Tuesday, December 9, 2008

SPL Wrap

Welcome back to Scotland, where it's mighty cold out. How cold? So cold that the main story from this weekend isn't about Rangers scoring a touchdown on Hamilton, or Celtic thinking they were playing a Euro match. Instead the story is all about frozen pitches, and who screwed up more.

Motherwell and Kilmarnock both had matches called off on Saturday because part of their respective pitches were frozen. The SPL has launched an inquiry to find if either of these clubs is at fault. You see, SPL rules stipulate that clubs must have working undersoil heating to keep these kind of things from happening. Motherwell, at the very least, appear to be in the clear. Fir Park had their undersoil heat switched on overnight, and took the additional precaution of placing covers over the pitch as well. It wasn't good enough, though, as the referee decided that areas around one goal mouth were too hard to play.

Kilmarnock, on the other hand, did not turn the heating on at Rugby Park. Not willing to admit wrong-doing, they have affixed the blame to faulty long-term weather forecasts. Not that I am an expert, but I have watched the local news for decades now. If there is one thing I know, it's that the short-term forecasts are more accurate than the long-term ones. Perhaps Killie should put away the Scottish equivalent of the Farmer's Almanac and invest in a radio.

I will admit to a personal vendetta here against Kilmarnock. Now that Gretna has gone tits up, Kilmarnock-Aberdeen is the longest road trip in Scottish football. Killie and the SPL refused to run an Aberdeen request for an earlier pitch inspection, and, as a result, fans from Aberdeen had to already be on the road to make kick-off by the time the game was postponed. The team for Aberdeen was already in town, though, so at least there's that.

Rangers 7-1 Hamilton Academical
Hamilton went up early at Ibrox, then sat down, apparently. Hamilton came out in an unwise 4-3-3, determined to play their hosts with attacking football, instead of sitting back. The visitors went ahead through James McArthur in the 2nd minute after keeper Allan McGregor misplayed a cross. After that, it got ugly. The only thing that broke the monotony of Rangers' scoring was a red card for the Accies' Martin Canning in the 51st. Kris Boyd, who almost quit Rangers over the summer like he quit Scotland, had a hat-trick for the Blues.

Hibernian 2-0 Celtic
Hopefully, you have seen the video of Artur Boruc woefully misplaying a shot from the center circle. If you have not, it's here. That was the first of two goals for Hibs on Sunday, who put an end to Celtic's 12-game SPL win streak. John Rankin was the longshot hero for Hibs, while Colin Nish got in the way of Rankin's volley to claim the other. Methinks this will be the last time Wee Gordon Strachan decides to sit Samaras and Nakamura in the same game.

Inverness CT 1-3 Dundee United
SPL's northern-most club had no problem with a frozen pitch, though they may have wished that they did. The Tangerines were always on the attack, though it did not pay off until the second half. Jon Daly was the United man to break through, breaking the deadlock on 51 minutes. Craig Conway claimed the second and David Robertson got the third for the visitors with 19 minutes remaining. Caley pulled one back two minutes later, scored by Adam Rooney, but could not find thier way back into the match. United's win move them level on points with a Hearts squad who could not play their match against Motherwell. Dundee United do get sole claim of third place by goal differential.

Falkirk 1-2 St Mirren
St Mirren move off the bottom with the away win. Even with only four matches to cover, I can't bring myself to say anything nice about the lower-half clash.

The Table through 17 rounds (Team; Points; GD)
Celtic; 43; +23
Rangers; 39; +28
Dundee United; 29; +7
Hearts*; 29; 0
Hibernian; 23; -1
Aberdeen*; 21; -1
Kilmarnock*; 19. -8
Falkirk; 18; -4
Inverness CT; 17; -8
Motherwell*; 17; -8
St Mirren; 15; -10
Hamilton; 14; -18
teams with an asterisk have a game in hand

It should be noted that this is the de facto halfway point of the season before the SPL split. The split occurs after 33 games, when each team has played the others three times each. The top six teams then meet each other in a round robin to determine European slots, while the bottom six do the same to figure the lone relegation spot. Points are cumulative from throughout the season, and no club from the bottom six can move up into the top half, regardless of how many points they have.

It's a headache. Just let me think about it, okay?


The Fan's Attic said...

I'm so glad you didn't write this in your Chris Berman voice...I can just imagine it. [shudders]

ü75 said...

Great. Now I just read the opening paragraph in Berman voice. Thanks.

jjf3 said...

The weird table setup is something that I totally forget about each year until the split happens...

the weird part to me is that I don't see any strategic advantage. Were I Killie, I would have preferred to play Aberdeen with them subconsciously assuming Hibs would lose to Celtic, rather than having them now know that the game is a do-or-die match in terms of which half of the table they end up in...