By Greg Taylor
The Scottish footballing season officially kicked off this past weekend with a bang. There was everything you could want in an opening weekend fixture list; goals, red cards, last minute winners, controversy and some big statements for the season ahead. In this new weekly article, we look at the standout fixtures throughout Scottish football, highlighting our star player and team of the week in the process.
Many teams in the top flight looked to make a big impression on the first day of the season, no more so than Celtic and St Johnstone. Celtic start their quest for 9 titles in a row and also hope to silence any uprising from a confident Rangers side. Meanwhile Tommy Wright looked to put to bed murmurings of a possible relegation from pundits and fans across the country. What followed saw the Hoops put 7 past the Perth side. Ryan Christie scoring a hat–trick for his boyhood team whilst Leigh Griffiths also found the net on his first league game since the back end of 2018. It was a confident display for the treble treble winners and send a strong message for the season ahead. Celtic seem to have strengthen well over the summer break and it looks like it will take a massive push from anyone to keep up with them for the duration of the season.
Elsewhere in the league Rangers last minute winner over Kilmarnock was somewhat overshadowed by the controversy of their fans. An excellent win for the Gers despite the disappointing scenes over a Kilmarnock side with a big question mark lingering over them as their new manager tries to take control of the Rugby Park side. With this only being Gerrard’s second year at Ibrox there is already a different belief around the team. He has recruited well but you still feel they are maybe one season off being labelled title contenders and title favourites.
Aberdeen also managed to secure three points over a physical Hearts side at Pittodrie in a five goal thriller. New signing Ryan Hedges grabbed a late winner for the Dons after coming from 2-1 behind. Derek McInnes looks to have had possibly his best transfer window with players such as Hedges, Ojo, Leigh and Gallagher all settling into the team quickly whilst playing some really entertaining football. Although Hearts ran the Dons close it looks like it could be a long season for Hearts fans if Levein is to persist with his more traditional physical tactics.
Other noticeable results include a strong win for Premiership newcomers Ross Country over Hamilton. Both teams will undoubtably be favourites to be lingering at the bottom of the table come the end of the year so big wins like this early on could make a massive difference come May.
The bookies favourites to clinch this year’s Championship, Dundee United, sent out a big warning to any challengers after winning 4-1 against a strong looking Inverness Caley side. Lawrence Shankland scored four on his league debut for United, which included three excellent headers and an incredibly composed finish inside the box to grab the three points for the Tannadice side. An incredible start for both United and Shankland as they look to kick on and finally make a long awaited return to the top flight.
Ayr United also picked up a big win on the opening game of the season in a 4-2 home win over Morton. Ayr look to still be finding the net with ease without star man Shankland who scored 34 goals last season. After a disappointing end to their last season and losing key players such as Shankland, Michael Rose and Liam Smith the win will be extremely welcome for Ian McCalls side who hope to get back in the playoffs at the end of the campaign. However, the effects of losing these players will be inevitable over time and it may be extremely difficult to recreate where they got in last years campaign.
Down in League one both Raith Rovers and Forfar managed to secure 3 points on the opening day of their campaign. Last year’s league runners up Forfar scored 2 goals in 2 minutes as Andy Jackson and Callum Tapping found the net on the 53rd and 55th minute respectively. Meanwhile, a goal in the 79th minute was enough for Raith to beat Dumbarton, whose start to the campaign doesn’t get any easier as they travel to league favourites Falkirk next week. Falkirk struggled to adapt to life in league 1 as they were held to a frustrating 0-0 draw away to fellow newcomers Peterhead.
It feels as though many have already given Falkirk the title in League one but if this weekend is anything to go by they will have a much tougher task than many probably anticipated. Despite this it’s hard not to see them clinch the title with the likes of Raith and Forfar vying for the play of places.
Cove Rangers got off to a flying start as they roared past Edinburgh City in their first league outing with Paul Hartley at the helm. Cove opened their account just after the half hour mark with Edinburgh City crumbling thereafter seeing them finish the game with only 9 men on the park. A Mitch Megginson quest for a hat-trick was cut short after a bad tackle, which resulted in a red card, saw him come off the park injured. Much like Falkirk, Cove appear to be the clear favourites for the league and this performance only aided their cause, they have really hit the ground running and have all the momentum behind them to kick on and have a really successful season
Albion Rovers also impressed in a close game with Stenhousemuir. Albion Rovers were up 2-nil after 46 minutes but by the 78th minute the game was level. It took a 84th minute penalty converted by Declan Byrne to separate the two sides and send all 3 points back home with Albion Rovers. After a poor campaign last year Rovers will be delighted to grab an early 3 points this campaign. On the other side of things Stenhousemuir will be kicking themselves for not capitalising on their near comeback and the momentum they had. A big 3 points first game of the season could have been a big confidence boost in their hopes of returning to League 1
Player/Team of the Week
Honourable mentions for player of the week go to Ryan Christie and Mitch Megginson. Both putting in stellar performances and are already racking up their goal tally for the season. However, player of the week must go to Lawrence Shankland after his phenomenal hat-trick of headers and cool finish for Dundee United. He has certainly hit the ground running and could prove to be the final piece of the puzzle that United need to make it back up to the top tier of Scottish football where they belong.
As for team of the week there are a few honourable mentions as well; Cove Rangers deserve high praise for their ruthlessness performance against a poor Edinburgh City side. Aberdeen and Rangers both showed great character to grab late winners between European games. Despite this team of the week goes to Celtic for their thrashing of St Johnstone at Parkhead. It felt as if momentum sided with Rangers coming into the season but this confident and clinical display from the Hoops has squashed any doubt of Neil Lennon’s men domestically. To win 7-0 at any level warrants team of the week, never mind opening day of the season against an infamously tricky St Johnstone team.