Scottish Premier League action round-up – September 2009

As the autumn nights draw in, the Scottish Premier League has taken on a familiar look, with Celtic and Rangers occupying the top two positions. After an opening month, characterized by high entertainment and goals, the SPL settled down somewhat in the month of September as the Old Firm, in many ways, struggled through to their first showdown of the season. Celtic looked the most comfortable, and going into the weekend’s encounter with their closest rivals, enjoyed a four point lead at the top of the table. Their early September draw with Dundee United had been followed by a narrow win over Hearts – where it took a 93rd minute Glenn Loovens goal to separate the sides – and a more comfortable trip to St Mirren. As for Rangers, their strong opening to the season had been followed by three goalless draws in a row, against Motherwell, Kilmarnock – where they were lucky to come away with even a point – and Hearts.

Having not scored in almost 300 minutes of football Rangers were 2-0 in front within the first 16 minutes of the season’s inaugural Old Firm clash. Kenny Miller capitalized on some lacklustre Celtic defending, nipping between the two centre-halves to coolly finish for the first. For the second, a long looping ball was played and the Hoops’ defence let the ball bounce no less than four times before Miller applied the finish. This came after Celtic had had two legitimate claims for penalties – Shaun Maloney finding himself in the book for simulation after the second. The Bhoys did finally get a penalty after 25 minutes, and the blue half of Glasgow could have no complaints, as Sasa Papac made a clumsy challenge on Zheng Zhi just inside the area. Aiden McGeady scored from the resulting spot-kick, giving Celtic a fighting chance. Despite some promising opportunities, with Rangers sitting deep in the second half, Celtic failed to draw level and with their uncertain showings in Europe, perhaps Tony Mowbray’s inexperience at this level is beginning to show. It was a much needed three points for Rangers, a first win in four and crucially closed the gap at the top to just a point.

The day before, Hibernian and Dundee United met at Easter Road with both sides playing for the chance to go second, if only for 22 hours. The teams have looked the most likely to offer any sort of challenge to the Old Firm this season, after both enjoying some good form in September. After a surprise loss at Hamilton, Hibs had secured a home victory to St Johstone and an impressive 3-1 win at Motherwell. New manager John Hughes has made some shrewd acquisitions, including the capture of former Sunderland striker Anthony Stokes, who scored twice on his home debut against St Johstone. As for Dundee United, a hard earned point at Celtic was followed by defeat at home to Motherwell, followed by a 3-2 win in Perth against St Johnstone, setting up a tasty looking encounter in Edinburgh.

The points were shared in the end in a game greatly influenced by some severe weather conditions. With a strong wind behind them in the first half, Hibs played some excellent football and were deservedly ahead at half-time, thanks to a fine solo goal from Marouane Zemmama. The Hibees should have put the game beyond United, dominating the first period and forcing ex-Manchester City goalkeeper Nicky Weaver into some good saves. Dundee United began the second half stronger however, but spurned their best chances. They struck, just as Hibs looked like they were beginning to control the game once again, as Andy Webster capitalized on a defensive lapse.

The point was enough to put Hibs second for a day, but the real beneficiaries of this result were probably Motherwell, who went joint fourth with a 1-0 win at home to Falkirk. Aberdeen were unbeaten in the month of September, enjoying a win over St Mirren and securing a point against Rangers, and a draw at Kilmarnock on Saturday was enough to keep them sixth. Notable by their absence from the top six are Hearts, who have had a run of indifferent form since the season’s beginning. Following a draw with St Johnstone, the signs were they were on the road to recovery, while wins over Kilmarnock and Hamilton were interspersed by their narrow and perhaps undeserved defeat to Celtic. However, they were beaten at the weekend by a St Mirren side, who leapt over them into seventh place. Hearts had two efforts cleared off the line before Jose Goncalves headed them into a first half lead. Steven Thomson had equalized for the Saints before half-time and midway through the second half, an excellent Craig Dargo strike secured the points for St Mirren. Many pundits’ favourites for the drop, the Paisley club are now just two points from the top six and are the early season’s overachievers.

A winless Falkirk find themselves at the foot of the table, clearly struggling to cope with the loss of former manager John Hughes. The Bairns form mirrored that of Rangers, only managing 0-0 draws throughout September followed by defeat to Motherwell at the weekend. Goal scoring is a problem and Falkirk have now failed to score in their last four matches. Hamilton have lost their last three games in a row, and hover precariously, just one point above the Bairns and the automatic relegation spot. Perhaps the surprise result of the month was their 2-0 upset of Hibs, but since then the Accies have gone on a dismal run of form. They faced St Johnstone at the weekend, losing 2-0 in a fixture that already had all the hallmarks of a relegation six-pointer. The result meant St Johnstone hoisted themselves off the foot of the table, bypassing the Accies along the way. Sitting tenth, they will be nervously looking over their shoulder, along with a Kilmarnock side in ninth who have not won since the opening day of the season.

Full Results

Saturday 12 September, 2009
Celtic 1-1 Dundee United
Motherwell 0-0 Rangers
St Mirren 1-1 St Johnstone

Sunday 13 September, 2009
Hamilton 2-0 Hibernian

Monday 14 September, 2009
Falkirk 0-0 Aberdeen

Tuesday 15 September, 2009
Hearts 1-0 Kilmarnock

Saturday 19 September, 2009
Aberdeen 1-0 St Mirren
Dundee United 0-1 Motherwell
Hibernian 3-0 St Johnstone
Hamilton 0-0 Falkirk
Kilmarnock 0-0 Rangers

Sunday 20 September, 2009
Celtic 2-1 Hearts

Saturday 26 September, 2009
Falkirk 0-0 Kilmarnock
Hearts 2-1 Hamilton
Motherwell 1-3 Hibernian
Rangers 0-0 Aberdeen
St Johnstone 2-3 Dundee United
St Mirren 0-2 Celtic

Saturday 3 October, 2009
Hamiltion 0-2 St Johnstone
Hibernian 1-1 Dundee United
Kilmarnock 1-1 Aberdeen
Motherwell 1-0 Falkirk
St Mirren 2-1 Hearts

Sunday 4 October, 2009
Rangers 2-1 Celtic

Scottish Premier League action round-ups

Month 1 – August, 2009
Month 2 – September, 2009

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