of the big Irishman would see as a realistic upgrade, or (b) why they continue to be critical of him in the first place.  Clearly, there's no pleasing some folk.

For Dundee, the only reason the final scoreline wasn't much worse than 1-0 was due to the former Dandy in the Dees' goal.  Scott Bain had already made an excellent stop from Rooney at the start of the match - he actually managed to scramble across the face of goal to get a right paw on Rooney's opener, but seeing as how the strike came in from no more than a couple of yards he could only parry into the goal side of the side netting.  Bain also made a hat-trick of point blank saves from, of all people, centre half Ash Taylor - the last of them, just before half-time, was a full stretch flying save to his left that looked incredible.  He'd already been called up to the Scotland squad the previous season and hopefully there's an opportunity to earn a full cap in the foreseeable future.

Graeme Shinnie was skipper for the day in the absence of Captain (Ryan) Jack to injury and suspended vice-captain Mark Reynolds.  He was immense on the night and fully deserved to be named man of the match.  With Shinnie at left back, Kenny McLean was also excellent - he oozed class on the ball, and also did the ugly stuff well off the ball.  McLean was also ably abetted by young Craig Storie in his second consecutive start in central midfield.  While there have been recent rumours of Aberdeen looking to bring in Partick Thistle's Stuart Bannigan on a pre-contract agreement, they may do better to consider giving youngsters like Storie and Cammy Smith an extended run in the team first.

The win keeps Aberdeen in touching distance of Celtic, with the league leaders visiting Pittodrie in their next fixture.  Yes, the Dons need to beat them if the title race is to remain a realistic one - for a purely selfish reason, any other result would be a seriously depressing end to my birthday - but at least we can come out of the January transfer window able to say that there is still a realistic title race to speak of.  Wouldn't it be nice to be able to say that for at least a couple weeks longer? MI

St. Johnstone are losing games and losing players

Losing at Celtic Park is hardly something that Tommy Wright will lose sleep over; any points obtained in this fixture were always going to be a bonus for St. Johnstone, especially with a cup semi-final to come next week.  The biggest priority was to escape without any injuries...and the Perth Saints failed in this respect.  Murray Davidson broke down with a hip problem in the second half; Dave Mackay's ongoing hip troubles meant he was fit enough only for the bench.

With Chris Millar likely to miss out with a hamstring problem too, Wright has not his problems to seek for what increasingly feels like an away fixture, despite being at a 'neutral' venue; if playing Hibs in Edinburgh (albeit at Tynecastle) wasn't already disadvantageous, an SPFL screw up over tickets leaves St. Johnstone with a smaller allocation than originally promised, and Hibs with a larger one - leaving Saints fans outnumbered about 4 to 1.

One suspects any further Rangers bid this week for Michael O'Halloran will be rebuffed, regardless of the amount offered - it's currently hard enough for Wright to find eleven fit players as it is. LS

County prepare perfectly for Hampden
Ross County bounced back from consecutive defeats with victory in a decent game in Motherwell.  With a bit of better finishing it could easily have been a higher scoring game, but given the usual state of fare served up at Fir Park in January it would be churlish to complain.  The opening goal came from Jackson Irvine who only started because Martin Woods got injured in the warmup.  Given the amount of time and space the Australian was given at a corner, it can only be assumed that nobody gave Motherwell the updated teamsheet.

The result, and to an extent the performance, will no doubt give County a boost going into their League Cup semi final against Celtic on Sunday.  Five years after making the Scottish Cup Final by defeating the same opponent, it would be a nice validation of the tremendous work done by Jim McIntyre if they could once again shock Celtic in a semi final.  I imagine the very thought of playing a Highland team at Hampden brings Celtic players out in a cold sweat.  They wouldn’t feel much better after seeing Scott Fox’s spectacular save from Keith Lasley late on to deny Motherwell a share of the points.  It was a stop that even Josh Meekings would have been proud of. IM

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 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.

Stuart Taylor (ST) is Wick Academy's team doctor. He is an Aberdeen fan, especially now they're doing well again.

1 comment:

KingsnakeSince1986 said...

"... it might be more helpful if some journalists actually attempted to investigate ..." Anything. Ever.