Five out of six fixtures scheduled for this midweek occurred as the Scottish Premiership returned to action after a 3-week winter break layoff.
Partick Thistle 1-2 Celtic
Substitute Leigh Griffiths came off the bench to help Celtic comeback in the second-half against Partick Thistle to see Brendan Rodgers’ side extend their lead at the top of the Scottish Premiership.
Celtic started off on the front-foot and it was Dedryck Boyata who had the first shot of the evening. The Belgian looped an effort over the bar at the far post after the ball landed at the defender’s feet following a corner.
Kieran Tierney then forced Tomas Cerny into action but the Czech shot-stopper was up to task as he kept the full-back at bay. Oliver Ntcham and then Callum McGregor saw efforts blocked as the current Champions remained in control as the half approached the midway point.
Ntcham had another go, this time fizzing a shot inches wide of the post before Thistle finally kicked into gear. A counter-attacking break forward saw Miles Storey collect the ball on the left; the forward cut inside onto his favoured right-foot before forcing Craig Gordon into a good save as the Scotland international conceded a corner.
Ntcham again and then Ryan Edwards at the other end had chances to score but both attempts went wide of target. Odsonne Edouard was next to try his luck but he was also stopped by Cerny before Tierney tried his hand from outside the area but this one went harmlessly over the crossbar.
Scott Sinclair saw a shot blocked before Partick sprung to the other end. Following a throw-in, Thistle attempted to find Storey on the left. It looked as though Mikael Lustig would cut the ball out but the Swede mis-controlled which allowed the pacey attacker in on goal. The full-back dragged the Jags number 39 to the ground, which left John Beaton with no choice but to point to the spot.
Conor Sammon stepped up and sent Gordon the wrong way as the hosts took the lead in front of their own supporters. Momentum remained with the Celts though as Rodgers’ side tried to find their way back into the match before the break.
McGregor was blocked out once more before Sinclair was denied by another good stop by Cerny to concede a corner. Edouard tried an ambitious effort from the left, inside the penalty area, but this one didn’t trouble the backline of the Maryhill men.
At the interval, Archibald’s side led despite rarely being in their opponents’ half. This forced Celtic to act swiftly as Lustig was brought off at the break, in a tactical switch which allowed Leigh Griffiths to enter the fray.
The Scotland international was quickly into the action as he saw a shot blocked but play spread to the other end as Blair Spittal was denied by Gordon in an exciting opening to the second period.
McGregor saw another effort snuffed out before Cerny denied Edouard to keep his side in-front. McGregor again couldn’t find a route to goal as another shot was well defended by Thistle before Griffiths was set free on goal.
The Partick defensive line had been caught out as the substitute closed in on goal: Cerny stood up tall and once again made an impressive save to deny the visitors in what looked like being the Jags’ evening.
Just a moment later and Firhill was silenced; Sinclair was taken out by Mustapha Dumbuya and another penalty was awarded by referee Beaton. Sinclair stood up to take himself and rolled the ball home to equalise for the Hoops.
Archibald made an immediate change to try and counteract that goal by bringing Adam Barton on for Spittal. Ntcham missed at one end while Sammon saw a header flash past the post at the other. Cerny then kept the scoreline level as he denied James Forrest as the game approached the hour mark.
Ntcham tried his luck another twice: one being blocked while the other went inches wide. Sandwiched in between those efforts was another save by the Partick number 1 to deny Griffiths putting Celtic in front.
Tierney was next to test the experienced keeper, who done well to get down low and tip the right-footed effort wide of the post for a corner. Only minutes later though and it was 2-1.
James Penrice had stormed forward to help out the Partick attack down the left but after the ball was won back, the Scottish Champions exploited the space vacated by the youngster. Scott Brown swung in a cross which the defence couldn’t clear – it eventually landed at the feet of Griffiths who remained calm and composed to slide the ball past Cerny and into the net despite the best efforts of Dumbuya on the line.
Another home substitution came as Sammon was replaced by Kris Doolan as Archibald hoped for some fresh legs and impetus up front. The game took a slight lull as proceedings became scrappier. Chris Erskine then came on for Miles Storey in the final home change while defender Jozo Simunovic came on for Scott Sinclair as Rodgers looked to shore up at the back.
The away side kept pressing forward though as Edouard failed to hit the target on this occasion before Griffiths also dragged his effort wide.
Nir Bitton was the final substitution of the evening, with the Israeli replacing Edouard. Forrest shot wide in the Hoops’ final attempt of the evening as injury time approached.
Penrice was denied late on as his left-footed effort was blocked away for a corner in the dying seconds. It was the full-back himself who took the set-piece but new signing, on loan from Bournemouth, Baily Cargill, missed the target with a header as the game came to a close.
Dundee 0-1 Hibernian
Neil Lennon’s fourth placed Hibees closed the gap on nearest rivals Aberdeen with an away win at Dens Park on Wednesday evening.
It was a slow opening to the game with neither side creating many opportunities. John McGinn and Simon Murray had efforts blocked by the Dees defence before Faissal El Bakhtaoui had a shot saved by Ofir Marciano on 15 minutes.
The former Dunfermline striker then had a shot blocked before firing over the bar from range as the hosts began to dominate proceedings, midway through the opening period.
Paul McGowan watched on agonisingly as his close-range header failed to hit the target before on-loan Manchester City winger Brandon Barker missed the target at the other end, with the Hibees best opportunity of the evening so far.
El Bakhtaoui tried his luck again, but once more he failed to test the Israeli international shot-stopper, Marciano. Then, former Athletico Madrid full-back Jon Aurtenetxe had an effort but his shot was also high and wide, as the teams went in goalless at the interval.
Neil McCann’s side started the second-half strongly as Mark O’Hara looked to get on the scoresheet once more this season, but, his shot dribbled wide of the post on this occasion.
Next, with 52 minutes on the clock, the deadlock was broken: McGinn fired the ball past Elliot Parish from inside the area, as the Scotland international found the bottom left-hand corner to give Hibernian the lead.
McGowan tried to hit back straight away but his shot was off-target before Barker failed to double the visitors lead, firing wide from distance.
Scott Allan then came on for Celtic with half-an-hour or so left, replacing youngster Jesse Curran. El Bakhtaoui and then the newly introduced substitute saw attempts at goal blocked out by the stubborn Hibs defence before Barker missed another opportunity on the break.
O’Hara forced Marciano into a good save as the midfielder’s header was low into the corner but the keeper got down well to gather. Barker then got an effort on target at the other end, albeit it was straight at the goalkeeper.
Barker saw a shot blocked once more before Cammy Kerr had a goalbound effort saved in the top right corner by Marciano. O’Hara had two shots blocked in quick succession as Dundee piled on the pressure as the game headed into the final 15 minutes.
Lithuanian international Vykintas Slivka shot wide for the visitors before Barker forced Parish to work again with a shot straight at the former Aston Villa man saved safely. This would be the youngsters last act as Danny Swanson came on to replace him, while McCann made a straight swap on the left with Aurtenetxe being replaced by Kevin Holt.
The changes kept on flowing as Jamie Maclaren was brought on for the quiet Martin Boyle while youngster Matthew Henvey replaced Faissal El Bakhtaoui in attack for the hosts.
Murray saw two efforts saved by Parish late on to give hope to the home side that an equaliser could still salvage a point for the Dees. Murray was then replaced as Lennon brought on Oli Shaw as the game headed towards a close.
Henvey had a chance in the first minute of added on time but he couldn’t find the back of the net; Swanson and Shaw got shots on target late on as Lennon’s men looked for a second to seal the win but another goal wasn’t forthcoming as the Edinburgh side held on to gain 3 vital points in the battle for second.
Hamilton Academical 0-3 Heart of Midlothian
It was a disappointing evening for Martin Canning as his Accies side fell to a defeat in their opening Premiership fixture of 2018.
The game was scrappy in the opening stages with an attempt at goal not coming until 15 minutes in. Danny Redmond was the man to fire the first attempt of the evening in but Jon McLaughlin was up to task.
Seconds later, Andrew Irving had a shot blocked as the youngster looked to grab a goal on his starting debut for the Jambos. It took another 18 minutes for the next goalmouth action, as former Hearts winger David Templeton tried his luck from outside the penalty area but his shot went wide of goal.
Darian McKinnon had an attempt blocked before Templeton forced McLaughlin into another save, from point-blank range, after the ex-Rangers man was denied from 6-yards out. The sides went in at the break at 0-0 after a very lacklustre opening 45 minutes to the match.
Arnaud Djoum came on for Harry Cochrane at half-time as Craig Levein looked for fresh impetus in the middle of the park. The Cameroon international was quickly involved, picking up a yellow card within 100 seconds of the restart.
It was a much stronger performance by the Jam Tarts in the second period, with Demetri Mitchell and Lewis Moore seeing shots blocked before Connor Randall missed from way-out, with the on-loan Liverpool man trying the spectacular.
New Accies forward, Marios Ogboe – who only joined Hamilton this evening from OFI Crete, saw his effort blocked on 59 minutes as Canning’s side tried to get to grips with their opponents.
Youngster Moore was replaced by Genoa’s on-loan winger, David Milinkovic. MacKinnon fired wide of target for the hosts, before Templeton was blocked out inside the area.
Moments later and the deadlock was broken: Ross Callachan fired Hearts in front, after being set up by Steven Naismith inside the area. The former Raith skipper, who scored against Accies at the SuperSeal Stadium earlier on this term, made it a double as he opened the scoring in this encounter.
Canning changed tactics as he took off Redmond, replacing him with Antonio Rojano. The South American came on to give the hosts a two-pronged attack but it was Levein’s men who’d end the game strongly.
Milinkovic found the net in almost identical fashion to Callachan following a set-piece situation to double the Jambos lead with 73 minutes on the clock which seemed to end the game as a contest.
Alex Gogic tried to get a goal back with 10 minutes remaining but his header following a corner from close-range went wide of the mark. Dario Zanatta, newly recalled from a loan spell in Kirkcaldy, then came on for the away side with 5 minutes remaining, replacing Don Cowie.
It didn’t take the Canadian long to remind the Hearts fans of what he can do as the winger slotted home from inside the area after being assisted by Milinkovic to secure a vital win for the Capital club.
Kilmarnock P-P St Johnstone
This game was postponed on Wednesday evening due to St Johnstone’s rearranged Scottish Cup tie on Tuesday evening against Albion Rovers (which subsequently got postponed, due to a waterlogged pitch, also).
Motherwell 2-0 Ross County
The Staggies remain bottom of the pile in the Scottish Premiership as the Steelmen picked up a vital three points at Fir Park.
The game started off badly for the visitors as captain Andrew Davies picked up an early injury which forced the former Middlesborough man off. Newly signed loanee, Harry Souttar, would come on to make his Ross County debut.
Nadir Ciftci had the first shot of the match on 14 minutes, but, his effort from range was blocked. Craig Tanner then saw a free-kick go wide of the post as the attacker came close to opening the scoring.
Souttar had a header saved by Trevor Carson following a set-piece as Owen Coyle’s men forced their way back into the game. Then, centre-forward Inih Effiong had a dig at goal but the shot went wide of target on this occasion.
It looked as if the game was heading into the break goalless but the deadlock was broken on the stroke of half-time; new boy Souttar, having only joined from Stoke City earlier on this afternoon, headed the ball past his own keeper – Aaron McCarey – from Andy Rose’s cross to gift Stephen Robinson’s men the advantage at the interval.
Moments after the restart and it was 2-0: new striking partnership Ciftci and Curtis Main linked up well as the attacker, signed from Portsmouth this month, found the net for the first time since joining the Lanarkshire club to double Motherwell’s lead.
Former Liverpool striker David N’Gog came on for Effiong shortly after as Coyle hoped for a reprieve which could allow his side back into the contest. The Frenchman, alongside Billy McKay, saw shots blocked before Jim O’Brien tried his luck from distance but he was off-target with this attempt.
Ross Draper was next to have a go but he was also blocked out before Carson saved the ex-Inverness man’s header soon after. Deimantas Petravicius came on to replace Nadir Ciftci with just under 30 minutes remaining as the game began to get scrappy.
Tanner had an ambitious effort go wide following a set-piece scenario before Jason Naismith and N’Gog tried their luck from outside of the penalty area but both attempts ended up going harmlessly wide of goal.
Young winger Davis Keillor-Dunn came on for Michael Gardyne with 15 minutes remaining, while winger Ross MacLean came on for Main at the same time as Northern Irishman Robinson tried to shore up in the closing stages of the match.
N’Gog and Souttar were off target once more with efforts at goal before O’Brien’s shot was blocked on 83 minutes. Retiring full-back Steven Hammell – who is joining Motherwell’s backroom team as their Academy Director – came on for a late cameo appearance, replacing Tanner with 5 minutes remaining.
The Well were able to run down the clock as they saw the game out comfortably. Petravicius tried to put a cherry on top of the cake in injury time but his speculative effort landed wide of McCarey’s goal.
Rangers 2-0 Aberdeen
Graeme Murty’s men leapfrogged their opponents into second on goal difference after a comfortable 2-0 victory at Ibrox on Wednesday.
It was Rangers who started off the brighter of the two teams, with Josh Windass slipping the ball past the post before hitting the goal-frame minutes later as the Gers dominated the early proceedings.
Alfredo Morelos headed over the bar before Sean Goss fired a right-footed effort high over the bar. Next, it was the Dons’ first real sight of goal as Kenny McLean burst forward from midfield before sliding the ball into the path of Gary Mackay-Steven. The former Celtic winger was denied by Wes Foderingham from close-range as the game remained scoreless.
On 32 minutes, the Gers opened the scoring. After the visitors initially dealing with a set-piece delivery, the ball was played back out to the right where James Tavernier crossed in brilliantly to the back-post for Morelos to nod home.
This seemed to jolt Derek McInnes’ side into life; Ryan Christie sliced a shot which went well wide of target, before Kenny McLean was denied twice by ex-Swindon shot-stopper Foderingham to keep the scoreline at 1-0.
Christie had a shot blocked while Windass failed to hit the target again as the teams went into the break. Murty’s men were in control but the Dons had shown they could be dangerous if given space and time to operate.
McLean tried his luck again, this time from a Greg Stewart free-kick delivery but his header was well off-target. Windass’ shot was then blocked before Joe Lewis denied Morelos with a smart stop down low.
Russell Martin headed over from a corner on 55 minutes with the home side back in command. This forced McInnes into an early switch, with Niall McGinn coming on for Stewart out wide.
Daniel Candeias was blocked out before McGinn hit a snap-shot wide of target as the game started to flow from end-to-end. Windass was denied again before Morelos missed a sitter: Declan John cut the ball across goal from the left but the Colombian was unable to score into the empty net as he got his shot from 4 yards out all wrong.
That was the former HJK Helsinki attacker’s last act as Jason Cummings came on for his Gers debut. Another new boy, Jamie Murphy, was next to have a dig at goal but his weak effort was easily claimed by Lewis in the centre of goal.
Goss tried his luck again from outside the area but the on-loan QPR man was off-target again. Dominic Ball, formerly on-loan with the hosts, came on for Aberdeen with Mackay-Steven going off.
Just seconds later though and disaster struck for the visitors as Joe Lewis conceded a penalty. The ball forward set Windass in the clear and the goalkeeper clattered into the Englishman to give away the spot-kick.
To compound matters further, the ex-Cardiff City shot-stopper picked up a nasty injury from the collision, which saw the experienced man between the sticks having to be stretchered off. Danny Rogers came on in his place.
The ex-Falkirk loanee has denied Rangers from the spot before but James Tavernier was in no doubt despite the 4 minute delay where he was putting the ball: the former Newcastle and Wigan man slotting the ball to the left as Rogers dived to the right to seal victory for the home side.
A late rally followed from Aberdeen as firstly Adam Rooney was denied by Foderingham from close-range as a corner was conceded. From that set-piece, Rooney was denied again by the Rangers number 1 with a header as the goalkeeper produced another fine save.
Andy Halliday came on for Windass late on while Fabio Cardoso also made a short appearance, replacing Candeias in injury-time. Captain Graeme Shinnie and McLean had late attempts to grab a consolation but none was forthcoming as the battle for second takes another twist and a turn.