Friday through to Sunday saw the new Scottish top flight season get off and running, no real surprises this week. As most of the fancied teams picked up all three points.
Partick Thistle 0-0 Dundee United
Partick Thistle before kick-off raised the First Division Championship flag, and despite the game being goalless both sides put on a good game of football. David Goodwille returned to the Dundee Utd side after re-signing on loan from Blackburn yet it was both goalkeepers who were kept busy in an end to end match.
First real chance of the match was for the visitors Ciftci making his Dundee Utd debut fed the ball to the left to teenager Ryan Gould his cross deflected off Thistle defender Muirhead and Fox had to turn the ball away and was cleared by the defence. Thistle’s first attack came from a Gary Fraser corner, which resulted in Ciftci appearing to haul Taylor-Sinclair to the ground yet referee Craig Thomson waved play-on to the fury of the home support. The Jags began to settle into the match and the growth in confidence was there for all to see, Fraser again picked up the ball before pinging an inch-perfect pass to Taylor-Sinclair who was searching for Doolan in the middle though the cross deflected off Sean Dillon and then Butcher who almost put through his own net. Dundee Utd almost took the lead through David Goodwille- Thistle midfielder Bannigan lost possession outside his own area pounced on by Utd the cross was perfect onto the head of the striker and Fox got down low to his left to make a smart stop and keep the game scoreless. Goodwille threatened the thistle goal yet again, Andrew Robertson played a nice one-two before crossing for the unmarked hitman at the back post he could only head the ball into the ground when it looked easier to score. Dundee Utd almost scored an own goal for the second time again Taylor-Sinclair from the right hand side his cross hit by Butcher onto Sean Dillon and the blushes were spared as Cierzniak pulled off a spectacular save.
Dundee Utd just like the first half started the second much brighter and came close once again and it was that man Goodwillie who seemed to have a personal duel with Fox all night ball fed down the line from Keith Watson he outmuscled Balatoni turned inside only to be foiled by the man between the Thistle sticks. Taylor-Sinclair can count his blessings that he managed to stay on the park a late challenge with studs showing was completely missed by Thomson who wasn’t having his best nights. Calum Butcher also should have seen red after his two-footed lunge on Fraser and Thomson only produced yellow as the match was heading towards boiling point. After the handbags had died down Thistle as it was getting to the late stages launched another attack this time John Baird came close with a header which was well saved by the Slovak in nets for the Terrors. Bannigan and Baird combined down the left with Baird feeding Banningan’s late run into the box again Butcher with a miss-timed late tackle again Thomson said no penalty. It was a stonewaller in my eyes. The last real attack of the game was when Ross Forbes stung the palms of the Utd keeper and the match ended goalless but not without incident both teams will be happy with the point.
Aberdeen 2-1 Kilmarnock
Aberdeen began the new season as they mean to go on giving new boss Derek McInnes a win in his first match in charge.
The Dons started on the attack with new signings Barry Robson and Calvin Zola playing neat one-two with Zola firing across the Killie goal. The Killie defence did not heed the warnings as Flood picked the ball up played it out wide, crossed in for Zola who fired in a shot which was saved by Samson yet Johnny Hayes was on hand to give the North-East side the lead with 20 minutes on the clock. Niall McGinn came close to doubling the hosts’ lead before have time latching onto a cross by goalscorer Hayes only to be foiled by Craig Samson. Kille then spurned a great chance to get level- quick free-kick by McDonald found McKenzie in acres of space and with a smart turn fired wide when he really should have made Langfield work.
Seven minutes after the restart Aberdeen finally doubled their advantage, McGinn broke down the right to feed the ball to Hayes who crossed to find Flood who found the back of the net with an uncharacteristic header to mark his debut with a goal. Aberdeen were well on top at this stage and should have put the game to bed but Josh Magennis missed a glorious chance in about 8 yards from goal from McGinn’s cross. Killie got a goal back when the lively McKenzie fed Boyd who turned unmarked in the box to do what he does best, find the net to half the deficit. McInnes will be the happier of the two managers with the 3 points and good performance, Johnston won’t be too worried as it’s only game one.
Inverness CT 3-0 St Mirren
Terry Butcher won his first opening day fixture as his side romped to a convincing win over a lacklustre St Mirren.
Yet it was St Mirren who were the 1st to go close with a decent move with Gary Harkins deflected shot ending up with David Brill in the ICT net. The Saints skipper Jim Goodwin came closest to breaking the deadlock as his free-kick came back off the frame of the goal. Doran came close for the home side firing wide from a counter-attack, and yet Harkins tested Brill once again as ICT were looking a bit rusty in the early stages. Efforts from both sides flew over the bar as the first half ended all square.
Inverness took the lead via a penalty in the second half the cross from the right headed down to Vincent by Billy McKay whose shot was stopped from going goal-bound by the arm of David Van Zanten. Vincent stepped up and converted the penalty to give the highland club the lead and virtually knock the stuffing out of Danny Lennon’s side. Straight from the resulting kick off it was a few St Mirren errors mainly from Danny Grainger with his slack back-pass to the keeper who cleared the ball into the path of Doran who passed the ball into the empty net to end the game as any sort of contest. The scoring was complete after 59 minutes as Billy McKay headed home a cross from Doran. A deserved win in the end for ICT, though Danny Lennon will be slightly worried in the way his side crumbled after the penalty, could be a long season for the Paisley side.
Celtic 2-1 Ross County
Celtic started their defence of the Premiership title in totally unconvincing fashion as they squeezed past Derek Adams’ Ross County.
It was the visitors who stunned the Celtic fans by taking the lead inside the first 3 minutes of the contest. Debutant Darren Maatsen scored an outstanding goal from distance that went in and off the underside of the bar.
From that moment on it was one-way traffic towards Mark Brown in the County goal. New signing Derk Boerrigter was the 1st to test former Rangers and Celtic keeper Brown, Stokes played a lovely pass through that put the Dutchman one on one with Brown though his low drive was saved by the legs of the County custodian. Kris Commons was next to test Brown, Scott Brown won the ball from Lukassen in the middle of the park fed James Forrest who found Commons and his high shot was palmed away by Brown as the Celtic pressure mounted. It paid off as the equaliser arrived from the resulting corner a scramble in the box Lustigs’ effort hit the post and Stokes was lurking to finish from a yard out. Stokes again was denied by Mark Brown as the half ended 1-1.
After the restart the assault on the Ross County goal continued. Commons again coming close after being set up by Sub Tony Watt his effort was touched onto the bar by the impressive Brown as Ross County continued to ride their luck. Again Commons denied this time by a wonderful block by the County defence at this stage a 2nd Celtic goal didn’t seem too far away. County they were not done in an attacking sense midfielder Carey coming extremely close to putting them ahead again as his free-kick just sailed over Forsters’ bar. Another Celtic corner and another chance Commons corner headed onto the post by Mulgrew and it stayed level. Stokes then played a one-two with Commons before throwing himself to the ground appeals for a penalty from Celtic – nothing given by Willie Collum although what should have been given is a yellow card to Stokes for his pathetic dive. Stokes and Commons combined again this time it was Brown’s legs that denied the Englishman as Brown was coming out on top in that personal duel. The winner finally arrived 3 minutes from time Stokes and Commons again who were a threat all day combined which led to Stokes thundering a low drive past Brown and inside his right hand post to hand Celtic the victory.
Hibernian 0-1 Motherwell
Both teams were looking to put recent Euro nightmares behind them in this their opening league match of the season, and it was McCall’s men who ground out the 3 points to add more pressure to Pat Fenlon.
Motherwell captain Keith Lasley was the first to test Ben Williams, a good move involving Stevie Hammell and Paul Lawson as the ball found its way to Lasley who cut in from the wide area only for Williams to deny his goal-bound effort. Hibs best effort of the first half was when Collins was released down the right by Scott Robertson before firing his shot into the side-netting, both sides not hitting top form in the incident free 1st period.
After the interval both Sutton and Collins came close with headers for both sides though this certainly was not a classic, devoid of any real quality and not the best advertisement for the Premiership. Stephen McMannus came close to breaking the deadlock but his header was brilliantly tipped over by Williams. It took till 7 minutes from time to get a goal and it was the winner Henri Anier the substitute latched on to a forward Hutchison header raced clear of an invisible Hibs defence to slot the ball into the net and give Motherwell a victory, in a game which I’m sure everyone was glad to hear the final whistle.
St Johnstone 1- 0 Hearts
This was always going to be a home banker and it proved to be the case with Hearts in financial turmoil and St Johnstone on a high after their European exploits.
Though it was the visitors who threatened first off, Ryan Stevenson’s long range effort was easy for Mannus to gather as the vocal 4 thousand away support cranked up the volume. Hearts then had shouts for a penalty though replays showed that Anderson made a perfectly clean tackle and the ref made the correct call. The 25th minute arrived and so did St Johnstone’s first attack it was played out wide to striker Stevie May and the ponytailed striker cut inside and curled a lovely shot past MacDonald in the Hearts goal, Hearts complained about the goal being offside as they thought David Wotherspoon was interfering with play but the ref gave the goal. The Perth side almost doubled their lead from a corner before half time Stephen Anderson rose highest but his powerful header was expertly saved by Jamie MacDonald.
After the break St Johnstone began to exert their dominance and had shouts for a penalty themselves when May’s cross resulted in Kevin McHattie slipping and appearing to handle the ball in the area the ref however was unmoved by the claims. St Johnstone came close to a 2nd yet an effort from Stevie May was blocked and Steven MacLean headed wide when it looked easier to score, good start for St Johnstone but it looks like it’s going to be the season from hell for the Jambos.
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