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Friday 19 March 2021 16:17, UK
Sky Sports’ Andy Walker offers his predictions as we head into another weekend of Scottish Premiership action.
Dundee United vs Aberdeen – Saturday, 3pm
Unless there’s a massive seven-goal swing between themselves and St Mirren – as well as St Johnstone failing to beat Ross County – Dundee Utd will probably play out the last five games of the season in the bottom half of the table. Nevertheless, it’s been a satisfactory return to the top-flight of Scottish football for the men on Tayside after a four-year absence.
Micky Mellon will have learned a lot about his players and what’s required to ensure a more consistent challenge is made to finish in the top six and compete for European football. That’s a reasonable goal. It’s a blow for Lawrence Shankland to be dropped from the Scotland squad announced earlier this week and it’s up to him to bounce back and start scoring again more consistently.
This will be Aberdeen’s first match with a caretaker boss since Derek McInnes left the club. Having got the backing of chairman Dave Cormack earlier this month, it seemed a change of direction was put off until the summer but Cormack has pulled the plug and will appoint a new manager soon.
McInnes consistently raised the standards at Aberdeen & it’ll be tough for any new man to be as successful.
Andy Walker’s prediction: 1-1
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Hamilton vs St Mirren – Saturday, 3pm
A win for St Mirren would guarantee a top-six finish and a season of progress under Jim Goodwin. Games between the two sides have been very tight this season but St Mirren have edged them both by just the one goal.
I saw Hamilton Accies lose narrowly to Livingston last weekend but it was a game they never looked like winning, I get the feeling a lack of belief – as well as injury problems – might prove too much for Accies to escape one of the bottom two places this season.
They’ve now failed to win in 10 of their last 11 league games, a desperate return at this stage of the season. Only Kilmarnock’s freefall to the foot of the table over the last couple of months has been just as bad. Having spent £225,000 on Covid testing for players and staff this season, Hamilton are feeling the effects of a long, hard season.
Andy Walker’s prediction: 1-2
Kilmarnock vs Motherwell – Saturday, 3pm
I think everyone in Scottish football is surprised to see Kilmarnock propping up the Premiership table with just six games to go. Relegation is a distinct possibility and in my view, their best chance of escaping the drop lies with Kyle Lafferty.
The recent signing by new boss Tommy Wright is offering something different and his two goals in the loss to Ross County showed that he’s still capable of making a difference. Quite simply, Kilmarnock have to start winning games to give themselves the best possible chance of escaping a painful drop into the Championship.
When Tommy Wright was appointed as successor to Alex Dyer, the natural reaction was that Kilmarnock would get “new manager” bounce that so many clubs get when changing leadership. Fans in Ayrshire are still waiting. Graham Alexander took his Motherwell side to Rugby Park not so long ago and won a vital three points.
I’ve said all along that Motherwell were good enough to avoid being sucked into the bottom two places and the loan signing from Hearts Jordan Roberts has given the team a lift.
Andy Walker’s prediction: 1-0
Livingston vs Hibernian – Saturday, 3pm
I was at Livingston last weekend to see one of the goals of the season from Jay Emmanuel Thomas. It was terrific skill and ability from the former Arsenal and Bristol City man that put his team in front and his overall play helped get the points to secure a top-six finish.
Talking of impressive strikers, not only was Kevin Nisbet back scoring last weekend in the win against Ross County but his week was made all the more enjoyable when Stevie Clarke named him in the Scotland squad for next month’s internationals against Austria, Israel and the Faroe Islands scored.
He also scored a hat-trick against Livingston on this pitch at the start of the season and Jack Ross will be thrilled to have him available for selection again as he tries to steer the club to a third-place finish ahead of Aberdeen.
Andy Walker’s prediction: 0-1
St Johnstone vs Ross County – Saturday, 3pm
St Johnstone should be highly motivated for this one. Only a victory allied to St Mirren not winning at Hamilton would ensure a finish in the top half of the table in Calum Davidson’s first season in charge.
Not bad if you add in his League Cup success already this season. Shaun Rooney limped off against Hamilton Accies recently and remains doubtful for this one. Davidson does have Michael O’Halloran to call upon of course, his pace is an asset for any side.
John Hughes has been outspoken and critical of referees in recent games and with good reason. He’ll be hoping for a better break from refs given the important and game-changing penalties that have been awarded to opponents in recent games that have been scored and County have had nothing to show for their efforts.
Losing to St Mirren and Hibs with highly debatable penalties still hurts him!
Andy Walker’s prediction: 2-0
Celtic vs Rangers – Sunday, 12pm, live on Sky Sports Football
Interim manager John Kennedy has to show he can shape up a team and have them playing for him if he is to realise any ambition of succeeding Neil Lennon permanently.
The simple truth is that Celtic have been awful this season, have greatly underperformed and are still to lay a glove on the newly crowned Scottish Premiership champions. Putting an end to their unbeaten league season would be a small consolation for the hurting Celtic support but it would mean that they have at least scored against their great rivals!
The most dangerous frontman is undoubtedly Odsonne Edouard but his focus has been elsewhere this season, much to the annoyance of every Celtic supporter.
Chopping and changing the goalkeepers, defensive formations and midfield players hasn’t helped Celtic get into any rhythm at all but this is one to show up for the fans. Rangers have to get over the pain of losing to Slavia Prague on Thursday night in the Europa League but in fairness to Steven Gerrard and his squad, they have met every challenge head on this season and in big games, they have delivered.
They won’t be in the least bit fazed by going to Celtic Park, their supporters know they are capable of winning anywhere. The big question is, will Rangers remain unbeaten in the league this season?
Andy Walker’s prediction: 1-0
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