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hislopsoffsideagain last won the day on July 20 2018

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  1. Feel free to do this with Narey's Toepoker if you like, Scotty.
  2. I understand the AGM was last night? I'm surprised that there isn't any talk about it on the forum. Given the less-than-impressive accounts and the recent staff turnover, I was wondering if any interesting info had come out of it?
  3. I know the drainage issues are longstanding and well known, but to be fair the weather has been awful all week and this morning it was like a monsoon when I drove over the bridge. Hard to see how any pitch could cope with this. I also note the forecast is for more rain later so I doubt there will be any chance for it to dry out.
  4. Given the number of points we've thrown away from decent positions this season, I'm pretty okay with boring 1-0 wins like that one. I didn't think we were particularly special but after we took the lead we were the only team that looked like scoring. Morton set out to suffocate us in midfield and stuck to it until about an hour in. Once they went two up top we had to sit a little deeper but we saw it out very comfortably. Our back four (plus McCart until he got injured) were all outstanding. I feel like I should single out Brad McKay for particular praise given his patchy form this season - aside from missing that chance in the first half he was flawless. In an attacking sense you can see that we miss Walsh because his pace allows him to get up to support White. I did think that McDonald looked very classy and it was a shame he got injured. I imagine Robbo would have liked to get Austin on but for having to use up 2 subs for injuries. As an aside, some folk may have noticed that the club were running live audio commentary on the game (with yours truly behind the mic) using Periscope. It was kind of a test run so we didn't make much of a deal of it beforehand but I'd be grateful for any feedback from people who did listen in. It's something we're hoping to do at 3pm Saturday games in the future, so all being well we'll try to do it again for the Falkirk game on 30 March.
  5. It's worth noting that players can change squad number mid-season if they haven't played. So just because McCauley has got the no. 8 shirt doesn't mean Beith is away. The official website still lists him as well as McCauley; if he was gone I'm sure he'd just have been deleted.like George Oakley has been. I think it is safe to assume there is far more to this than is in the public domain. If he was still injured, or had picked up a new injury, I'm sure the club wouldn't have been coy about it and it would have been mentioned before now. Might there be personal issues here instead? I'm going to assume that there's a good reason for the lack of info here.
  6. I thought I might feel a bit less angry about the end of that game after I'd slept on it. Nope, turns out I'm just as angry. We've led in sixteen of our last twenty-seven games - and held onto that lead in just eight. That's a dreadful record, and even more so because it's the same pattern again and again. We sit deeper and deeper, we look nervous in possession, we make bad decisions, and we give away goals through individual errors. Some of it - Chalmers' idiotic shot from distance in the 90th minute when he had an easy pass on - is either players being panicky or just plain thick. This isn't a team of kids; they really should be capable of keeping their heads under pressure. Other bits such as the substitutions are a coaching issue. Either accept you're under siege and bring on a defender (McHattie at LB with Tremarco going more central) to deal with it properly, or bring on a player with fresh legs who will at least cover a lot of ground, chase the ball and maybe offer a counterattack threat (Austin or MacGregor). For the love of god, don't bring on a central midfielder with the turning circle of a bus who neither protects the defence nor offers any quality in possession. It does us no favours at all. And yet every bloody time Robbo seems to think bringing Trafford on will protect our lead. What's did Einstein claim the definition of insanity was again? I didn't think we were all that great last night, but we were much better than County. The problem is that I can't see County being that lousy next week, whereas it's very easy to see us being our own worst enemy yet again.
  7. The article you speak of is here: https://nareystoepoker.blogspot.com/2018/12/in-defence-of-liam-polworth.html And you appear to have done your best to misrepresent it. Anyone reading this can tell that the link to Iniesta is quite obviously tongue-in-cheek. I was comparing how elsewhere skilful players are lauded for what they do, whereas in Polworth's case his good bits (his assist for Walsh's goal, his incredible assists record last season, even that nutmeg of Billy King by his own corner flag) rarely get any praise whereas every mistake he makes comes under the spotlight. And the 'neanderthal' description was not used as a reference to the MOTM award (though the people sitting around me were not booing the award because it was 'bizarre', because they were making abusive comments about Polworth at the time too). It was a reference at the end of the article to those who abused his family earlier in the year, who slag him off every week regardless of what he does, who are making him a scapegoat for the team's - and the club's - ongoing struggles. And there are too many of them at home games. Frankly, anyone who thinks that booing their own player will actually improve his performance is not very bright. As for 'just desserts', I'm not sure what that even means? Put Polworth in a team with a centre-forward who shows any intelligence whatsoever in his off-the-ball movement (we certainly don't have one in our squad currently) and watch him fly. I'm fed up of seeing him driving into the final third with the ball and looking for a killer pass to play, only for his teammates to be tightly marked and either making the same runs they have done all game or just not running at all. And when he is either tackled or tries to force a pass that isn't on it's him who gets the blame every time instead of his attackers.
  8. I would strongly agree with those who have said that our unbeaten run has helped mask big problems with the squad - problems that were laid bare for all to see on Saturday. First there is the defence. We have been unlucky at left-back with Tremarco injured and then Calder (correctly) being punted. McCart looks solid enough defensively but offers no attacking threat at all there. On the other side Rooney is as erratic as QOS fans said he would be. His attacking play has improved and he offers a set-piece threat but lapses like the one that led to Falkirk's second goal are all too frequent. Brad McKay is going through a dreadful spell of form too. Add in a return of the yips for Ridgers in the last two games and you have a backline that are conceding too many cheap goals, all too often when we are on top as well. At the other end, we've regressed right back to where we were a year ago. The midfield are badly hindered by the lack of pace, movement and holdup play from whoever is playing up front. We seemed to have solved the problem when we got in Austin but he's had a rotten season so far. White (too slow, doesn't win enough against smaller CBs, poor in front of goal) and Oakley (fouls defenders too often, too predictable with his movement) put in typical performances against Falkirk, though at least Oakley got a goal. I think our midfield setup is pretty good but too often Welsh, Walsh, Polworth and Doran got possession in decent areas and didn't have anyone to play the killer ball to - the exception being the opening goal. Our Plan B is to go 4-4-2, which we did for the second half of this game and against Morton too. But then our midfield play breaks down, we only have Walsh as a natural wide player and Doran is a fish out of water as second striker...but White and Oakley are a dreadful partnership. But what else can you do when you only have two senior outfield players on the bench? And therein lies the biggest issue of all. Our squad depth is pitiful. Sure, we had four players out injured this weekend but should we really be down to the bare bones. Our failure to augment the team with loan players is bizarre - just look at the impact Zak Rudden and Aidan Keena have had against us in recent weeks. We have signed only one loan player since Robbo came in - Matthew Elsdon. At one point in February I believe we were the only SPFL team (out of 42!) who didn't have a player in on loan. We can still finish fourth, but to do so we need reinforcements, up front at least.
  9. The club have confirmed he has been dismissed. The right decision, in my opinion.
  10. Falkirk at least have an excuse to change goalkeeper Sending out new signing Prince Buaben with his name spelt 'BURBAN' on the back of his shirt really doesn't help dispel the general feeling of incompetence surrounding Falkirk at the moment. But in the hostile Cappielow atmosphere, stoked by Morton's feelings of betrayal towards Ray McKinnon, the Bairns gave as good as they got in the first half; whilst Gary Oliver hit the post for the hosts, Zak Rudden - who looks like a real prospect - should have scored for Falkirk. Sadly it all went wrong in the second period. Too often this season Leo Fasan has cost his team goals (not that he's the only one) but the keeper had a terrible moment of madness as Michael Tidser raced through on goal. Had he charged out he might have got to the ball first, but instead he hesitated and then found himself outwith his penalty area as Tidser got control of the ball. The seasoned midfielder did the clever thing by taking it round the goalie, who brought him down and earned an inevitable red card. It was curious that McKinnon claimed afterwards that experienced ref John Beaton had called it a handball - it clearly was a foul, but not a handball, and Fasan certainly didn't help himself by looking as guilty as a puppy sitting next to a pile of poo. After that it was a siege until Bob McHugh finally nicked a deserved winner for the home side. Fasan's upcoming suspension should mean that David Mitchell, who made some decent saves in relief, should finally get his chance to stake a claim. It will be interesting to see if there is a sharp drop in the number of cheap goals conceded as a result. Billy Mckay is firing on all cylinders Josh Mullin justifiably got the plaudits for a terrific - and ultimately decisive - solo goal in Dingwall. It was Mullin's sixth goal since moving north in the summer and if the wideman has any regrets about leaving high-flying Livingston it isn't showing. Mullin's exploits did somewhat overshadow those of County's other goalscorer. Billy Mckay's opener was a lovely snapshot half-volley into the top corner, the instinctive finish of an on-form striker. And that is what Mckay is. He has scored five in his last three games now and looks increasingly like the forward who used to score for fun in Inverness...and his teammates now seem capable of creating chances for him to feast on. If the Northern Irishman is indeed back to his best, he will score a hatful this season and get his team promoted in the process. You can't miss Lyndon Dykes It's hard to miss Lyndon Dykes at the best of times now that the Australian has turned himself into a peroxide blonde, but the Queen of the South man drew attention for plenty of other reasons at East End Park. Best known as a forward, Dykes has increasingly been used in central midfield this season and the combination of size, strength and speed that he offers in that area is quite scary - even more so as he gets more familiar with the position. On a day where the Doonhamers sat in and frustrated the Pars for long periods, Dykes did a great job breaking up play...no more so than to set up the visitors' smash-and-grab winner for Josh Todd by winning the ball back with a shoulder-barge on Malaury Martin which was simply filthy. It would be easy to be overshadowed by Stephen Dobbie but in both looks and actions Dykes is very hard to miss. Partick Thistle need to find goals from somewhere The figure in the dugout may have changed, but it was the same old story for Partick Thistle on their travels - a fifth consecutive league defeat away from Firhill that leaves them third from bottom and just two points better off than their conquerors Alloa. Thistle have scored three times in those games - but all were consolation goals in defeats at Dundee United and Inverness. In fact it's one win in seven in all competitions and the lack of confidence was plain to see at the Recreation Ground. A goal threat would help a bit. Thistle's forwards have a total of one league goal between them this season and Miles Storey, who has started all ten of their league games, remains barren. The introduction at last of Souleymane Coulibaly, who made his debut on Saturday as a sub, brings some hope; admittedly, the Ivorian looked really rusty but with Storey looking like a lost cause and Kris Doolan possibly a fading force Thistle need him to get up to speed quickly if they are to salvage their season. Laszlo might actually have left Dundee United in decent shape Csaba Laszlo will not be mourned in the slightest by supporters of Dundee United, but his legacy may prove a bit less toxic than expected. The Hungarian probably wouldn't have got the best out of them, but his last two signings have made a real difference to the Terrors at both ends of the pitch. Rachid Bouhenna has looked solid at centre-back and will only improve with more game time, while Pavol Safranko has impressed up front, keeping Nicky Clark and Craig Curran out of the team. His aerial prowess showed up again with a bullet header to score against Caley Thistle and he did a great job of leading the line alone again - which in turn allows United to play a bunch of creative midfielders who can provide him with ammunition. The Slovakian may be the best thing Laszlo ever did for United, though it will be Robbie Neilson who reaps the benefits. Lawrie Spence has ranted and spouted his ill-informed opinions on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly. View the full article
  11. For those of us bored to tears by Celtic's seven consecutive and pretty much unchallenged titles, and who grew up during the era of Rangers' nineties nine in a row, the current Scottish Premiership table makes for good reading. League Table Scottish Premiership Team P GD Pts 1 Hearts 8 8 19 2 Hibernian 8 13 17 3 Celtic 8 9 16 4 Kilmarnock 8 6 16 5 Livingston 8 3 15 6 Rangers 8 10 14 7 Aberdeen 8 2 12 8 St Johnstone 8 -11 8 9 Hamilton 8 -10 6 10 Motherwell 8 -6 5 11 St Mirren 8 -13 4 12 Dundee 8 -11 3 Hearts lost at Ibrox last time out but they're still top, and with Hibernian just behind them. The SPFL are going to have a real headache after the split this season, as they work out when to schedule the Edinburgh derby title decider. I jest, I jest. There are thirty league games left. That's plenty of time for a return to the status quo. It's just a blip. Or is it? Steve Clarke celebrated a year as Kilmarnock manager this week. Remembering they were bottom of the league when he took over in October 2017 - and had won their first league game of the season only two days before, under caretaker management - I went and looked at his stats for those 12 months in charge. Kilmarnock's league record under Steve Clarke: Played 37 Won20 Drawn 9 Lost 8 Scored 55 Conceded 41 69 points That is really rather outstanding https://t.co/9QEO6UrXGw — Narey's Toepoker (@Nareystoepoker) October 14, 2018 You've got to say that's pretty impressive. For comparison, his three predecessors (Lee McCulloch, Lee Clark and Gary Locke) won 21 league games between them...out of 99. Clarke is the first Kilmarnock manager with a win percentage above 45% since Willie Waddell, who led them to their only title in 1964-65. Then for interest, I thought I would compare Clarke's record between October 2017 and now with other clubs. Points since Steve Clarke became Kilmarnock manager a year ago: Celtic 75 Hibernian 71 Kilmarnock 69 Rangers 67 Aberdeen 62 Hearts 56 (NB note how well Hibs have done, too!)— Narey's Toepoker (@Nareystoepoker) October 14, 2018 That's over a 37 game period, so not quite a full league season's worth. But that is quite a big sample size. And in that sample, Killie have more points than everyone except Celtic...and, er, Hibs. Hibs? Yeah. Because it turns out Hibs have been terrific too. For a whole year - in 2018 they have lost only three league games, away at Celtic, Hearts and Livingston. Despite losing John McGinn in August they've kept going and their 6-0 annihilation of Hamilton Accies was frighteningly good. A league table for the whole of 2018 so far would look like this: Hibernian 49 Kilmarnock 49 (played 1 game extra) Celtic 47 Rangers 44 Aberdeen 42 Hearts 38 Heck, Hibs have scored fifty league goals than anyone else - only Rangers (fifty-two) have more - and have the joint best goal difference (with Celtic, +25). That isn't a blip, not at all. That's sustained success. And you know, it's actually Hearts who are top of the league. Of course, as I stated earlier, there's plenty of time for things to reset to the default. Celtic have such an advantage both in quality and depth and over a whole season that tends to shine through. And in resource terms, Aberdeen, Hearts, Hibs and Kilmarnock aren't even fighting at the same weight as Rangers, let alone their neighbours. But the conditions for a diddy team title challenge have not been this favourable for a long, long time. Both Celtic and Rangers have to battle on multiple fronts because of their Europa League progress. Aside from international weeks, neither have a free midweek until just before Christmas. With Rangers still a bit short on numbers and Brendan Rodgers seeming to lack trust in his backup players, there's a real chance of fatigue setting in. And whilst their wage bills are dwarved by those at the other end of the M8, both Edinburgh clubs have put together teams that are far closer in quality to Celtic's for a long, long time. Sure, part of that is down to Celtic stagnating a bit, but most of it is due to the excellent work down by Hearts and Hibs. So whilst it is understandable that Celtic are still massive odds-on favourites - 1/4 with most bookies - to win the title, since when has there even been a 20% chance that they wouldn't do so? Miracles do happen. And, even better, perhaps a miracle is no longer needed for there to be a proper title battle in Scotland. Lawrie Spence has ranted and spouted his ill-informed opinions on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly. View the full article
  12. The natural instinct of the football fan is of course knee-jerk reactivity. A big win? Everyone's a genius. An embarrassing defeat? Sack the manager, drop everyone and play the youth team. So when my gut feeling after a result is as black and white as that, I try to repress it. Resist the urge to put out a Twitter call for heads on a plate, I tell myself. Sleep on it, then re-evaluate the situation the next day. But after a performance like Scotland's in Tel Aviv, the lust for bloodshed has barely weakened after a good night's kip. One hopes that Alex McLeish gave Allan McGregor a big hug after the game, because the Rangers goalkeeper made a string of saves to keep the score down. That was the sort of awful performance that can get a manager sacked, but luckily for McLeish the 2-1 result doesn't look dreadful on paper. Make no mistake, there are plenty of parallel universes out there where Israel scored five or six and he got his jotters before boarding the plane home. It's safe to say there are none in which Scotland kept a clean sheet and returned with three points. Scotland were an absolute shambles in every area of the pitch, but nowhere more so than in defence. McLeish has hung his hat on playing a back three, sticking with it through friendly defeat after friendly defeat, but it is clear that practice has not made perfect. In fact he is committing the cardinal sin of management - making the team far less than the sum of their parts. Out of the back five that started (and Scott McKenna who came on at half-time), only John Souttar has much experience playing in a back three and even he doesn't do so every week. If it is all about shoehorning both Andrew Robertson and Kieran Tierney into the team (I'm not convinced it is, as I think Tierney certainly has the tools to play centre-back) then as Robertson himself stated post-match they are both being played out of position and struggling because of that. Robertson and fellow full-back Stephen O'Donnell both look completely uncertain of their positioning, with both constantly caught too high up the pitch or sitting far too deep, unable to find a happy medium. At least Robertson's pace and ability often got him out of trouble; O'Donnell had the sort of night that could lead to him being taken somewhere safe where he can be researched by 'top men'. (This may be the first and last time I try to make a Raiders Of The Lost Ark joke in a blog) Further up the pitch there is plenty of reason for concern too. The 3-5-2 system pretty much makes it impossible to fit two of the country's most on-form players, Ryan Fraser and James Forrest, into the lineup as there is no obvious place for a wide forward. It is also far from the best way to utilize the country's best striker by miles, Leigh Griffiths. Talking of Griffiths, his decision to pull out of the squad was on the face of it quite troubling, and I bet I wasn't the only person who had a few cynical thoughts when Fraser, hung out to dry as a left wing-back in the friendly against Belgium last month, withdrew too. Given that James MacArthur and Robert Snodgrass have made the curious decision to step back from international football, one worries this is a sign of players railing against the manager. For all his faults, Gordon Strachan was remarkably good at keeping the players onside even when they weren't playing. The number of call-offs at the moment feels reminiscent of the Burley and Levein eras. Those really, really weren't good eras. The big factor in Big Eck's favour right now is that Scotland are actually still top of their Nations League group, and will surely win it with a win and a draw from the final two games. And given that those games are next month there is no way the plug will be pulled on him right now. The flipside is that failure in those matches really does put him in an untenable position. With Scotland certain to be seeded third or lower for the European Championship qualifiers, there is a decent chance they might be drawn in a group where second place would be extremely difficult to achieve. Therefore they need the option of qualifying via the Nations League. Besides, whilst Albania and Israel are no mugs, failing to finish top of a group with those two, with the squad currently available to him, would be catastrophic. Moreover, McLeish has no capital at all with the Tartan Army. They have long memories and remember all to well how he used the Scotland job the first time round to rebuild his reputation and then jumped ship for Birmingham City at the first opportunity. And of course he wasn't the first choice to replace Strachan, only getting the post after Stewart Regan botched the pursuit of Michael O'Neill; McLeish's appointment stank of panic back then and time has only reinforced that view. Of course, he wasn't appointed under the watch of current Chief Executive Ian Maxwell, who could well use that as his pretext to make a change in the winter if next month proves as farcical as last night. If McLeish isn't in 'shoogly peg' territory already, then he should be. Lawrie Spence has ranted and spouted his ill-informed opinions on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly. View the full article
  13. Life after Laszlo begins now Dundee United fans had predicted a day like this for a long time. Recent results may have been acceptable, but sooner or later a half-decent opponent would rip up the facade and show them for what they really were. Whilst Ross County were far better than 'half-decent', in truth they only needed to be two things - professional and ruthless - to annihilate United on their own patch. Whether bad attitude or low confidence (or both) were to blame, this was the sort of result and performance that gets managers the sack...and so it proved. Chairman Michael Martin might have pulled the trigger early enough to save their season, what with twenty-nine league games still to play. However by waiting till the end of September, and backing Csaba Laszlo until then with whatever funds he requested, his successor faces the tricky task of moulding a coherent team out of the bloated squad Laszlo has left behind. Given 14 players were signed in the last transfer window and further funds will have been used up to 'mutually consent' the Hungarian, there's surely not much cash left lying around. And with the failure of both Laszlo and Ray McKinnon to get this side looking like anywhere near the sum of their parts, Arabs will fear that whomever sits in the dugout is somewhat irrelevant, and United are simply a broken club that needs overwhelming change in every facet. Injuries limit Johansson's impact at Morton Talking of managers inheriting someone else's squad, we come on to Jonatan Johansson at Morton, whose second game in charge, and first at Cappielow, ended in a catastrophic 5-1 defeat to Ayr United. And yet in plenty of parallel universes - ones where Michael Tidser either scored the penalty at 1-1 to give Morton the lead or handed responsibility over as he was clearly injured at that point - Morton would have won the game. Johansson actually has a decent nucleus to work with; the trouble is that there isn't much else. The loss of Tidser and veteran midfielder Chris Millar to injury in the second half led to an almighty collapse in which Ayr scored four times in the last 15 minutes. It's the side-effect of the time taken to install Ray McKinnon in the summer, which led to many senior players walking rather than waiting to see if they would get new deals. McKinnon did a remarkable job to build as good a squad as he did, but inevitably there is a lack of depth. And with Tidser and Millar joining striker Denny Johnstone on the treatment table, Johansson's focus now has to be on just getting a team out there rather than introducing his own ideas. It looks like the next little while could be quite a maangerial baptism for the Finn. Aidan Connelly's last chance to shine? One wonders what Aidan Connolly thinks of Andrew Robertson's career progression. The winger, a year younger than Robertson, played with him at Queen's Park and joined Dundee United at exactly the same time. Robertson of course has gone on to play in a Champions League final and become Scotland captain. Connolly drifted out of the United team after Jackie McNamara left and ended up at Raith Rovers, York City and now Dunfermline. His current career high point is scoring the winner in the FA Trophy final. Since returning to Scotland in the summer, Connolly had mostly been utilized only as an impact sub even as the team struggled for form and flair. But he has started the last two games and most crucially popped up with the winner against Partick Thistle on gaelic telly on Friday night. That result could kickstart Dunfermline's season; both they and Connolly, still only 23, will be hoping it can kickstart his too. Queen of the South find success by keeping it Semple Highlights were few and far between at the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium, aside from a fine array of tricks and flicks from elder statesmen Stephen Dobbie and Gary Harkins (the latter's humiliation of Sean Welsh in the second half, where he nutmegged the ICT midfielder but allowed him to catch up with him 20 yards further up the field so he could skin him and leave him on his backside, will live in the memory). Queen of the South set themselves up to defend deep and stifle the home side with Kyle Jacobs man-marking Liam Polworth for long periods, largely eliminating the duo from the game. Despite this, Caley Thistle would still have expected to offer more in attack but their linkup play was utterly ineffective. The main reason for this was an outstanding showing from central defender Callum Sample, on loan from Sheffield United for the season. Only 20 last month and far from fully developed physically, Semple was expected to struggle against the bigger, stronger and more wily Jordan White, but blanketed the target man completely and in the process prevented Inverness from being able to utilize White to hold up and lay off the ball. His positional sense was also on show with a crucial late clearance from his own six yard box. Whilst Dobbie justifiably is hogging the headlines, there are signs that the Doonhamers are quietly developing a very useful young defender. Alloa need to find goals from somewhere Jim Goodwin was not in a magnanimous mood on Saturday evening, to say the least; he derided Falkirk for "embarrassing" time-wasting and was also furious that Falkirk's second goal had been given. There was certainly grounds for anger about the latter, as referee Steven Kirkland was well positioned to see Zak Rudden knock the ball over the line with his left arm and yet somehow didn't see it (the Falkirk TV footage, almost mockingly, shows the GoPro footage of the indiscretion). That said, Falkirk were deserved winners as Alloa offered very little again in an attacking sense. They now have three league goals this season - a fortunate deflection and a penalty at Inverness, and a direct free kick against Dundee United - which is a pretty dire record. They may still be above Falkirk on goal difference, but it feels like only a matter of time until that changes and the Wasps end up in bottom spot. Lawrie Spence has ranted and spouted his ill-informed opinions on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly. View the full article
  14. Does a season go by without Scottish fans getting angry about a cup semi-final kickoff time? Well, for the upcoming League Cup semi-finals we have two clubs, and their supporters, up in arms. Aberdeen face a Sunday lunchtime kickoff at Hampden against Rangers. Hearts have a 1945 start the very same evening to take on Celtic. Neither are happy campers. The Dons have certainly been here before. Their issue is not really the distance - it's 150 miles from Pittodrie to Hampden according to Google Maps - though that would mean pretty early starts for those travelling by car. The problem is public transport, or the lack of it. The first train from Aberdeen to Glasgow that day gets in at 1214, 14 minutes after kickoff. Though given the capacity of a train runs in the hundreds and the Red Army can be expected to number several thousand at least, a single train that ran on time wouldn't make a massive impact. Hearts complain that the evening kickoff will also prevent fans from attending - for example plenty of families are likely to be put off by the prospect of a late trip back from Glasgow on a school night. It should however be remembered that up until a few years ago the League Cup semi-finals were played in midweek, mind... There are also lots of concerns being raised about the prospect of both games being played on the same day. But crucially the police seem cool with it. Since this is the same police who won't let fans drink on trains and have previously predicted a catastrophe before a Hogmanay Old Firm game, their agreement with the move is rather reassuring. After all, if the presence of four sets of fans in the same vicinity on the same day is a recipe for a riot, should we not be spending more time bemoaning the fact that we can't trust said fans to behave? The fixtures have been scheduled in this way for two reasons. Firstly, both Rangers and Celtic are playing on the Thursday night in the Europa League. Whatever some say, it wouldn't be fair to have another game within 48 hours. Frankly, if Aberdeen had made the Europa League Group Stages and been forced to play on the Saturday they would be raging about it. Secondly, it'll be because BT Sport, and their cash, say so. And that's the nature of it. If the clubs don't want awkward kickoff times then they can watch the TV money disappear. BT aren't going to put one of these matches on against an English Premier League game at the same time because even a decent number of Scottish fans would rather tune in to (checks schedule) Manchester United v Everton. And both Aberdeen and Hearts know this. They are also members of the SPFL, the organization that has made this decision. They therefore have the power to demand changes, and they also have the power to try and vote off members of the board - *cough* Neil Doncaster *cough* who don't accede to their wishes. Last year both Aberdeen and Hearts had representatives on the SPFL board. Did they not have any opportunities to deal with this issue in all that time? The cynical part of me - which is pretty much all of me - suspects a lot of the whinging from Aberdeen and Hearts is just playing to the gallery. There is a good chance both clubs sell their allocations for the ties, or at least sell as many tickets as they would have done for a 3pm Saturday kickoff. Certainly the TV cash will make up any shortfall. The sympathy for their supporters may be genuine, but publicly using words like "appalling" certainly keeps them sweet and gains a few column inches. That's not to say I agree with this plan. There are bound to be a few twits at the first game who wreck some seats in a terrible rage because "the referee is clearly an orange/fenian (delete as applicable) b*****d" which will be a headache for the second match. I'm curious as to how the long-derided Hampden surface will hold up with two matches on the same day. And there is a far better option available, which was to play the second game the following weekend instead. And don't forget the traditional PR cockup from the SPFL. All of this controversy was totally predictable, after all. Any vaguely competent organization would have acknowledged these issues when the announcement was made, explain the decision-making and take control of the narrative. And the slogan 'Semi Final Sunday' rolls off the tongue so easily. But some things never change. However, as long as supporters keep turning up for games and subscribing to the TV channels then this is going to keep happening and nothing will change. And deep down we all know that, really. But that's okay because this at least allows football fans to do what they enjoy doing best - feeling aggrieved! Lawrie Spence has ranted and spouted his ill-informed opinions on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly. View the full article
  15. Another week, another strange Ross County lineup Are two heads really better than one? That's a reasonable question to ask of Ross County's co-managers after yet more chopping and changing to the starting lineup did more harm than good. This time it was the benching of Iain Vigurs, so often able to control Championship games on his own, and Josh Mullin, the team's only quick wide player. It was no surprise that County were too narrow yet unable to dominate in the centre of the pitch; for the first three quarters of the match Inverness were more likely to score. With the duo introduced as substitutes the home side finished far more strongly and could have snatched a winner, but it was ultimately too little too late. Whichever one of Stuart Kettlewell and Steven Ferguson is currently choosing the tactics needs to admit that it's the other one's turn. If it's both of them together, then they need to get a grip because they are holding back their players with strange decisions like these. (Edit 26/9/18 - at the risk of sounding cryptic, it has subsequently become clear that there were good reasons for County's lineup decision on Saturday which reflect rather better on Stuart Kettlewell and Steven Ferguson. So feel free to ignore what I wrote above) Dunfermline need a decent keeper Lee Robinson's CV probably has 'journeyman' stamped on it. Only at Queen of the South, where he spent three seasons as first choice keeper over two spells, has he ever really settled. And the Doonhamers dumped him a year ago, despite him being goalkeeping coach as well. He only ended up in Dunfermline in January as an emergency signing because of Sean Murdoch's injury. As I said, emergency. And yet he is still here, because Murdoch is still out. The Pars have another goalkeeper in Cammy Gill, but the 20 year old has been stuck on the bench since Robinson's arrival despite being highly rated. Perhaps Gill's time has come. Robinson hasn't inspired much confidence; his nadir came with a dreadful blunder that gifted Morton an equalizer and denied Dunfermline their first league win since opening day. In truth, Allan Johnston really should have worked harder at reinforcing the position in the summer. Murdoch is hardly an outstanding shot-stopper himself, but Robinson could be the weakest first choice goalie in the Championship. And a club with such aspirations need someone more talented to be their first line of defence. Alloa's resilience won't last forever "I didn't think there was much between the sides. They're a good side but I think we held our own for a part-time team. The difference between the sides was Lawrence Shankland." Jim Goodwin's post-match comments were fair enough, and were meant to be a positive take on another battling effort from Alloa. But it was another battle lost. They remain above Falkirk in the table, but are still winless since their return to the second tier. The yardstick for the Wasps is of course last season's dreadful Brechin City team. Alloa are vastly superior to them in every respect and will certainly finish with a far better record. But even the hardiest team lose confidence eventually if they are being beaten most weeks by opponents with better players and better resources. Goodwin's side have put so much into the opening two months of the season - how much competitive fire have they left for the remaining 30 games, when their situation already looks pretty hopeless? Falkirk's hard work may count for little Ray McKinnon isn't messing about; according to midfielder Paul Paton, Falkirk players are being put through three training sessions a day as the new manager tries to drill them into something vaguely resembling a Championship team (if it's also because they need to build up fitness, that reflects pretty badly on his predecessor). The Bairns were certainly better organized but that was far from sufficient against a pretty ordinary Dundee United side...though it would have helped if Leo Fasan hadn't cocked up for the first goal, or if Deimantas Petravicius hadn't spurned a golden chance for a leveller. The concern remains that organization is not the issue, or at least not the only issue. The club chairman issued a bizarre call to arms this week that reminded fans that there were "more than ninety points still available" as if a promotion challenge was still a possibility. The truth is that Paul Hartley has left McKinnon with a bunch of haddies to pick from. Big changes can't be made until January and even Guardiola himself couldn't make some of these duffers look like professional footballers. And so Falkirk's target has to be eighth, and anything higher is a pipedream. Thistle can't only depend on home comforts Having lost half of their league games so far, it says something about the tightness of this league that Partick Thistle are only four points off top spot. There was plenty of evidence in favour of them being one of the better teams in this league - not least the 18 pass move finished off by Kris Doolan for their first goal. The return of Stuart Bannigan has made an enormous difference and if he can stay fit then Thistle are a much different proposition. However, a push up the table mainly depends on finding some away form. Thistle have maximum points at Firhill and zero elsewhere. Next up is a travel to Dunfermline, before hosting Ross County and Dundee United on their own patch in a game brought forward to an international weekend from a midweek at the end of October. Where Alan Archibald's side are after those three games will tell us a lot more about their prospects. Lawrie Spence has ranted and spouted his ill-informed opinions on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly. View the full article