By Greg Taylor
The eyes of Scottish football set their sights on Ibrox this past weekend for the first Old Firm of the season. It goes without saying that this was a must win for both teams; Celtic to reaffirm themselves as the top dogs in Glasgow and Rangers to show where they stand in the title race. What followed was a trudged 90 minutes of football with neither team getting into top gear as they may have hoped for; with a composed Celtic bossing a feeble looking Rangers team.
Odsonne Edouard continued his good start to the season by scoring the opener with a cool finish bringing his tally to five goals in seven Old Firm games. Johnny Hayes sealed the three points with minutes left on the clock. However Rangers still found time to reduce themselves to 10 men after a horror tackle from Jordan Jones, who injured himself in the process.
A solid win for Celtic who went into the game unphased by the hype surrounding a Rangers team who beat them twice in a row at Ibrox. Rangers looked lacklustre in comparison to their last meeting with their rivals. Not only will the disappointment of losing be bad enough but the dismissal of Jones at the end must be of concern to Steven Gerrard.
Discipline has been a major issue for his side and with only seconds left there seemed no point in this rash and unnecessary tackle. Celtic go 3 clear at the top of the table with 4 wins from 4 and scoring goals for fun. With a European win, an Old Firm win and a busy deadline day under their belt they seem to have managed to get over their “slump” in form.
Aberdeen hadn’t scored in two league games coming into the weekend so the prospect of facing a Ross County team who conceded four the previous week must have been an enticing prospect for Derek McInnes. The Dons would run out comfortable 3-0 winners on the day after a much more convincing display.
The ball spent less time in the air and some much slicker football was played, much to the delight of those in the terraces. Ryan Hedges really stood out for the Pittodrie side grabbing a goal, an assist and running ex-dons man Ricky Foster ragged for the duration of the game.
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McInnes will hope that this kick-starts their season proper after the international break. As for Ross County, seven goals conceded on their last two outings makes for grim reading for the highland side.
It was also a rough week for both Edinburgh sides. Hibs got battered by a strong Motherwell at Fir Park meanwhile Hearts were held to a frustrating 2-2 draw with Hamilton at Tynecastle. For it being this early in the season both managers seem to have increasing amount of pressure growing. However you can’t question any fans skepticism with their teams. Both look unconvincing based on what we’ve seen so far this season and lacking the style of football that their fans have come to expect. Time will tell but with Hearts languishing at the bottom of the table, unable to claim three points in 11 attempts, Craig Levein will be praying some wins start coming in soon or he may be facing the sack.
Game of the week, and early contender for game of the season, came at Tannadice where the first Dundee derby of the campaign took place. The game was rammed with goals, controversy and passion. An early disallowed goal set the precedent for Dundee who went on to get pumped by a free flowing United team. It was not only a great advert for the Championship for a great indication of what Scottish football is capable of. United continue their rampant start to the season sitting undefeated and comfortable at the top of the table. Once again they prove themselves to be the out and out favourites for the season ahead and with performances like this one it is hard to question that. However, they face second place Ayr United on their next outing, yet another early test for Neilson’s men but one they will be confident they can take on head first.
Ahead of their top of the table clash next week, Ayr United fought back from 2-1 down to claim the three points against Partick Thistle. The Jags finished the game with 9 men after both goal scorers were sent for an early shower. Thistle’s collapse leaves them rooted at the bottom of the table still searching for their first win of the season. Ayr’s play-off hopes look incredibly likely even at this early stage of the season. This game if any shows the strength of the Championship this season. It will hopefully continue to be as unpredictable as the first four games have proven to be.
Elsewhere both Arbroath and Alloa picked up 1-0 wins. The Red Lichties find themselves up in fourth place meanwhile Alloa pick up their first win of the season. Both teams you may expect to linger mid-to-bottom of the table so picking up narrow 1-0 wins could prove important. After their defeat to Arbroath, Dunfermline sit second bottom with only two points from a possible 12. The Pars recruited quite well during the transfer window so to see them struggle to get off the mark like this is somewhat surprising.
Falkirk dropped more unexpected points this week in a frustrating goalless draw against Airdrieonians. As previously discussed in these articles Falkirk’s unimpressive start to the season continues. A further disappointment was seeing Cammy Bell come off injured to add further woes to McKinnon’s current dilemmas. It’s nowhere near panic stations for the Bairns just yet with only two points separating first and seventh place. However, we are sure they would be looking for much more convincing performances in the coming weeks with the league being as tight as it is.
The other standout game from League One this week came from Bayview Park where East Fife ran out 4-2 winners against top of the table Raith Rovers. Raith might come to regret dropping the points as Falkirk drew level on points at the top of the table. As for East Fife it is an incredible win that sees them go up to fourth with a game in hand over those above them. Neutrals can only hope League One stays as tight as it currently is as we could have a really entertaining season on our hands with teams dropping points all over the place.
Cove Rangers remain undefeated in League 2 this season with the high flyers running out comfortable 3-0 winners over Queen’s Park. The bookies favourites now have 13 points from their opening five games and move three clear after Edinburgh City were held to a draw. Paul Hartley has brought in an impressive amount of talent to the North-East and have been scoring for fun down in League Two. One of those signings, Fraser Fyvie managed to grab a goal in the win as well – his second for the club.
As mentioned Edinburgh City shared the spoils with Elgin City in an enthralling 3-3 draw at Borough Briggs. A late penalty in the 86th minute managed to see the Edinburgh outfit grab a late point and stay in touching distance of Cove Rangers. They will hope to keep picking up points to keep pressure on the North-East side but you have to feel Cove will start to run away with it.
Player/Team of the Week
This was possibly the hardest week so far in picking a player of the week with big performances from Ryan Hedges at Pittodrie and a George Oakley brace at Tynecastle both being contenders. However this week’s player of the week goes to Edouard for his goal at Ibrox. It really is a testament to his composure that amongst a scrappy game he still manages to find himself in the space to score important goals at important times. He continues to prove how a crucial player he will be for Celtic this season.
As for team of the week there was a clear stand out in Dundee United. To win any derby is a big boost but to do so in such entertaining and convincing fashion must give their fans real optimism for the season ahead. Putting six past your rivals is an incredibly satisfying result and they seem to have finally found a formula that will hopefully see them back into the top flight.