Matchday 26 was quite a weekend in the Scottish Premiership. Steve Clarke became the…
We now have just six more matchdays until the split and every game counts now in the Scottish Premiership. Matchday 27 featured a number of tightly-fought contests as the battle to reach the top six intensified.
Killie leapfrogged Motherwell in the table with a 1-0 win at Fir Park; it was goals galore at New Douglas Park when Rangers overcame Hamilton 5-3 and at Easter Road, Neil Lennon’s Hibs put in an impressive shift and ran out comfortable 2-0 winners over Aberdeen.
The weekend’s results have, as always, impacted our manager power rankings – around the middle of our table, there are now four managers separated by just two points. Have a look at the graph below to see how your club’s manager is getting on.
Kilmarnock’s remarkable turnaround under Steve Clarke’s stewardship shows no sign of stopping and his side won again at the weekend, thanks to Stephen O’Donnell’s first-half goal against Motherwell. Stephen Robinson’s side pushed hard for an equaliser but it was not to be, as they finished the afternoon in seventh place.
The Steelmen were the pre-match favourites so the defeat cost Robinson three points in our rankings, meaning the Northern Irishman drops to an overall tally of +9 – the first time he’s found himself in the single digits since matchday 8. Motherwell’s early season form has contributed greatly to his score; if results don’t improve, the ‘Well boss could find himself slipping even further down our table.
Of course, it’s a completely different story for Clarke at the summit of our rankings. Another three points were gained for his side’s win and the former West Brom coach is now 12 points clear of his nearest challenger in second. Incredibly, Clarke still hasn’t been docked points on a single occasion in our rankings – put simply, his team haven’t once dropped points in a match where they’re favourites.
Before Sunday’s match at Celtic Park kicked off, few would have predicted a goalless draw. Brendan Rodgers chose to rest the majority of his starting lineup after their midweek win over Zenit St Petersburg and paid the price with two dropped points at home.
Unsurprisingly, St Johnstone were expected to lose the match so Tommy Wright gained two points for the draw – his first positive result in our power rankings in the Saints’ last five Premiership fixtures. Crucially for Wright, it also gives the Saints a platform to build on going into the last few games before the split. With two games in hand over most of their rivals, they might just nick a top-six finish again after all.
The draw cost Rodgers two points in our table and the Northern Irishman has now been overtaken by his compatriot Lennon and his cross-town rival Graeme Murty. Only two points separate the three managers, however – expect a lot of chopping and changing between the trio before the end of the season.
Ross County still find themselves bottom of the Premiership but manager Owen Coyle will be pleased that they’ve been showing signs of life in recent weeks. The Staggies followed up on last week’s 4-1 win over Dundee with a 1-1 draw at home to Hearts on Saturday. Kyle Lafferty’s free kick gave the visitors the lead but full-back Jason Naismith equalised with around 15 minutes to go.
Hearts boss Craig Levein was docked two points for the draw, leaving him languishing down the bottom of our rankings with an overall tally of -8. A difficult fixture away to Rangers awaits next – if he can inspire his side to victory, he could go a long way to closing the gap that separates him from the rest of the league’s managers.
Coyle, meanwhile, gained a couple of points for the result and now has +7 overall – just two points behind Robinson in fifth place. The Irishman could overtake the Motherwell boss – and move County off the bottom of the Premiership table – if his side can grab a win at McDiarmid Park in their next league outing.
Saturday’s match between Hibs and Aberdeen was probably the most anticipated fixture of the weekend and Lennon will be very proud of his team’s performance after a dominating display. Second-half goals from Martin Boyle and Florian Kamberi gave Hibernian the lead but after the match, even Derek McInnes conceded that his Dons got off lightly.
Hibs were the bookies’ favourites pre-match so Lennon gains a solitary point in our rankings, overtaking Rodgers and maintaining a one-point lead over Murty in the process. The win helped cement Hibs’ place as contenders for a place in next season’s Europa League; a few more performances like that, and Lennon could feasibly set his targets even higher than a fourth-placed finish.
The defeat brought Aberdeen’s five-game unbeaten run to an abrupt end but McInnes avoided being penalised in our rankings by virtue of being expected to lose the match. The defeat means Rangers now lead the Dons on goal difference in the Premiership while in our rankings, McInnes is now tied with Coyle on +7.
Rangers travelled to New Douglas Park on Sunday afternoon looking for a win and Murty will be pleased with his attackers’ efforts, even if his defence could have contributed more to the result. Jamie Murphy scored one, Alfredo Morelos got another and Josh Windass bagged a hat-trick in a topsy-turvy game. Darren Lyon, David Templeton and Dougie Imrie all got on the scoresheet for Accies but it wasn’t enough for the home side: Martin Canning still watched his side traipse off the pitch having been beaten 5-3.
As Hamilton were expected to lose the match, Canning remains where he was in our power rankings in third place with +14. The Accies boss is now just two points behind Alan Archibald, but is merely a single point ahead of Neil McCann in fourth. In their next fixture, Accies host Partick Thistle in what could prove to be a decisive moment in each side’s fight against relegation.
Rangers’ win means Murty has now overtaken Rodgers in our rankings, leading the former Liverpool boss by two points. More importantly for the Gers, though, they now find themselves in second spot in the league – should Murty finish the season in the same position, his claim for the Rangers job beyond the season will surely be strengthened.
Before Saturday’s match at Firhill, there was a nine point gap between Archibald and McCann in our table – now, it stands at just three points. Thistle’s Connor Sammon kept up his impressive form of late and gave the Jags an early lead, but a late Simon Murray double – his first goals since joining on loan from Hibs – sealed the win for the Dark Blues with just minutes left to play.
The win moved Dundee seven points clear of Ross County in the relegation zone and McCann was rewarded with three points in our rankings, with Archibald being docked the same amount. The Thistle boss is still clinging on to second spot, but McCann and Canning are breathing down the 40-year-old’s neck.
Next up, Dundee host Motherwell at Dens Park – a win for McCann’s side might just threaten to drag Motherwell into the relegation dogfight. Thistle, on the other hand, travel to New Douglas Park for a match that bears all the hallmarks of a typical relegation six-pointer.