DUNDEE vs. MOTHERWELL
Ahead of Dundee’s last league fixture, talismanic defender Matt Lockwood declared war on those tipping his side for the drop. “We are all annoyed at being written off, but out of that comes our sense of motivation” he said.. “We’ve got the articles tipping us to go straight back down up in the dressing room”.
At the time of Lockwood’s rally, the Tayside team lay slumped at the foot of the SPL table, having failed to score a single goal in their opening four games, conceding six in the process. His words seemed slightly hollow then. Not any more, after an impressive 1-0 win at Hearts two weeks ago.
Of course, this one result won’t keep Dundee in Scotland top division, but it did raise them two places off the bottom, where Smith will try to keep them between now and May.
The 38-year-old manager (the SPL’s youngest) has emphasized the importance of experience on his side’s chances of avoiding relegation. The win against Hearts vindicated Smith, with goalkeeper Rab Douglas (the SPL’s oldest) turning in a performance reminiscent of his days with Celtic and the Scotland national team, some seven years ago. He is at 3.70 to repeat his clean sheet trick.
Smith has continued to add know-how to his squad over the international break, bringing in Brian Easton, who was part of the Hamilton side that avoided the drop after promotion in 2009.
Conversely, Motherwell are as far away from the relegation places as possible, as they sit proudly at the summit of the SPL table (although they have played one more game than second place Celtic). Although always regarded as a reliable target man, Michael Higdon’s potency in front of goal (four so far) has surprised those who claimed the Steelmen couldn’t better last season’s third place finish. The former St. Mirren striker netted a hattrick in his last game, a 4-1 win over Inverness, and with Motherwell having scored seven times in their last three games, they are available to score in each half at 3.50 against Dundee.
HIBERNIAN vs. KILMARNOCK
Hibernian might be without an Edinburgh derby win in over three years (11 games) but last month’s 1-1 draw against city rivals Hearts seems to have galvanized Pat Fenlon’s squad more than any win has during his time as manager.
The worry had been that after a humiliating 3-0 defeat to Dundee United on the opening day of the new season, yet another derby defeat, after last season’s 5-1 cup final embarrassment, could send the Easter Road side into a tailspin. Instead, it has provided the platform for a surge into the top half of the table, culminating in a spirited 2-2 draw with champions Celtic at Parkhead before the international break.
This upturn in form must be credited to the establishment of a midfield presence through the signings of Paul Cairney from Partick Thistle and Gary Deegan from Coventry in the summer. Too often in the past Hibs’ central midfield provided the traction for opposition teams to dominate. The two new arrivals have at least hinted that deficiency might have been addressed. Despite this, Hibs have only kept one clean sheet this season, meaning Kilmarnock are available at 1.33 to score.
Similarly, Kilmarnock have also attended to squad shortages, by adding Republic of Ireland attacker Cillian Sheridan to an anemic strikeforce (barring a 3-1 win over Dundee United Kille have netted just twice in four games). In fact that one win is Killie’s only win of the season so far, as they struggle to find the goals that took them to the League Cup title last season. Killie have yet to go into half-time with a lead this season, with a draw at the break available at 2.05.
LIVINGSTON vs. PARTICK THISTLE
There are many clubs maligned for their perceived roles as so-called ‘feeder clubs’ to the kingpins of Scottish football. There was a time when the Old Firm boasted five former Hibs players between them.
However, now Partick Thistle, Glasgow’s third team as they are often called, is considered a prime breeding ground for SPL talent, after the departure of Paul Cairney to Hibs and Liam Buchanan to Dunfermline, among others, over the past year.
Now as they sit atop the First Division, propelled there by the goals of Chris Erskine and Kris Doolan, Thistle fans will be hoping they can hold on to their top players for a while longer. Between August and September the Jags have netted 16 times in just eight games (in all competitions), and are available to win 0-2 at 14.00.
Livingston have endured an indifferent start to the season, drifting seven points off the top, yet five points off the bottom. They too have struggled to keep hold of their top performers from last season, with Rory Boulding joining Kilmarnock over the summer. His dynamism and link up play with Iain Russell has been sorely missed.
This will be only the second home league match Livingston have played this season, and having lost 2-0 to Airdrie last month, they are available at 2.80 to record their first win at Almondvale this season.
- Back Dundee not to score against Motherwell at 2.65.
- Back Hibernian and Kilmarnock to draw at 3.20.
- Back Partick Thistle to beat Livingston 1-2 at 9.50.