Hibs boss, Lennon calls on defensive and attacking recruitment before window closes

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Hibernian manager, Neil Lennon believes the club need to recruit more players before the end of the January window if they are to finish in the top six. (Photo credit: Hayden Barry)

Hibernian boss, Neil Lennon has called for recruitment at both ends of the park if the Edinburgh side are to finish in the top six by the end of the season.

The latest blow to the Hibees injury list was defender Ryan Porteous who has received a scan today on a potential long-term knee injury.

Lennon now believes the club need to resolve both their defensive and attacking issues this season by bringing in at least two players before the transfer window closes next week.

Porteous came off 28 minutes into Hibs’ 1-0 defeat to Motherwell at Fir Park. Lennon gave an update to the defender’s condition. He said: “He is getting scanned today so I am not sure how severe it is yet, but it didn’t look good after the game on Wednesday night. It is just another blow, coming into this month we’ve arguably lost our three best players of the first half of the season. Ryan, Martin Boyle – who is out for the rest of the season – and Efe Ambrose.”

Neil Lennon

Neil Lennon has been left frustrated by the number of injuries to his side this season. (Photo credit: David Ronney)

Lennon then turned his focus to bringing in players before the end of the month. He added: “With Efe [Ambrose] being away and now Ryan out it’ll depend on the length of his injury, but it is something we will maybe need to look in to.

“We need to get some players in to bolster what we have because we need an injection of freshness and quality. We are down to the barebones, we have five academy players in the squad of 18 so we only have 13 senior players currently available. We need to get some work done and start challenging for the top six.

“That’s what we are working on [buying a striker], and a wide player as well. We want to bring in at two players at the minimum between now and the end of January, I think that is essential. It is vitally important that a striker comes in because at the minute we have only two options in that position. Everyone is looking for strikers, but we need an injection of quality to help us up top.”

One positive the Hibs manager can certainly take from recent weeks is the impact made by playmaker Ryan Gauld who has already been influential in his second spell at the club.

Lennon hailed the new recruit. He said: “I was really pleased with him, he is playing well and he well definitely continue to bring quality to the team. In the two games he has played he’s been arguably our best player.”

Hibernian take on St Mirren on Sunday where they’ll be looking to bounce back and obtain their first win in the Premiership for the new year.

Hearts boss sticks Vanecek on new fitness program following criticism

Craig Levein Hearts

Hearts boss took David Vanecek off after half an hour against Dundee and publicly criticised the striker post match. (Photo credit: Hayden Barry)

Hearts manager, Craig Levein has put striker, David Vanecek on a new fitness program following his withdraw just half an hour into Wednesday’s 2-1 defeat at home to Dundee.

Vanecek played the entirety of the Scottish Cup win against Livingston but was hung out to dry after his manager labelled his performance against Dundee as “rubbish”.

Levein defended his comments regarding the Czech player saying he felt speaking publicly about his fitness issues would mean his message would get across. He said: “Let’s say he finished in November and he obviously hasn’t done any work, between then and joining us which frustrates me. The best time to buy him out of any problems is soon as they arrive and I felt that it’s really important that he knows why he’s under performed on the night. And also didn’t do enough in the Livingston game either to do what we need him to do.

“I think the important thing is he knows that to play in Scottish football. People might think it’s easy but it’s not. They know the competitive nature of the matches means you have to be fit.

Craig Levein

Craig Levein was all smiles ahead of Hearts’ match against in-form St Johnstone this weekend. (Photo credit: Hayden Barry)

“He apologised yesterday. He’s on a programme to improve his fitness and hopefully I don’t need to speak to him again.”

The defeat to relegation strugglers was the first in four matches but focus now turns to St Johnstone who have won their last four matches, failing to concede a goal along their win streak.

If Hearts are to beat their Perth opposition, they would move into fifth and arguably right back into the title race. Levein knows his side can’t afford to slip up two matches in a row. He added: “We will need to score again this weekend against St Johnstone who are in a very good run themselves.

“They’ve got a good record defensively. We for a spell struggled against St Johnstone. We’ve kinda swung things back in our favour in the last couple of years. Our recent results have been fairly good against them.

“It is really tight. We kinda slipped up a bit the other night. We’re sort of on the coattails of everybody and that’s the big disappointment. We could have hung in really close behind the top teams but there’s still a long way to go.”

Hearts captain expecting “tough run in” for SPFL title race

Christophe Berra

Christophe Berra believes Hearts could get themselves back in the title race. (Photo credit: Hayden Barry)

Hearts captain, Christophe Berra, knows his side will have tough task ahead if they’re to get themselves back battling for the Premiership title this season.

Just nine points separate first and sixth place in the league table, and the centre half is confident they can be in the race until the very end.

The Tynecastle side take on St. Johnstone this weekend and a win would see them move above the side from Perth into fifth place.

Berra spoke to the media about the tough challenge that awaits the club for the second half of the season. He said: “It is so tight between the top six just now, every team seems to be taking points off each other. You’ve got St Johnstone who have been consistent throughout, Aberdeen who started slowly but have picked up again. Celtic and Rangers are right at the top of their game as you would expect, so it is going to be a tough run in.

Christophe Berra

The Hearts defender was injured during the club’s impressive start to the season. (Photo credit: Hayden Barry)

“If we can pick up all the points against St Johnstone tomorrow, then it’ll be a perfect start to getting ourselves right in the mix again.

“We’ve all got to play each other, and points will be lost every weekend so it’ll come to who can keep their players fit, what team has that special bit of talent that can win you these big games, and who can get a bit of luck when it matters most.”

Berra has spent much of the first half of the season on the sidelines with a torn hamstring sustained in a 1-0 win over Celtic in August.

However, the 33-year-old is back in the squad and hopes players competing for places in the team can lead to better performances. He added: “Obviously, competition for places in the team is good, it is down to the gaffer to make his decision on what players he goes with, but everyone here is fighting for the jersey.

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Hearts captain said he’s aware of tough competition in the top six. (Photo credit: Hayden Barry)

“It’s great to see so much competition all over the park because if you don’t then some players can get a bit slack, so this will keep everyone on there toes. That is what you need if you want to build a strong squad and the manager is trying to do that.”

The Hearts captain spoke about how manager Craig Levein’s straightforward approach when addressing the players has helped the team improve on their mistakes.

“I’ve worked under a lot of managers but for me the one thing you really appreciate as a player is when the manager is honest with you, so you know where you stand. He had a few harsh words for the players and for the team overall.

“We know that we did not hit the standards that we have in the past, but the games are coming thick and fast, so we have an opportunity to put that right.”

VAR in Scottish football? – Podcast

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SPFL managers have called for VAR technology to be added to the Scottish game. (Photo credit: SounderBruce via Wikipedia)

Following a meeting between the Scottish Premiership’s managers with the league’s match officials last week, there has been calls for Video Assistant Refereeing (VAR) to be added to the referee’s list of technology they have at their disposal.

However, with the cost of the equipment casting judgement to when we are likely to see it implemented in Scotland, can the top flight afford to wait any longer?

David Ronney, Luke Barry and Graham Miller sit down and discuss.

Edinburgh City boss admits injury scare ahead of cup replay

John Menzies credit to Ross

James McDonaugh looks ahead to tonight’s cup replay. Photo by Ross Cowper-Fraser

Edinburgh City manager, James McDonaugh admitted that his side could do without tonight’s Scottish Cup replay as they fear potential injuries.

City travel to the Highlands to play Inverness Caledonian Thistle and while a cup run is of importance, their focus will also be on retaining their two point lead in League Two.

McDonaugh spoke ahead of tonight’s third round replay.

He said: “Because we are struggling with injuries, tonight’s match is one that we could do without. I guess so far it’s okay because we keep winning, but at some point we’re going to be really struggling if we get a couple more injuries or any suspensions.

“We haven’t been able to give any of our first team players a rest over the past six weeks, so we’ve had to stick with the same core of players for our last few games. Of course the team keep winning games but we could easily lose a player or two to suspension, and then we’d really be in trouble.”

City drew the first meeting 1-1 at Ainslie Park against John Robertson’s side and hope they can do it again as they travel to Tulloch Caledonian Stadium for the 19:45 kick off.

They’re coming off the back of Saturday’s 2-0 win against Queen’s Park. A performance that certainly pleased McDonaugh going into tonight’s game.

He added: “I thought we were very good in the first half, playing on the front foot and at a good tempo. We always looked like a threat going forward.

“In the second half, the game turned very scrappy and we didn’t play as well but to be fair, we were 2-0 up because of a lot of hard work in the first half.”

“Overall, the players deserve a lot of credit for securing another three points.”

Inverness CT come into tonight on the back of only their third defeat of the season, and their first in the league. They lost to 3-2 to McDonaugh’s former club, Falkirk over the weekend.

But despite that setback, the Highland side will be fancying their chances to progress at home to lower league opposition.

And McDonaugh expects it to be a very tough task against their Championship opponents.

“For us to have a chance against Inverness, every player for us must perform at their best, and we need them to have an off day, and a bit of luck as well. We would need all three to go our way. Of course we can win, but the chances of it happening are very minimal.”

Should Edinburgh City come through tonight’s match, they will be rewarded with a home tie against Lowland League side East Kilbride in the fourth round.

Murrayfield set to host Betfred League Cup Clash – Football Podcast

Murrayfield is set to host Hearts and Celtic in the Scottish League Cup. Photo Credit to Vclaw via Wikipedia

After an initial controversial decision to host both Scottish League Cup semi-finals at Hampden on Sunday 28th October, the SPFL have decided to move the Hearts and Celtic fixture to Scotland’s home of rugby.

However, the decision hasn’t be taken lightly. David Ronney is joined by Paige Beresford, Lauren Archer and John Menzies on the football podcast.

Scottish Premier League – Midweek round-up

Rangers closed the gap between themselves and third placed Aberdeen to three points with a 2-0 victory at Partick Thistle last night.

Goals either side of the break from Josh Windass and James Tavernier was enough to secure the three points for Graham Murty’s side.

Partick Thistle started the brighter of the two sides with Connor Sammon causing problems up front.  Jags manager Alan Archibald will have been left wondering what might have been with his side’s pressure forcing Rangers into making early mistakes.

As time passed, Rangers began to gain more control with Jason Holt commanding the midfield.

Thistle thought they had broke the deadlock when Ryan Edwards latched onto Sammon’s flick on but his powerful volley was ruled out for offside.  The decision was contested by Archibald with TV replays showing a tight call.

The scoring was opened with a slick counter-attack with Candeias playing a lovely first-time cross with Windass smashing home the finish.

A strike off the post from Sammon just before half time was the best chance Thistle missed to get back into the game.

In the second half, James Tavernier ensured the Teddy Bears would be going home with all three points with a spectacular curled-strike into the top corner.

Thistle put up a valiant effort but were outdone by a superior Rangers side.

 

 

Two late goals secured a 2-0 win over St Johnstone to break into the top six in the Scottish Premiership.

St Johnsotne had won 8 out of the 11 previous meetings with Motherwell and it was the Saints who started the better side.

Stefan Cougall was proving tough to handle for the opening 20 minutes, before picking up an injury after landing awkwardly.

It was a lacklustre first half performance from the Well, yet they did create the best chance when Curtis Main had his strike from outside the box strike off the bar and over.

After the break, Motherwell came to life, created much more going forward with Main being the forefront.

Motherwell eventually made the breakthrough following good work on the left.  Rose then laid the ball across for Campbell to convert in the six-yard box – his first goal since April.

Main’s hard work deserved a goal and he was duly rewarded.  Richard Tait won the ball just outside the Saints box, who then served the ball through to Main.  He swivelled and put his left-foot shot beyond Saints keeper Mannus.

The win means well overtake Kilmarnock into sixth, although the Ayrshire side have three games in hand over the Lanarkshire side.

 

 

Hearts’ new Tynecastle stand dazzles in football’s shadow

Hearts could only draw on their return to Tynecastle amidst the controversial opening of their new stand.

The Gorgie side were held to 1-1 draw with Partick Thistle on Sunday hours after a safety certificate was received by City of Edinburgh Council.  

Hearts’ owner Ann Budge helped open the new stand. Photograph: skysports

This caused disruption with the Partick Thistle supporters who were forced to wait until the morning of the game for confirmation.

The Jambos owner, Ann Budge, believed that the right decision was made in the process.

She said: “From my perspective I reckoned it was important to all the fans – the Hearts fans and the Partick fans – it was important to both clubs, both teams, that we really go for it.

“I felt I had a duty to really push it to the wire to try and get this game on because so many people would have had different problems.  And the other thing is, despite what you may have read in the press or wherever, I was in constant touch with Partick Thistle.

“I have been in daily touch with the SPFL , everyone has known what’s been going on, I’ve been keeping them informed.”

The new main stand has a capacity of over 7,250 and is expected to cost the club approximately £12million upon completion next year.  New facilities include new offices, hospitality lounges and a brand new director’s suite.

Budge added: “Everybody wanted to be back. Clearly the team wanted to be back here, they want to be playing in their home ground. Will that mean that we win six games? I’m definitely not saying that.

“But I think both the supporters and the team, everybody is just delighted to be here. And no, it is far from perfect, it’s far from finished.

“I think I said in one statement some time ago that there’s about 25 per cent of it finished. You know I think even that’s stretching it. There’s a lot to be done. But we are back and that is the key.” [the Scottish Sun]

Hearts form has suffered throughout the Tynecastle refurbishment. They currently sit in seventh position and nine points behind Edinburgh rivals Hibernian.

But they will now play the next five league games at home after playing nine of the opening 13 matches away.


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Maurice Malpas: time for a ‘fresh face’ for Scotland

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Former Scotland defender, Maurice Malpas has stated it might be time for Scotland to bring in a ‘fresh face’ as manager. 

Malpas, who played in the same international team as Gordon Strachan, has said: “I think Gordon will reflect on the last two qualifying campaigns and knowing him he might choose to go.”

However the Scot, who was picking balls for the IRN-BRU Cup Quarter Finals said he expects the SFA to stick with Strachan into the Euro 2020 qualifiers.  “I am sure the SFA will look at the last six games and take a lot of positives.  I’d expect them to keep him on.”

SFA Chief, Stewart Regan has said there will be no “knee-jerking decisions” over Strachan’s future.

Regan told SunSport: “Everyone is disappointed with how the campaign ended.

“I’ve already had a chat with the manager and we’ve discussed it and I’ve said to him we’ll be discussing things as a board.

“I don’t think it would be fair on him or fair on us to make any snap judgement.

“We’ll just reflect on it and when we’re ready we’ll make a call on what happens next.

The bookies have lined up potential replacements should Gordan Strachan’s tenure come to an end.  David Moyes is the early frontrunner to succeed Strachan with Paddy Power offering odds of 17/10.  Other potential choices include former Scotland boss Alex McLeish (4/1) and current Performance Director of the SFA, Malkay Mackay (4/1).

 

 

Spiders hit Montrose for six

There were two games in the lower divisions of the Ladbrokes SPFL on Tuesday night.

In League Two, Queen’s Park travelled to take on Montrose, while in League One, Stranraer faced an arduous trip to Peterhead.

Queen’s Park went into the match at Links Park knowing a win would take them above both their opponents and Stirling Albion to within a point of the playoff places.

But they got off to the worst possible start, with Adrian Mallagaray giving the home side an early lead.

However, the Spiders bounced back in style and Paul Woods got them back on level terms with the equaliser.

Montrose keeper Ross Salmon’s first inkling that he was in for a torrid evening came when he fumbled Sean Burns’ free kick into his own net, and the Queen’s Park midfielder also played a vital part in his side’s third goal.

He was unlucky to see his shot thunder off the post, but Ryan McGeever was on hand to slot home the rebound and give the home side a mountain to climb before the interval.

There was no let-up from the visitors and the impressive Woods grabbed his second goal of the game before Jamie McKernon found the top corner with a fine strike.

Burns compounded Montrose’s misery with another free kick to round off the scoring and put the gloss on a crucial three points for his side.

Elsewhere, Peterhead and Stranraer played out a bizarre match at Balmoor.

Craig Malcolm gave all nine visiting fans who had made the long trip to the North East something to shout about when he converted a penalty after Luciano Nequecaur had been fouled by Jass Sukar.

That was cancelled out by Rory McAllister’s free kick just before half time but the match descended into a farce just after the interval.

The Balmoor floodlights began to fail and referee Craig Charleston twice stopped the game to consult the managers.

However, play raged on and with the closing stages being played in almost total darkness, Kevin Dzierzawski and McAllister both went close for the home side.

However, Stranraer held on to take a point back to the south west and they remain second-bottom, two points above Brechin City and the same margin behind Cowdenbeath.

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