More Turmoil And Dodgy Decisions Cap Off Busy Week In The SPL

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Craig continues our weekly dip into the Scottish Premiership, and other kilt-related activity.

There was no league action last weekend because of the Scottish Cup semi-finals at Hampden. On Saturday, Celtic struggled to overcome 1st division St Johnstone, eventually winning 2-1. As I predicted a couple of weeks ago, Celtic received an extremely dodgy penalty when Dutch scrabble champion Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink took a dive over Saints keeper Kevin Cuthbert. The striker then converted the penalty he won to give Celtic the lead in the 13th minute. However, the 1st division promotion chasers struck back 6 minutes later through midfielder Martin Hardie’s lob, which took them into the break deservedly level. However, the Dutch diver Vennegoor scored a header just after half-time to put Celtic into the final. However, the Saints put up a good fight, and their performance will give them a huge boost in their promotion challenge, where they currently sit 3 points behind leaders Gretna with 2 games to go.

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In the second semi, Hibernian drew 0-0 with Dunfermline on Sunday in a match which was more exciting than the scoreline suggests. Hibs are chasing a cup double, after winning the CIS Cup in March, while Dunfermline have more important things to concentrate on – they currently sit 4 points adrift at the bottom of the Scottish Premier League with only 5 matches remaining. The replay will take place next Wednesday. Hibs’ preparation for the match was overshadowed by a players’ revolt at the club – 15 players reportedly complained to the chairman about manager John Collins’ training techniques while Collins was out of the country. Captain Rob Jones came out after the match and gave the manager the full backing of the squad, but it’s unlikely that will be the end of the story. Midfielder Michael Stewart will not play again for the club and is training with the youth team due to his part in the revolt, and playmaker Scott Brown had this to say.

This was the 3rd players’ revolt of an amazing season in the SPL – firstly the ‘Riccarton Three’ at Hearts spoke out about dressing room unrest, closely followed by Paul Le Guen’s public spat with Barry Ferguson. Heads rolled on both occasions – Steven Pressley and Paul Hartley left Hearts, soon to be followed by Craig Gordon in the summer, while Le Guen was sacked just weeks after his argument with his captain.

Meanwhile, Celtic can win the SPL title this weekend if they beat Kilmarnock at Rugby Park on Sunday. In fact, the title may even be in the bag by then if Rangers fail to beat Hearts on Saturday. Kilmarnock fans are not best pleased to see the title decider at Rugby Park – many Killie fans were physically assaulted by angry Celtic fans when Celtic won at Rugby Park on the last day of the season but were pipped to the title by Rangers on goal difference in 2003. And when Celtic clinched the 2004 title at Rugby Park, Celtic fans ripped hundreds of seats out of the stadium for ‘souvenirs’, causing £20,000 worth of damage.