Five things to look for this Scottish football weekend

August 18, 2017

1. Will Derek McInnes stick or twist against Dundee?

It gives a sense of Aberdeen’s impressive strength in depth that they could leave the likes of Kari Arnason, Adam Rooney, and Ryan Christie on the bench for the trip to Dingwall last Saturday and still win. With Stevie May making his first start alongside fellow new signings, Gary Mackay-Steven, Greg Tansey and Greg Stewart, it wasn’t a perfect display – the defence looked especially wobbly – but McInnes would have been delighted that another shuffle of his squad kept the Dons’ momentum going. The manager’s task, while his team continue to win and his players remain fit, is to figure out how to accommodate such a sudden wealth of riches without unsettling the squad. Further rotation against Dundee is likely.

2. Can Michael O’Halloran inspire St Johnstone to another victory?

Three goals for Michael O’Halloran in two games have translated into six points for Saints as they set the early pace in the Premiership. His wonderful jinking run in the opening day victory at Kilmarnock was echoed by his first in a 4-1 win against Motherwell last weekend. His second effectively wrapped the game up and, although he missed a penalty, it’s clear the Rangers loanee has rediscovered his mojo.

Partick Thistle stand in O’Halloran and St Johnstone’s path this weekend, but if they’re going to take anything against Tommy Wright’s men they’ll first have to stop Saints’ on-fire forward.

3. Will Dunfermline set down a promotion marker against Falkirk?

Dunfermline’s 5-1 trouncing of Inverness Caledonian Thistle last Saturday, while eye-opening, comes with one major caveat: Inverness are tripe. The Highlanders had a poor pre-season, losing crucial players and signing replacements clearly not up to standard, while the appointment of John Robertson seemed a strange choice. Even at this early stage of the campaign, the concerns about the manager appear to be borne out. So, while Pars fans can be rightfully encouraged by the performance – and especially that of a re-energised Joe Cardle – Falkirk will be a far greater test of their promotion credentials. The Bairns have had a slow start, but like nothing better than getting one over on the Fifers. Even at this early stage, it feels like a pivotal Championship encounter.

4. Airdrie are in serious trouble

Airdrie fans started the season staring down a long, dark tunnel, brightened only by the knowledge that Andy Ryan was still on the books. This week Ryan left for Dunfermline – along with Rohan Ferguson to Motherwell – and it feels like that tunnel is suddenly entirely black.

Many fans saw Ryan, who scored 27 goals in all competitions last season, as the only hope of avoiding a relegation scrap this term and now that he’s gone, the club is left with a group of inexperienced youngsters, seemingly ill-equipped for the rigours of the division.

5. Can Stirling maintain their run, or will Edinburgh City pick up their first win in League Two?

It’s top versus bottom in League Two on Saturday. Admittedly, only six points separate table toppers Stirling and bottom-placed Edinburgh City, but it may prove an early marker as to the fate of both sides. Stirling haven’t been short of goals – scoring seven in two games –  and although they suffered a surprise reverse at home to Montrose in Tuesday’s Irn-Bru Cup tie, their league form has them ahead of title chasers, Peterhead, on goal difference. City, meanwhile, are yet to win a game in any competition and have found goals hard to come by; last weekend’s tepid attacking display at Central Park was followed by another blank as Hamilton U20’s knocked them out the Challenge Cup. A win for Stirling will emphasise their promotion-chasing ambitions, while anything other than a victory for Edinburgh will bring back memories of last season’s atrocious start to the season.

Written by Andy Harrow

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