Week three of the Scottish Premiership is over and already stories are beginning to appear across the league.
From debut wonder goals to managers already getting it in the neck, nobody can accuse the top flight of being dull.
Here are our 12 takeaways from the latest round of fixtures…
Celtic strong, no matter who gets the goals
Vakoun Issouf Bayo is officially off the mark as a Celtic striker, though there is some debate about whether he got the last touch on either of his two goals in Sunday’s 3-1 defeat of Hearts. He is adamant the goals are his but Hearts manager and Sportscene pundits Michael Stewart and Steven Thompson disagree.
Regardless, Celtic won the match comfortably without either Odsonne Edouard or Leigh Griffiths in the starting line-up, giving manager Neil Lennon another striking option for what promises to be a busy season. And when the strikers aren’t scoring – midfielders like Callum McGregor will chip in like he did in stunning style on Sunday.
Rangers show mettle
Rangers made a free-scoring start to the season, but in the past two games they have found themselves frustrated by the well-drilled defences of Legia Warsaw and St Mirren.
At least in Paisley, they found a way of grinding out a result. In the Premiership at least, they know they have players with the quality to make the difference and, against the Buddies, victory came thanks to a superbly struck Borna Barisic free-kick. Steven Gerrard will be hoping the magic continues on Thursday as they look to break the deadlock against their Polish visitors and secure a place in the Europa League group stage for a second successive season.
Free-scoring Livi on the rise
The summer exodus from Livingston led to them losing talent such as Liam Kelly, Craig Halkett, Declan Gallagher and Dolly Menga. Those departures had many predicting their demise this season. Yet, eight games in and Livi are still to taste defeat, and goalscoring seems little problem with 18 in eight, with four of those coming against a Ross County side that previously hadn’t conceded a Premiership goal this term.
Lyndon Dykes and Jon Guthrie both scored but were kicking themselves at not adding more, while Jack Stobbs debut strike could well be a goal of the season contender.
Reality bites for new boys
Co-manager Stuart Kettlewell summed it up after their 4-1 defeat to Livingston when he said afterwards that “Everything we have been praised for, we didn’t do today.”
The usually solid defence crumbled. They were physically dominated. They were second-best from the first minute. It could be brushed off as a one-off, but coming just seven days after losing in the League Cup to Partick Thistle, these are testing times now for the Premiership newcomers, and they could probably do without a trip to Pittodrie which is next on the fixture list.
Where has Aberdeen’s goal threat gone?
After a promising start to the season which saw them beat Hearts 3-2, things have gone south quickly for Aberdeen. They have failed to score in four of their last five competitive games, and the one they did score in was an unconvincing extra-time win in the League Cup against Championship side Dundee. Striker Sam Cosgrove seems to be their only source of goals, and as yet manager Derek McInnes seems undecided on his best side. They need more from new signings Jon Gallagher, Ryan Hedges and Funso Ojo in particular.
Former Aberdeen captain and manager Willie Miller
The lack of quality has been evident in these last few games. The first four games they were full of drive, full of creativity and goal threat and it’s just simply gone in recent weeks. Derek McInnes has got to work to get that back. I think he has the players to do it.
Motherwell now motoring
Saturday’s win for Stephen Robinson’s side was impressive on several fronts. Not only was it their first win of the season, and a commanding one at that, but it was done under pressure while a sickness bug had rampaged its way through the Fir Park squad.
Christopher Long is looking more and more influential as the weeks go by. While most of the pre-season fuss was made over new wide men Jermaine Hylton and Sherwin Seedorf, it’s the striker who has impressed recently, Saturday’s goal against Accies taking his tally to two from two games. With young James Scott still looking a bit green in when starting, Long is surely the option for Robinson against Hibernian.
Hibs must play both Allan and Kamberi centrally
Scott Allan has so far been Hibernian’s standout player since returning from Celtic, but he was not at his best as Hibernian drew 2-2 to St Johnstone at Easter Road. Manager Paul Heckingbottom opted to deploy him on the right of the midfield four in order to play a front two of Christian Doidge and Florian Kamberi, often leaving him isolated and unable to influence play.
In the one instance where he managed to get on the ball in the middle of the park, he slipped through an excellent pass to Doidge, who really should have scored. While the solution of bringing him back into the middle may seem simple, Heckingbottom’s formation change brought out the best in Kamberi, who was heavily involved in the build-up to Hibs’ first goal and scored their second. The SWISs forward has been linked with a move back to his homeland with FC Basel, but on the basis of his performance at the weekend, Hibs would be a far less dangerous prospect for opponents without him.
If Heckingbottom can find a way to play both Allan and Kamberi in their favoured positions, he may be on to a winner.
Buddies must add goals to dogged defensive displays
St Mirren fans were justiFIAbly worried after the departure of manager Oran Kearney was followed by failure to qualify from their League Cup group under his replacement, Jim Goodwin. But the former Buddies midfielder has steadied the ship as his 10 new signings began to bed in and, despite the narrow defeat, Sunday’s dogged display against Rangers, on top of the previous win over Aberdeen, suggests that the Paisley side will be hard to beat this season.
They rarely threatened Steven Gerrard’s side at the other end of the pitch, though.
Hamilton have rightly earned a reputation as the league’s natural survivors. No matter the scrape, the team from South Lanarkshire always seem to find a way to avoid the drop.
However, in Saturday’s defeat to Motherwell, supporters will be concerned with a lack of creativity in the team. Their only goal came from a soft spot kick, and in the second half they did little to trouble their derby rivals who sat back and invited pressure.
Yes, they were down to 10 men in the first half, but even prior to that Mark Gillespie’s goal was not troubled.
St Johnstone better than their start suggests
If St Johnstone had lost this weekend’s fixture with Hibernian, they’d have been bottom of the Scottish Premiership on goal difference after Kilmarnock’s draw with Aberdeen. While it’s only been three games, that is clearly not representative of their ability.
Despite a slow start at Easter Road and falling behind on two occasions, the Saints rallied on both occasions and deserved their point. Impressive performances from youngster Alistair McCann and Michael O’Halloran, who was a constant threat and deserved his goal, give plenty of reasons for optimism. Manager Tommy Wright says they are working extremely hard to bring in new faces before the transfer deadline, and with the right signings, they will be in a good position to kick on.
Another tale of woe for Hearts
There was one crumb of comfort for Hearts at Celtic Park with Conor Washington’s goal ensuring they would not end the weekend bottom of the league. It’s one point from an available nine this term for Craig Levein’s side and their last league win was back in March.
Levein has two home games to come before the first Edinburgh derby of the season at Easter Road, which precedes a League Cup quarter-final against Aberdeen. If the Tynecastle side cannot find their form quickly, it could be another long season for their fans.
Alessio gets improvement but attack needs work
After a disastrous start to his Rugby Park tenure, manager Angelo Alessio seems to have steadied the ship slightly. From the evidence of their Europa League exit to Connah’s Quay, the Italian was looking to instil a more attacking brand of football, the problem was, they wasted too many chances and were too open at the back. He seems to have reverted to a more conservative approach that served them well under Steve Clarke, but the goalscoring problem still remains.
The genius of Clarke’s work was striking the balance between attack and defence and squeezing goals out the team. Alessio says he wants to sign a striker, but if he gets what he wants he needs to make sure any new addition gets more support in attack than Eamonn Brophy did against Aberdeen.