Five things to look for this Scottish football weekend

August 11, 2017

Can Hibernian’s Irresistible Force overcome Rangers’ Immovable Object?

The start to the season could barely have been more positive for Neil Lennon’s Hibs. A successful run in the League Cup to date has seen them through to the Quarter Finals, scoring 18 goals in five matches, while they blitzed Partick Thistle at Easter Road on the opening day of the Premiership campaign.

Their 5-0 shellacking of Ayr United midweek also provided hints that Simon Murray and Anthony Stokes might be able to work together; Stokes scored two and provided an assist to his carrot-top strike partner, Murray, for his ninth of the fledging season.

On Saturday –to use the lexicon of a movie sequel trailer – they’ll face their sternest test yet. Bruno Alves was imperious against Louis Moult last weekend in Rangers’ win over Motherwell and even got his name on the score sheet in Wednesday’s hammering of Dunfermline. Who will come out on top this weekend – the irresistible force or the immovable object?

BT’s Friday Night fixtures are (generally) sensible choices

The first Friday night fixture of the Premiership campaign takes place this evening, as Celtic travel the short distance to Firhill to face Partick Thistle. Whatever your thoughts on Friday football – and it’s not been a universally popular move – it’s the type of game BT should be showing on a week night – two geographically close clubs, with no suggestion of aggravation either before or after match.

BT seem to have made, generally, sensible choices with their pre-Christmas picks. Of the other four Friday fixtures between now and November, only one is over an hour’s travel, stadium entrance to stadium entrance (Rangers’ away game at Dundee). If Friday football is to maintain the goodwill of Scottish football supporters, BT needs to keep them at the forefront of its thinking, especially as the nights draw in.

Can Haber become Dundee’s first choice target man?

Neil McCann has made it patently clear who his preferred target man is this season. His summer signing, Sofien Moussa, started four of Dundee’s first five fixtures and rewarded McCann’s faith with five goals. Up against better defences in games against Dundee United and Ross County though, the beefy Tunisian looked somewhat ineffectual.

His injury against County forced McCann to start Marcus Haber for the first time this season in the League Cup rematch against United. Indeed, Haber had only played 27 minutes prior to Wednesday night, but he was impressive as Dundee deservedly won through. The big Canadian was one of the primary reasons the Dees avoided the drop last term and the positive aspects of his game – his hold-up play, his threat in the air and his ability to hassle defenders– were all in evidence on Wednesday. He was only denied a goal by a terrific save by Harry Lewis.

With Moussa unlikely to return this weekend, it gives Haber a chance to re-establish himself in the first team.

Falkirk need to kick-start their season at Dumbarton

Falkirk were many punters’ tip for this season’s Championship title. While Rory Loy and Alex Harris appeared useful signings, squad stability looked the most persuasive argument for their title challenge.

While they strolled to the last 16 of the League Cup with four wins from four, they’ve come unstuck somewhat in the past seven days. A surprising 3-1 reverse at the hands of Jack Ross’ St. Mirren on the Championship’s opening day was cause for mild concern, but the extra time defeat at home to Livingston midweek will have added to the disquiet.

With Dundee United having won last Saturday, Peter Houston’s men are already playing catch-up. An away fixture against Dumbarton might be the perfect game to kick-start their league campaign.

Can Ayr United put their defeat at Easter Road behind them?

Leading up to Tuesday’s League Cup tie at Easter Road, Ayr had swept aside all before them. Ian McCall’s men had won all five of their early fixtures, scoring 20 goals in the process. They topped their League Cup group and sit above all others in League One. Their forward players – especially Declan McDaid, Michael Moffat and Craig Moore – have been in lethal form, while their defence has looked solid, not least in the 1-0 victory over Premiership neighbours, Kilmarnock.

It was expected Ayr would cause Hibernian problems in their last 16 tie, but their slightly weakened side could not place a glove on the rampant Easter Road team and returned to Ayrshire chastened.

They must put that defeat to one side this weekend – after all, not many teams could handle Neil Lennon’s troops in current form – and regain the swaggering confidence that saw them put five or goals past Clyde and Albion Rovers and six past Annan. If they do, Forfar might be in for a long afternoon.

 

Written by Andy Harrow


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