08 January 2023

Relief for Rangers and Johnson – 5 things we learned in the cinch Premiership

08 January 2023

Rangers’ 2-0 win at Dundee United means Celtic finished the weekend nine points clear of the Light Blues at the top of the cinch Premiership.

After wins for both Glasgow giants, Hibernian, Aberdeen and Livingston and a draw between St Mirren and Hearts in Paisley, here are five things we learned from the weekend’s fixtures.

Rangers take time to warm up again

It was a lacklustre first-half performance by Michael Beale’s side against Dundee United at Tannadice. However, another interval pep-talk made the difference and two goals in just over two minutes from striker Fashion Sakala and midfielder Malik Tillman soon after the restart gave the visitors what in the end was a comfortable win. Rangers went back to nine points behind Celtic in the title race but they could make life easier by starting matches better.

Nisbet eases pressure on Johnson

Hibernian manager Lee Johnson desperately needed a win at Motherwell on the back of a run of nine defeats in 11 matches that had many speculating that he might be on the brink of the sack. His team – led by hat-trick hero Kevin Nisbet – delivered for him in a 3-2 victory at Fir Park that moved them up to seventh and kept them within touching distance of the sides above them in the battle for European football. Johnson has rued the absence of key men throughout a testing start to his reign but he will be hoping the recent return to fitness of Nisbet, Kyle Magennis and Aiden McGeady – all of whom shone at Fir Park – can help Hibs build some momentum after Sunday’s morale-boosting triumph.

Robinson’s star on the rise

Towards the end of last season and even in the early weeks of this one, many St Mirren fans were doubting the wisdom of appointing Stephen Robinson as the replacement for Aberdeen-bound Jim Goodwin. However, the Northern Irishman has emphatically quelled any scepticism by leading the Buddies into the race for Europe and turning their home ground into a fortress. St Mirren are unbeaten in their last 10 games in Paisley and it underlined their current mindset that they were disappointed not to beat third-placed Hearts on Saturday. The 1-1 draw kept Saints within five points of the Jambos with a game in hand ahead of their rematch at Tynecastle on Friday.

Kilmarnock halfway there against Celtic

The Ayrshire side showed they had the blueprint to frustrating the champions when they restricted Ange Postecoglou’s side to one harmless effort at goal in the first 44 minutes at Parkhead. However, the scale of the task facing Derek McInnes and his squad in next Saturday’s Viaplay Cup semi-final was evident after a pass inside wing-back Lewis Mayo allowed Daizen Maeda to set up Jota for the opener. Celtic created a barrowload of chances in the second half and hit the woodwork several times after getting a counter-attack goal in the 51st minute. McInnes will likely try something similar at Hampden and hope his side can hold out for longer.

Ross County’s lack of goals is costly

Malky Mackay’s side went four games without scoring as a 2-0 home defeat by Livingston kept them adrift at the bottom. They have only scored 14 goals in 21 league games and only taken one point from six matches. Livingston boss David Martindale admitted Bruce Anderson’s finishing was the only difference between the teams. “Let’s be honest, Ross County had a couple of chances they should have taken,” he added. “They hit one at our goalkeeper with no real power and another where (David) Cancola chops but doesn’t hit the target. Wee Brucie, in contrast, had three chances – one was a really good save by Ross Laidlaw late on but he sticks two away.”

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox