This was a weekend which saw the Scottish Premiership beset with delightful drama from top to bottom.
Rangers dropped vital ground in their quest for a league title, Motherwell came undone against one of this season’s dark horses and just one of the league’s bottom six sides picked up all three points.
Here are the top takeaways from the Scottish Premiership…
Another winter of discontent?
Rangers are in danger of history repeating and their title hopes evaporating in a new year slump. Last term Steven Gerrard’s side spilled points in half of their first 10 league games after the winter shutdown and the damage was irreparable as Celtic bounded clear to wrap up their eighth successive title.
This time around Rangers have already slipped up in two of their four Premiership outings and their lack of creative spark is a worry for manager Steven Gerrard.
A two-point deficit on Celtic has become seven, albeit with a game in hand, and having been backed in the January transfer window, Gerrard must revitalise a side that looked bereft of ideas against Aberdeen.
Edouard shows his class
Celtic were expected to stroll past Hamilton and romp seven points clear in the title race. Although the 4-1 scoreline was handsome in the end, Neil Lennon’s made were made to work hard for the points.
In a week where Rangers counterpart Steven Gerrard was craving more “spark” in the final third, Lennon had that in abundance from Odsonne Edouard. His free-kick drew Celtic level, before netting a fine second too as Celtic found the late goals they needed.
“He’s a player, Odsonne Edouard,” Sportsound pundit Neil McCann told BBC Scotland. “He’s a top class footballer. He just gets better and better. That [Celtic’s third goal] was brilliant play from the big man.”
Toothless Well lack cutting edge
Motherwell would’ve went into Saturday’s game hoping to extend their advantage in third place knowing that Aberdeen had to travel to Ibrox, but the performance the Lanarkshire side put on show was “unrecognisable” in the words of manager Stephen Robinson.
The Fir Park club failed to register a single shot on target and for the first time this season they failed to score in consecutive games. Robinson will be hoping new signing Rolando Aarons can add an extra dimension to his attack following the departure of James Scott on deadline day, and with Celtic to come on Wednesday the Lanarkshire outfit will need to seriously up their game to take anything from the champions who are in ruthless form.
Players still battling for McInnes
Derek McInnes has been feeling the heat from Aberdeen fans, but his side have gone from being booed off to cheered to the rafters in the space of a week.
Big games – especially against Rangers – seem to bring out the best in his Aberdeen side. They have held Steven Gerrard’s men to successive draws and the last five meetings in Glasgow have yielded two wins and a draw for the Dons.
Aberdeen were all tigerish intent in Saturday’s Ibrox battle, snapping into tackles and defending as if their lives depended on it. If they had left with all three points, it wouldn’t have been an injustice. That level of performance, though, is required more consistently and not just against the league’s heavyweights.
County in freefall
Co-managers Stuart Kettlewell and Steven Ferguson must have looked at Ross County’s game at Rugby Park as a chance to get some much needed points on the board. Though they were without a win in seven matches themselves, County were up against a Kilmarnock side with an even worse record in recent weeks.
They took the lead, but it was a moment of individual brilliance from Iain Vigurs rather than the result of an improved team performance and once Killie equalised, it was men against boys. Kettlewell described their second half performance as a “capitulation” as they succumbed to a 3-1 loss. They looked totally devoid of any hope and quality.
Winless in their last eight, knocked out of the Scottish Cup by a Championship side and with just two victories in their last nineteen, Kettlewell and Ferguson could be working on borrowed time at the Global Energy Stadium.
Two up top inspires Killie
Going into Saturday’s 3-1 win against Ross County, Kilmarnock had scored just two goals in their last seven league games. They had lost all seven of them. They were without a win in their last nine. Alex Dyer knew he needed to change something.
“I knew that we needed to give Eamonn Brophy some help, during the season he’s been up there on his own. He’s better when he’s in a pair,” he said.
Dyer was right. Brophy and Nicke Kabamba led the line at Rugby Park. The former scored two goals and turned the game on its head, the latter made sure of the points late on with a great header. Killie may have found the formula to get their season back on track.
Welcome to the Lion’s Den
Another game at the Tony Macaroni Arena, another home win, and another clean sheet as well.
Livingston’s home record this season has been title challenging form. Gary Holt’s side haven’t conceded in their last 540 minutes of league football played on their own turf, and they have won their last five. In the 12 home league games they have played this season, they have shut their opposition out in nine of them. It’s this kind of form that has solidified their place in the top six going into the second half of the season and they are now just four points behind Aberdeen in fourth.
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Accies show bottle despite falling to basement
It was rotten luck for Hamilton at home to Celtic. Up until the red card they had played some fine attacking football. Greek striker Marios Ogkmpoe was the best player on the pitch, giving Celtic’s defence a torrid time before heading Accies in front.
Going down to 10 men changed the game and tactics, but still the home side excelled. Alex Gogic in particular battled away as Hamilton came so close to taking a point from the champions. In the end, the 4-1 scoreline was extremely harsh on Brian Rice’s side.
It is a weekend where Hamilton have fallen to the bottom of the table with a revitalised Hearts edging ahead of them on goal difference. But they now face a massive game away to St Mirren on Wednesday, who are three points above them, 10 days before a tussle with Daniel Stendel’s Hearts. They may be bottom now but it appears the sleeves have been rolled up ahead of a relegation battle.
Hearts show new-found resilience
You struggle to imagine Hearts taking anything from their helter-skelter draw at St Johnstone as recently as a month ago, but the work Daniel Stendel is doing and the players he has signed look capable of hauling them up the table.
They were absolutely dominated in the second half as a 2-1 lead became a 3-2 deficit, with St Johnstone painfully close to scoring a fourth. But they didn’t crumble. They didn’t succumb to the pressure for all that their old deficiencies were being exposed.
In the end, a touch of sheer class from Sean Clare earned them a precious and unlikely point as he smashed home from long-range. That’s two late, vital goals in as many games and at last a sign that Hearts’ fortunes are changing.
Hibs struggling to turn around games
One way to interpret Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Easter Road would be to suggest that Hibernian showed a tremendous amount of character to come back from going two goals down. However, that would be overlooking a more notable trend over the course of this season.
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So far, after 24 league games, Hibs have gone behind in 13 matches. In those games they’ve gone on to lose eight of them, drawing and winning just two apiece. Which, in truth, suggests the Leith side rarely fight back at all when they concede first. And that continues to be a huge hindrance to their hopes of moving up the league table.
Attacking intent finally on show
St Mirren’s signing of striker Seifedin Chabbi was not only a superb example of wheeling and dealing until the final moments of the transfer window, but also underlined where the club feels it desperately needs reinforcements.
Prior to Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Hibs, Jim Goodwin’s side sat dead last in the Scottish Premiership when it came to goals scored. The club had, until their trip to Leith, shown that they could defend admirably but a lack of goals up the other end of the pitch would often cost them points.
While a solitary point may not offer Goodwin much comfort in avoiding relegation in May, the St Mirren manager will happily note that two goals scored away to Hibs was a far better sign of his team’s new-found capacity to score goals. And that may just prove key in their hopes of avoiding the drop.
May rolls back the years
Watching Stevie May harry and fluster the Hearts defence in Saturday’s incredible 3-3 draw was like a window back to the striker’s prime years in Perth.
Straggly hair billowing, the spearhead of St Johnstone’s attack was a constant and effective menace. He trundled home his team’s first goal with virtually their only chance of the first half, showed great desire and composure to set up Ali McCann for the second and coolly slotted the third from the penalty spot after Jason Kerr was fouled.
Prior to Saturday, 27-year-old May had only scored three goals in 15 games this term. Now he has two more and, boss Tommy Wright will hope, the confidence to help propel his team up the table.