Simply The Rest - The blog that puts up with watching Michael Stewart so that you don't have to.
Celtic 7-0 St Johnstone
Celtic began their quest to crush our hopes and dreams with a routine win over Tommy Wright’s frankly pathetic St Johnstone. Goals from Johnston, Christie (x3), Ntcham, Edouard and Griffiths did the job. Hopefully Cluj give them more of a game during the week, ahead of their trip to Fir Park on Saturday lunchtime.
As for St Johnstone - dearie me. Who would have said a team starting Ricky Foster and Michael O’Halloran in 2019 would struggle? They look in desperate need of reinforcements, and appear to be weighing up a deal for either Stevie ‘3 goals last season, two of which were penalties’ May or ex-Rangers youth Kane Hemmings. Either striker could not possibly be worse than O’Halloran so good luck to them on that front.
Hibernian 1-0 St Mirren
Hibs warmed up for next Sunday’s trip to Ibrox with a 1-0 win secured by way of a late goal from Cardonald’s least favourite son, Scott Allan. They initially lined up in a narrow 4-3-3 formation, with Daryll Horgan and new signing Joe Newell supporting Florian Kamberi, but this was so impotent that Steven Whittaker (playing at left back) was their most effective attacking outlet. As they chased a winner, Hibs brought £250,000 striker Christian Doidge off the bench to go to a 4-4-2 diamond, and it was Doidge who eventually set up the goal for Allan with a neat pass. It will be interesting to see how Heckingbottom sets them up next week at Ibrox, but on this evidence there is not a great deal to fear.
When chief executive Tony Fitzpatrick proclaimed St Mirren as a top four side in waiting in June, perhaps he was referring to their expected position in their League Cup group. Despite their shambolic campaign in that competition, the Buddies gave a better account of themselves than was expected at Easter Road. The end of the transfer window may be a better time to judge but as things stand, they look ill-equipped to retain their Premiership status despite having a bright young manager in Jim Goodwin. Recent signing Jonathan Obika (ex-Spurs amongst a plethora of other clubs) has a decent profile and notwithstanding the good chance he missed at the death he may prove a useful addition up front. İlkay Durmuş, a Turkish left winger picked up from the Austrian Bundesliga, gave a good account of himself here and may be one to watch for the season ahead.
Livingston 0-0 Motherwell
Motherwell belied their tag as favourites to break into the top 6 (and ruined my coupon into the bargain) with a drab draw at the Toni Macaroni Arena. Having failed to take their League Cup form into the league, it is likely that the Steelmen’s season will be a case of waiting for David Turnbull - and until then there is nothing to be done.
Livingston started the most difficult second season since The Wire as they mean to go on - being very hard to beat on their utter midden of a park. Having lost key players in Liam Kelly, Craig Halkett, Declan Gallagher and Ryan Hardie you would have to imagine they will be in a relegation scrap from the off this season, and therefore will probably be happier with the point than Motherwell.
Ross County 3-0 Hamilton Academical
Will this finally be the year that Hamilton, heretobefore the cockroaches of the Scottish Premiership, get relegated? On the evidence of Saturday’s trip to Dingwall – quite possibly. Brian Rice’s latest bunch of regens fell to a 3-0 defeat at newly promoted Ross County. Hamilton’s best chance of safety is hoping that there is a team in the league that is even more laughably bad than them - an approach that has worked well so far, so fair play to them.
As for Ross County, Steven Ferguson and Stuart Kettlewell made a good start at proving themselves to be the finest joint managers since me and my wee brother guided Rangers to Champions League glory in Championship Manager 01/02. Despite losing their best player from last season in Jamie Lindsay, and having a team largely made up of players that have previously failed at this level, they looked good while walloping Accies with goals from Joe Chalmers, Billy McKay and Ross Stewart.
Aberdeen 3-2 Hearts
The last game of the weekend proved to be the best, as the lead changed hands three times before Aberdeen eventually ran out 3-2 winners over Hearts at Pittodrie. Sam Cosgrove scored another double, taking his tally for the season to 8 already, which is a bafflingly high return for a man that only looked vaguely familiar with the principles of association football prior to November last season. I don’t want to consider the fact that he might actually be good, but he might actually be good. On a brighter note, £10m Man Scott McKenna made another uncharacteristic error at the back for Hearts’ second goal - perhaps his rumoured move to QPR will help him iron out these deficiencies under the tutelage of renowned centre-half whisperer Mark Warburton.
Hearts without Steven Naismith are like the Pixies without Kim Deal – dull, drab and watching them makes you wonder why they bother carrying on the charade and don’t just pack it in. Unfortunately for the Jambos Naismith was only fit enough to start on the bench here, but his cameo in the last 25 minutes was enough to briefly shift the game into Hearts’ favour. Goals from Naismith and erstwhile Rangers transfer target Jamie Walker put Craig Levein’s men 2-1 up. Alas, in the last 10 minutes Hearts’ defence was as organised as Rugby Park’s turnstile operation and they fell to a 3-2 defeat thanks to a Cosgrove penalty and a fine finish from new Aberdeen winger Ryan Hedges.
Next week’s fixtures
Saturday 10th August
Motherwell v Celtic
St Johnstone v Livingston
Hamilton Academical v Kilmarnock
Heart of Midlothian v Ross County
Sunday 11th August
Rangers v Hibernian
St Mirren v Aberdeen