Scottish Premiership Preview: Matchday 34

As six of the twelve premiership clubs start looking towards next season and try to attain their final goals while also introducing some young players to their teams, six other teams are clawing for their lives at the foot of the table. Ten points separate seventh from twelfth with Inverness starting to fall away slightly but Kilmarnock, who sit top of the bottom six, are still just five points above the relegation play-off spot. With plenty still to play for, let’s have a look at the weekend’s fixtures.


FRIDAY 19:45

One of just two bottom half games selected for TV broadcast as yet, the Friday night Highland Derby kicks the weekend off for the Premiership. Inverness sit precariously in bottom spot, five points adrift while County are three points above eleventh place after their controversial draw with Celtic which saw them gain an unexpected and potentially vital point. The Staggies are unbeaten in their last three matches having scored in every game they’ve played since February. On top of that, Inverness haven’t won a game for two months, haven’t kept a clean sheet since January and have conceded seven in their last two matches. 

Despite their poor form, Caley Thistle must win this game as they have to build a bit of a from somewhere and what better way than with derby win? On the other hand, a victory for County would move them eleven points clear of their rivals and surely bury fears of automatic relegation. Also, if results go their way, they could move six points away from eleventh. 



Liam Boyce kept a cool head to slot home a penalty in the dying minutes of the Celtic game and the Staggies will need him to be on goal-scoring form in their post-split matches.


The standout player in the Caley team when it comes to scoring, Richie Foran will be looking to him in the final few games of the season for goals.





As a game played for league points, it’s fairly meaningless but for the majority of Scotland’s football fanbase, it’s the biggest fixture of the year. Possibly not as big as last weekend’s cup semi-final but important nonetheless. With Celtic having wrapped up the title and beaten Rangers in the aforementioned semi-final, this clash represents The Gers’ last chance to rain on the champions’ parade, if only a little. With Celtic five games away from a historic unbeaten season, a Rangers win would end that and surely put some gloss on what has been a generally disappointing season for them. 

In Pedro Caixinha’s first Old Firm match at Ibrox, it will be interesting to see how he changes his tactics from his unsuccessful attempt to fell the Hoops last Sunday.



An Old Firm veteran, the Gers will need his experience and goal threat if they are to get anything here whether he starts or comes off the bench.


The Celtic captain can play tomorrow after his red card, which he picked up during the Ross County match two weeks ago, was rescinded. He dictated the game’s pace last Sunday and might just have the same effect on this game.





After booking their place in the Scottish Cup final with victory over Hibs on Saturday, the Dons return to league action as they look to consolidate their second position. They sit nine points clear of Rangers currently and if the Gers lose and Aberdeen win, second place will be all but sealed due to a massively superior goal difference.

On the other hand, St. Johnstone are looking to hold onto fourth place and a European spot. With Hearts in poor form, the Saints will fancy their chances of getting over the line, however, a trip to Pittodrie will prove a difficult challenge for Tommy Wright’s men who have just been hit with the news that the creative Danny Swanson is Hibernian-bound in the summer. 



The Dons’ versatile vice-captain is often instrumental in setting the tone of Aberdeen games and will have an important job against the Perth side.


The Saints’ goalie is likely to be in a lot of action at Pittodrie and will need to be on top form to keep the opposition at bay.





The battle for fifth has reached fever pitch. After securing a top six place, fifth is the only real target that Partick Thistle have but sitting just four points behind the Jambos, it’s still reachable.

Hearts are looking to make it three games in a row, without defeat, for the first time since February but it won’t come easily. The Edinburgh side haven’t beaten a fellow top six side since the 1st of February. 

In the sides’ last meeting, Thistle ran out 2-0 winners thanks to goals from Kris Doolan and Liam Lindsay. The other two clashes this season have been close affairs. A late Tony Watt goal was the differentiating factor at Firhill early in the season and when the Jags travelled to Tynecastle in December, a spirited second half performance left them disappointed with just a point being taken.



Hearts’ top goalscorer is a key component of Ian Cathro’s team and the Jambos need Jamie Walker’s movement and dribbling to offer an effective attacking threat.


The midfield maestro put in a sub-par performance at Ibrox in Thistle’s last game but can be so influential with his calm and calculated use of the ball from the middle of the park.





Kilmarnock went into the split as the seventh place side and will be looking to maintain the distance between them and eleventh with victory against Accies. 

Killie have lost just once in their last seven away games and that loss took place at Celtic Park so they are more than capable of picking up points on the road. On the other hand, Hamilton are unbeaten in their last four and coming off the back of an important 2-0 win at Dens Park. 

In this fixture so far this season it’s been one win each and a draw. This match will be the third meeting at New Douglas Park this campaign but Killie have actually fared better at NDP. Their win was away from home and the Accies win was at Rugby Park.



The Accies captain scored a crucial second goal at Dens Park last time out but Hamilton will need his defensive qualities in the last few games of the season.


Killie have scored just three goals in their last five games so will need the veteran striker to step up if they are to avoid being dragged into a relegation dogfight.





Neil McMann’s first match as Dundee boss should be an interesting one. It’s unclear whether he will try to completely  divert from Paul Hartley’s tactics or if he will just try to inject some belief into a side that has been devoid of such a feeling in recent weeks.

On the Motherwell side, a win would put them five points clear of the Dark Blues and ten points above Caley Thistle in bottom spot. 

Dundee’s last win came against the ‘Well in the 5-1 win that rounded off a Manager of the Month award winning February for Paul Hartley and put Dundee into sixth. Oh, how things have changed.



The attacker’s return to the side last time out coincided with a four goal haul for his side. It’s clear that he is the most dangerous attacking threat in Stephen Robinson’s team and his goals could prove the difference.


With Scott McDonald, Louis Moult and Lionel Ainsworth all available, Bain should expect to see a lot of the action happening in front him in this match.




Andrew McCarthy: A Sign of Things to Come

Over the past season, one of Partick Thistle’s first truly notable Thistle Weir academy products has made his name known across Scottish football. Liam Lindsay has come into the Jags side over the past two seasons and this campaign, he has really cemented his place as one of the league’s best defenders. The centre-half has been part of one of the Premiership’s best defences and has scored seven goals in the process. Last night we caught a glimpse of a young player who will be looking to follow the Liam Lindsay model to find himself in the first team soon.

We’ve seen a few youth players dip their toes into the first team waters. Jack Hendry was given some league minutes before leaving for England, Kevin Nisbet has had a few substitute opportunities and players like James Penrice, Matthew McInally and Neil McLaughlin have all made cameos of some sort in the latter stages of various seasons but it’s 18-year old Andrew McCarthy who has left an impression.

Last night, McCarthy played his very first Ladbrokes Premiership appearance, starting the game against Scottish champions Celtic away at Parkhead. The midfielder played around 73 minutes putting in a good showing having played an hour for the development side just two days earlier. He tackled well and chased the ball with great endeavour when lining up against the physical Nir Bitton and highly rated Eboue Kouassi. He wasn’t wasteful on the ball and looked mature on the pitch. When he was substituted off he was met with a grand ovation from the travelling Jags fans but it isn’t just that performance that make me think he has a big future.

I’m a person who watches the Thistle development side regularly and, as such, I have a good knowledge of the players in the team and McCarthy has always stood out for me. I’ve never been outspoken in my praise for the youngster as, at the end of the day, performing well in the dev league is a different kettle of fish altogether compared to the Premiership and I wanted to see him given a chance before I make a real judgement. However, he shows a lot of the sought-after strengths when playing in Scott MacKenzie’s side. He can pick a pass, carry the ball and is equally adept at sitting deep or playing further forward as a creative outlet. In the development side, he has shown that he can both create and convert chances when given the ball. 

Another huge upside to his game is that he’s always looking for the ball, always trying to get involved with the play as shown against Celtic. When Kris Doolan was tackled inside the opposition half, McCarthy was first to the it, taking control before playing it to Christie Elliott on the wing in the passage of play that lead to the Jags’ equaliser. 

When you consider Alan Archibald’s other central midfield options – when everyone is fit – like Sean Welsh, Stuart Bannigan, Ryan Edwards, Adam Barton, Gary Fraser and club captain Abdul Osman, it’s difficult to see where McCarthy fits into the picture. That’s where a loan move becomes important. Archie is usually keen to send the young players of the squad down to the lower leagues to gain experience. It was a move that worked for Liam Lindsay, who spent time with Airdrie and Alloa earlier in his career, and is something that James Penrice is currently benefitting from as he is receiving good reviews from East Fife fans as he has become a part of their push for play-off success. The Thistle management only send their lads out on loan if they feel the move will benefit the player so it’s likely that McCarthy would reap the rewards of time in the lower divisions.

With Thistle’s top six status on the verge of being confirmed, I wouldn’t bet against McCarthy getting some game time after the split, especially after a strong showing in a hugely nerveracking situation at Parkhead. Hopefully we do see a bit more of him and hopefully he can be part of the Thistle midfield as the club enters a new stage. 

The emergence of McCarthy around the first team should also boost the production of quality young players at Thistle too. It shows those in the 17s or even the younger ones that if you work hard and keep at it then you’ll get your chance. I think Liam Lindsay’s progression has set a blueprint for players like McCarthy to come into the first team as a bit part player but to slowly move up the ladder and become a starter.

SPFL Hall of Infamy

So since I started this blog I’ve wanted to do something along these lines. A piece I can write once or twice a month to commemorate some of the new SPFL’s most memorable characters. The entrants to this prestigious hall won’t only be the most unbelievable  personalities we’ve seen since the new system was introduced in 2013 but also those who have offered us entertainment of the highest order. Some of the moments that make the Scottish game one of the most bizarre and strangely interesting set-ups in the world. The first entry will come up in the next week. Any suggestions can be sent to @CChrisDobie

Match Preview: Dundee vs. Partick Thistle

Tonight, the battle for a Scottish Premiership top six spot heats up as sixth place Dundee host seventh place Partick Thistle. One point separates the two sides and the game is a tough one to call as both teams have hit a purple patch of form recently. Dundee come into the game off the back of four games unbeaten including an impressive win against Rangers and a rampant 5-1 triumph against a hapless Motherwell side. On the other hand, the Jags have won three games in a row including a 2-0 home victory against fourth place Hearts so both sides will surely see this as a winnable fixture. So now we can look at the main talking points going into tonight’s match.


One of the main reasons Partick Thistle have been stuck near the lower regions of the Ladbrokes Premiership recently has been their inability to score. Striker Ade Azeez has scored just once in the league all season and Kris Doolan has shown flashes of class but has stifled to be consistent. For the most part, Doolan had been restricted to substitute appearances in the first couple of months of this year but after a game-changing performance off the bench against Hamilton, he has been reinstated to the first eleven. In the Jags’ most recent game, the striker started and scored within the opening five minutes. As well as a goal, he put in a great performance, tirelessly working for the team and linking up well with Chris Erskine before being substituted late in the clash. Are the last two games a sign that the fans’ favourite is back on top form? Or will the Thistle attack continue its inconsistent tendencies?


Last Saturday, Dundee picked up an incredible 5-1 victory over Motherwell. The well-publicised win lead to the dismissal of Mark McGhee as ‘Well boss with the Dees netting five times in the first 45 minutes. The opener was an own goal but Mark O’Hara, Craig Wighton and a brace from recent revelation Matcus Haber lead to an impressive attacking display. But was the scoreline a reflection of a dangerous frontline or was it more telling for the Steelmen’s defence? The Motherwell back line wasn’t a strong one with 19-year-old Zak Jules thrown into the fray at centre-half having played just 11 senior games in his career with seven of those being non-league games in England. Another 19-year-old started the game as well in the form of Jack McMillan. So we will see tonight how this Dundee attack will fare against a strong Thistle defence. Speaking of which…


At the beginning of the season, Partick Thistle had struggled to keep teams out late in games. They dropped points against Hearts, Hamilton, Rangers and Ross County because of goals in the last ten minutes of games. This is, however, a weakness they seem to have eliminated recently. The Firhill side have kept seven clean sheets in their previous nine competitive matches showing that the side is much improved in that department. Young Niall Keown has been a great addition to the Jags unit, allowing Thistle to move between a four-at-the-back formation and three centre-half set-up on a game-by-game basis. Dundee have failed to score in both of this season’s previous encounters against the Maryhill men and judging by other Jags recent defensive displays, it might just stay that way.


As mentioned before, Dundee have failed to score against Thistle in this season’s previous two meetings between the sides.  Both of those games have been Jags victories as well. Alan Archibald’s men are the only team that the Dees have been unable to score against or take points from this campaign. This is a record that Paul Hartley’s team will be looking to obliterate tonight especially coming off a confidence boosting win at Fir Park. 

The match kicks-off at 7:45 from Dens Park in Dundee. It promises to be an intriguing match that could swing either way. It’s a game that could swing the race for the top six in either side’s favour and you can expect a review of the match on here tomorrow.

Liam Lindsay for Scotland

So, it’s getting towards that time again. On the 22nd of March, Scotland take on Canada in a friendly. Scotland have started their World Cup 2018 qualifying campaign poorly having won just once in four matches and many have argued that qualification is already out of reach despite there being six games left to play, however, whether making it to the World Cup is still possible or not, it’s clear that something needs to change for Scotland to once again begin regularly qualifying for major tournaments. The Republic of Ireland, Wales and Northern Ireland all made it to the most recent Euros in 2016 so there really are no excuses for our failing national side. 

The match against Canada represents a chance to give young blood an opportunity to prove itself. The Scotland team that lost 3-0 to England last November had an average age of 29.4 years in the starting line-up which is symptomatic of the ageing squad we currently have. The team have been relying on older players to provide the goods and a team that is full of players nearing the end of their playing careers will soon find themselves in a place where they no longer have those players but have failed to introduce younger talent to take their place. I definitely feel that there are places for veteran players in the side, in fact, I think it’s key that we do have some experience in the squad so that the young players that come in can learn from there predecessors but not enough has been done to ensure those youngsters are ready to step in. I think that even simply having some prospects in the squad would help them get used to international football even if they’re not playing. 

Recently there have been more young players in the squad. Oliver Burke, John McGinn and Kieran Tierney are examples of just that but there is more that can be done. I am a Partick Thistle fan and although the pipe dream of seeing cult heroes Kris Doolan or Chris Erskine playing for Scotland is long gone I feel we have a perfect example of a Scottish youngster that’s been overlooked because of his club rather than his talent. Liam Lindsay is a 21-year old, 6 foot 3 centre-half who I feel should be in the next Scotland squad and in this piece I’m going to explain why.

First of all, I’ll give a little back story. Liam Lindsay is one of a few Thistle players who have come through the ranks at Firhill. With the implementation of the new youth academy I’ll be hoping to see some more success stories that are grown with Thistle. He signed his first professional contract with the club in the summer of 2012 and made his debut against Dumbarton in the final league game of the Jags’ promotion campaign in the 2012/13 season where he coincidentally kept a clean sheet on an extremely windy day. He then spent time on loan with then-second tier side Alloa Athletic and Airdrieonians. The defender got his big break in the 2015/16 season when he was thrust into Premiership action on the opening day of the season. With Dan Seaborne unavailable, Lindsay had to start the game alongside Frederic Frans. An already daunting task for a 10-year old was made even more difficult when Frans was sent off just 25 minutes in and Lindsay had to play along Jack Hendry who was just a few months older than Liam. The ten-man Thistle team held on for a 0-0 draw with Lindsay putting in a good performance, showing aerial dominance and restricting Hamilton to shots from outside the box for the most part. This would be an early taste of the success he would have with the Jags. He became a fairly regular starter for Thistle, playing 25 times in that season scoring once in the process and being part of the fifth best defence in the league. He signed a two-year contract extension in October 2016 meaning his contract now runs until the end of the 2018/19 season boosting his market value substantially. 

Lindsay has continued as a regular starter this season but we’ll get into that later. A big problem I’ve had is that Lindsay has not been called up to the Scotland squad at any level. Despite playing at Premiership level for the past couple of seasons, Lindsay has been ignored in the u21 set-up in favour of players like Zak Jules or Alex Iacovotti who but a handful of professional games between but have somehow been playing for Scotland from the u17s through to u21s.

Anyway, now that I’ve given a brief summary of Lindsay’s rise and his situation with Thistle and the national team we can get into the reasons that he deserves a chance.

First and foremost, he’s aerially dominant. As I’ve already mentioned, he’s 6 foot 3 and this is obviously a terrific attribute for a central-defender. One of his biggest strengths is his ability to win challenges in the air, being able to head clear dangerous crosses and high balls. He’s also plenty strong meaning he’s a match physically for almost any striker he could come up against. His aerial ability is not only useful in defensive situations though, it’s also a great attribute in attack. So far this season, Liam Lindsay has bagged six league goals. Whenever he’s in the box he’s a threat, he has learned how to make runs off his marker and with a bit more fine tuning he could have been on ten goals for the season already. The goals have been important for Thistle too, taking a little bit of pressure off an attack that has generally struggled this season. For example, he scored a crucial opener away to Ross County in late December as well as the equaliser in the final ten minutes against Kilmarnock earlier in the season. Having a goal scoring defender is a huge attribute for any team, it gives the opposition more to worry about from set pieces and even if he is tightly marked, it means that other players can slip under the radar when attacking a corner or free-kick. 

Similar to his height, another one of Lindsay’s plus points is something that he has naturally. He’s left footed. According to a number of surveys and data collections, only around 20% off-roaders ions footballers are left-footed. This not only means that left footed players are harder to come by but also that good left footed players are even rarer. In defence, there is a strange stigma around left-footed centre backs. They’re thought of as one footed but in reality they’re no different to a right-sided player. Many people see having two left footed centre-halves as bad but have no problem with two right favouring defenders together which I find puzzling but that doesn’t matter here. Recently, Scotland have been playing with a left and right footed centre half pairing. Grant Hanley and Christophe Berra with the latter being the left sided individual. However, Berra is 32-years old and playing for an Ipswich Town team who aren’t known for their passing game and their pitch has been criticised as one that restricts passing play and I feel that Scorland need to become a more passing orientated team as out-playing teams is the best way to overcome nations like Lithuania or Georgia who will want to take whatever they can from the game. Obviously it’s not as simple as that but I feel introducing Lindsay into the set-up at a young age would allow the team to build a better footballing team going forward and being able to play out from the back isn’t something that most teams can do. I believe any team that is going to succeed needs to be able to pass from the back and Liam Lindsay has been part of a team for two seasons that tries to play passing football when it’s possible and playing alongside someone who is as calm on the ball as Adam Barton has no doubt help the youngster to improve that aspect of his game. 

Not that we have discussed his natural abilities we can move onto his skills as a player. Lindsay is a quick learner. He was thrown into the team on the first day of last season and quickly adapted to the physical nature of the Scottish game and cemented himself in the first team. In his first season as a regular, he scored just once but has gone on to score 6 in the league this season already. Goalscoring is something he has clearly worked on and is something that he has become an expert at. Another example of him learning quickly is his lack of mistakes recently. At the beginning of this season, Lindsay was partial to make a number of mistakes, for example, Hamilton’s opener in the Jags 1-1 draw with the Accies last year came after Lindsay failed to clear his lines and the opposition striker took advantage. This is something the Scotsman has taken out of his game, evidenced by the 6 goals conceded in Thistle’s last 12 competitive games. With the Jags keeping 7 clean sheets in their last 9 matches it’s clear that the team’s individual errors have been scored out but also their tendency to concede late goals. They have conceded just one goal in the last fifteen minutes of matches since 2017 began whereas at the beginning of the season where points were dropped to Hamilton, Hearts, Ross County and Rangers to goals late on. As the defence has become more organised and solid, Lindsay has grown with them putting in standout performance during recent shutouts.

Although Lindsay deserves a lot of credit for his improvements much of his growth must be attributed to Alan Archibald. The Scottish Premiership’s longest serving manager was a defender himself as was his assistant manager Scott Paterson was and this has definitely helped his development. Archie has a history of turning initially shoddy back lines into solid defensive units. An example being Conrad Balatoni. Balatoni was a key component in Thistle’s promotion campaign and was an important part of the Jags defence in their first two Premiership seasons. After the second season, the centre-half decided to leave Firhill, joining Kilmarnock. He had a difficult year or so at Rugby Park, failing to nail down a starting spot and failing to impress when given the chance. The spell ended when his contract was cancelled by mutual consent. He has since signed for Ayr United who find themselves struggling at the bottom of Scotland’s second tier showing that maybe it was Archibald’s management that made Balatoni a Premiership quality player. It could be said that Lindsay is benifitting from the Jags manager’s teaching and is improving as a player thanks to it but as such a young player it’s without doubt that with the right man in charge, Lindsay will do better in life after Thistle than Balatoni did.
To conclude, Liam Lindsay is easily Scotland’s best young centre-half. He is a physical match to almost anyone but also knows how to play a passing game. He is being taught by two veteran defenders of the Scottish game and has shown that be can learn quickly and eradicate weaknesses in a short space of time. He’s part of the best defender in the Scottish Premiership, outside the top three, despite a limited budget. So when you consider all of the above factors, is there any logical reason that Liam Lindsay should be overlooked for Scotland once again?