There were four matches in the Scottish Premiership this evening:
Celtic 3-1 Hamilton Academincal
It was a reasonably straight-forward win for the Hoops as Brendan Rodgers’ side remain firmly in command at the top of the Premiership.
Celtic came out of the blocks flying with Nir Bitton having a dig at goal from range after only two minutes, but Gary Woods saved. James Forrest then had a shot blocked before Stuart Armstrong had a shot over the bar within the opening 200 seconds.
Oliver Ntcham fired wide but wasn’t to be denied for long, as the Frenchman slotted past Woods from inside the area, after being set-up by Scott Sinclair, with just 12 minutes on the clock.
Ntcham then tried his luck again but Woods continued to keep the scoreline down with another stop. Then, with their first real foray up the park, Accies equalised. Darian MacKinnon layed the ball off to Danny Redmond who struck from outside the penalty area, leaving Craig Gordon with no chance as Martin Canning’s side shocked Celtic Park.
Odsonne Edouard had a header over the bar following a set-piece before Bitton found his route to goal blocked off this time.
The hosts weren’t to be denied for long, however, with two quickfire goals. Firstly, James Forrest put the current Scottish Premiership Champions back in front from close-range, shooting past Woods, before, the winger set-up Sinclair who rifled his shot into the net to give the Celts a two-goal lead heading into the break.
Dedryck Boyata had a header blocked just prior to half-time as the sides went in for the interval. Grant Gillespie was swapped out for Giannis Skondras just five minutes into the second-half as Canning’s Lanarkshire side tried to find a way back into the contest.
Danny Redmond tried his luck from range once more but his shot was blocked away this time, before, Edouard shot straight at Woods at the other end.
Armstrong couldn’t hit the target to put the game beyond all doubt, while, Rakish Bingham forced Gordon into his first save of the night, with the Scotland international saving low to his left to deny the Englishman.
Leigh Griffiths came on for Edouard after 68 minutes as Rodgers looked for a new impetus in attack, but, it was the visitors who continued to press forward. Bingham again had a chance, but this time he dragged the shot wide as Hamilton looked threatening.
Greg Docherty fired wide of target with the clock ticking down. Celtic were then forced into a change due to injury, with Boyata being replaced by Croatian centre-back Jozo Simunovic.
Ntcham wanted another pop at goal but Woods once more denied the former Manchester City youngster. A double switch then happened, with Darren Lyon replacing Redmond for the visitors while Jonny Hayes came on for James Forrest.
Bingham was to be replaced late on by teenager Ross Cunningham, but not before he hit the post with his last attempt of the evening which almost brought Accies to within one goal of Celtic.
Hayes forced Woods into a save late on while Griffiths couldn’t find the back on the net as the game came to a close. It was a great fight by the visitors, who gave it their all. Unfortunately for Canning’s side, Brendan Rodgers’ men were too clinical in attack.
Hibernian 1-2 Rangers
Despite not putting in the most convincing of performances, Rangers managed to find a way to win a fourth match in a row, in a hard-fought win away to Hibernian.
It was Graeme Murty’s side who started the stronger, with Alfredo Morelos firing wide before Jason Holt saw a shot blocked.
Martin Boyle came close on 6 minutes for the hosts, but the opener wasn’t to come for another 3 minutes. In this attack, Simon Murray held the ball up well and layed it back to the edge of the area for Lewis Stevenson to shoot right-footed; the 20-yard effort took a slight deflection off Bruno Alves as the ball nestled into the corner of the net past Wes Foderingham.
Josh Windass forced Ofir Marciano into a good save as the Gers tried to hit back instantly. The visitors’ attack took a dent as influential captain Kenny Miller was forced off with an injury, being replaced by Portugese winger, Daniel Candeias.
James Tavernier had a shot from outside the area which drifted wide, before youngster Jamie Barjonas couldn’t find the target either.
Morelos had a header from close-range but it went just wide as the dominance seemed to lie with the visitors. Neil Lennon’s hosts battled their way back into the match though, as they looked to double their lead.
Paul Hanlon drove forward and fired a shot in at goal, but the Hibs captain saw Foderingham palm the ball away to safety. Just a minute later, and Boyle was set free but the speedy winger couldn’t convert when one-on-one with the goalkeeper.
Hanlon had another attempt, this time a header, go past the post while Windass fired harmlessly over the bar. The former Accrington Stanley winger’s next attempt at goal would be much more profitable though.
Jamie Barjonas would fire wide as Rangers kept up the pressure with just five minutes of the opening period remaining. Then a quickfire sucker-punch for Lennon’s side occurred.
With the ball bouncing around in midfield, Jason Holt flicked the ball forward into space for Windass to get on the end of; the Englishman ran into the area before firing across Marciano and into the corner of the net, leaving the Israeli international keeper with no chance.
And, with just seconds left until the interval, Rangers went ahead. Morelos faced up Hanlon before twisting and turning. After making a yard of space, he managed to fire in a shot towards the near post. Inexplicably, Marciano seemed to dive out the way of the shot, with the goalkeeper seemingly at fault as the Hibees fell behind with almost the last touch of the half.
Just six minutes into the second half and Brandon Barker was brought on for striker Oli Shaw. The Manchester City winger came on to the left, with Anthony Stokes taking up a more advanced role in the centre.
Tavernier put in a terrific ball, which looked to have set up Morelos for his second and Rangers’ third, but, somehow, the Colombian nodded the ball across goal rather than tap the ball into the net from 5-yards-out, which allowed Darren McGregor to knock the ball behind for a corner.
From the resultant corner, it was the striker again who had a pop at goal, this time from a tight angle, with the shot hitting the side-netting, in front of the Rangers supporters.
Then, straight up the other end and Barker hit the post with a curling effort, which was inches away from tying up the match at 2-2.
Hanlon again drove forward and after getting the ball back from Stokes, the defender fired high over the bar, not troubling Foderingham this time around.
Barker would once again smash the post, this time the opposite one from his last effort, as Hibs ramped up the pressure on the visitors. This forced the away side into a substitution, with David Bates coming on for Barjonas, as the visitors reverted to a back five.
Barker tried his luck again but the youngster saw his effort go over the bar this time, as time began to run out on the Easter Road club. Eduardo Herrera came on for Morelos with six minutes remaining in Rangers’ final change of the evening.
Steven Whittaker replaced Murray late on, seeing Paul Hanlon go up front in a last-ditch attempt at an equaliser by Lennon. Hibs continued to push forward; John McGinn saw a left-footed shot blocked away for a corner as the game entered the last minute of stoppage time.
Marciano came up from the back as the keeper looked to make amends for his first-half error but the corner was over-hit as it went out for a throw-in.
A massive win for Rangers as they go 6 points ahead of Hibs in the league table, as well as keeping their second place secure on goal difference from Aberdeen. Hibs will be disappointed to have lost their one goal advantage: they were desperately unlucky not to equalise, especially through the invention of Barker.
Partick Thistle 3-2 Motherwell
It was a tense affair at Firhill as Alan Archibald’s side almost threw away their 3-0 half-time lead against Stephen Robinson’s Motherwell.
It was a scrappy opening to the match, with nothing of note to write down until the scoring was opened on 16 minutes. Blair Spittal fired the Jags in front from a direct free-kick, with his right-footed effort flying past the goalkeeper and into the top corner.
Martin Woods dragged a shot wide of target as the hosts got ahead of steam, before they managed to find the back of the net for the second time in just a matter of moments.
Ryan Edwards doubled the advantage of the hosts, slotting the ball home from inside the area after being teed up by Miles Storey, leaving keeper Russell Griffiths once again with no chance.
It took 27 minutes, and 2-0 down, for Well to muster their first shot of the evening, with Ryan Bowman heading over the bar from close range.
Just a minute later and the visitors were to rue their missed chance, with on-loan Hearts forward Conor Sammon finding the net to make it 3-0 to bottom of the table Thistle.
Adam Barton shot wide from range for Archibald’s men, now full of confidence. Then, Charles Dunne headed wide from close-range for Robinson’s men as the Steelmen tried to find a way back into the match.
Andy Rose forced Tomas Cerny into his first save of the evening, but the Czech keeper was up to task as he dived low to gather the ball. Elliot Frear then had an attempt at goal which was off-target, as the visitors ended the half on top, but Partick were the team well in command.
Robinson was quick to ring the changes at the break, with Craig Tanner and Gael Bigirimana coming on for Andy Rose and Liam Grimshaw at the interval.
Eleven minutes into the second-half and once again, the first real chance of that period would find the back of the net. Bowman headed in a Tanner corner to give Motherwell some hope of an unlikely comeback.
Gary Fraser replaced Martin Woods in the middle of the park for the hosts while young winger Ross MacLean came on for Deimantas Petravicius in attack for the Fir Park club.
The momentum swung in to the hands of Motherwell as Bowman forced Cerny into a save before Cedric Kipre saw a header blocked. From the rebound, Tanner fired high and wide from inside the area.
Tanner wouldn’t be denied again, however, as the former Plymouth man fired home from inside the area with eleven minutes to go as Firhill became tense.
Storey dragged a shot wide before Steven Lawless replaced Blair Spittal on the wing for Partick. Storey himself would then make-way for experienced striker Kris Doolan as the game approached injury time.
Tanner had a shot from outside the area blocked, while Frear saw a late header saved by Cerny. Paul McGinn gave Robinson’s side one last chance as he fouled Frear, and from the resultant delivery, Dunne headed the ball well wide to the relief of the home support.
A massive win for Archibald; despite still being bottom of the Premiership, the Jags move within a point of second-bottom Dundee. For Motherwell, it has been a poor couple of weeks for the Steelmen, with Robinson keen for his sides’ fortunes to turn around sooner rather than later.
St Johnstone 0-3 Aberdeen
A convincing win for Aberdeen in Perth saw them keep the heat on second placed Rangers, with the Dons trailing the Glasgow club in second on goal-difference.
Tommy Wright’s side were to start the better, as Murray Davidson saw a shot blocked before smashing the ball against the post in the early stages.
Graeme Shinnie saw two shots blocked by the Saints defence, with Stefan Scougall having a shot drift wide of target in the middle of the two attempts by the Dons captain.
The opener would come just shy of the midway point in the first-half, however, with Adam Rooney slotting past Zander Clark from inside the area, after being assisted by Ryan Christie.
Injury halted the play as Murray Davidson had to leave the field of play. His replacement was Graham Cummins, with the tall striker looking to impose his physicality on to the Aberdeen defence.
Scott McKenna and Christie both had shots blocked within quick succession before Stevie May hit the bar, as he almost doubled the visitors lead against his former employers.
A second goal was soon found though as Kari Arnason headed in a corner at the back-post, with the Icelander putting Derek McInnes’ side firmly in command.
David Wotherspoon saw an attempt at goal blocked before Steven MacLean made Joe Lewis work. The St Johnstone striker would try his luck from further out just moments later but was off-target with his shot this time around.
Kenny McLean shot straight at Clark while Lewis denied Michael O’Halloran as the half-time whistle went at McDiarmid Park.
Greg Stewart had the first attempt of the second half but his shot was well off target for the visitors. Rooney was next to have a go but he also couldn’t find the back of the net.
With 60 minutes on the clock, the game was put beyond all doubt when Christie slammed home a free-kick in style to confirm the three points for the Dons.
Andrew Considine was next on, replacing May in Aberdeen’s first substitution of the evening. The away side continued to dominate, with Christie trying his luck again but was unable to test Clark this time.
Youngster Craig Thomson replaced Scougall for the Saints while Gary Mackay-Steven replaced Greg Stewart as the game hit a bit of a lull. Blair Alston would be the final sub of the evening for the Saints, replacing Wotherspoon, while Adam Rooney made way for Nicky Maynard.
With 10 minutes remaining, Shinnie tried to get his name on the score-sheet but he blasted over the bar. Mackay-Steven then had a dig at goal but wasn’t able to make it four-nil either.
Anthony O’Connor saw his effort blocked late on, with Richard Foster shooting wide in injury time as the hosts looked for a consolation.
It will be a satisfying evening’s work for McInnes and his side, who remain on the coat-tails of Rangers. For St Johnstone, it will be a disappointing evening for Northern Irishman Wright. The games continue to come thick and fast, with the Perth side away to Rangers this weekend.