Our writers Ian Roache and Neil Robertson look back on a huge weekend for football in Courier Country. The jury is still out on whether Dundee got a decent point or dropped two, St Johnstone’s incredible winning run motored on and Dundee United’s Robbie Revival continued in the Highlands.
Q: Is your Dundee glass half-empty or half-full after that draw at home to St Mirren?
IR: Some have been accentuating the positive but if you take the result itself in isolation I can’t help but be negative. I just think the Dark Blues had to win this one. Yes, it’s great Kenny Miller finally got a goal and the hosts probably deserved to edge it on play but it’s two points dropped for me.
NR: Half-full for me. Dundee will still be kicking themselves that they did not take all three points. However, it was vitally important they did not lose this game and they deserve plaudits for coming from behind to take a point. The result stopped the rot of five successive defeats and gives manager Jim McIntyre something to build on.
Q: McIntyre knows he has a job on his hands but surely he should be given some time before any criticism heads his way?
IR: It is far too early to judge him on anything. He is almost going through a pre-season scenario at the moment where he is having a look at his players during games and either deciding they deserve to stay in or concluding they are not for him. The trouble is that he is having to do that during competitive matches rather than friendlies. McIntyre is right up against it but he won’t need me to tell him that.
NR: There have been signs of steady improvement in the last two games and I think the manager has now had time to assess the players at his disposal. McIntyre had a full week to prepare for the St Mirren game with no midweek match and he will be determined to use this international break to full effect as well.
Q: The Dark Blues face an off-form Hibs next after the international break. Can they realistically expect to take anything from Easter Road?
IR: The Hibees have now gone four without a win and dropped down to eighth place in the table but that last victory was a 6-0 thrashing of Hamilton in Leith so I would urge caution.
NR: Hibs have lost their last two games but only by one-goal margins to in-form St Johnstone and Aberdeen at Pittodrie. Considering they easily swept Dundee aside earlier in the season at Dens, even a point for the Dark Blues in Leith would be a major bonus.
Q: What a win that was for United in Dingwall! How significant can it be as regards their promotion hopes?
IR: If they do go on and lift the title – and it’s still a big if – then that 1-0 victory over Ross County will be seen as pivotal. Confidence is coursing through the Tangerines and – this is key – even though they had their backs to the wall at times on Saturday you always fancied them to hang on. The strange post-match comments from County co-boss Stuart Kettlewell about alleged play-acting and a lack of class etc just smacked of jealousy.
NR: Ian has termed it the “Robbie revival” but I would go even further and call the transformation under Neilson as the “Robbie revolution”. Considering United lost 5-1 at home the last time they played the Staggies under Csaba Laszlo, the result up in Dingwall speaks volumes about how far they have come in the new boss’s short tenure so far.
Q: Resilience was the watchword for the Tangerines at the weekend. They will need plenty more of that in the weeks to come, won’t they?
IR: It is the perfect word to describe that United display. Fans will have also liked hearing Neilson switch his focus right away to the Alloa home game next Tuesday and appreciated his warning that the players can’t let their current high standards slip. After the Wasps, they then face Ayr United at Tannadice at the end of the month. It is already game on as far as United and the title race goes but six points from those two November matches and the feelgood factor will be absolutely huge.
NR: Consistency is another word that springs to mind. As Neilson knows only too well, there is no point coming back down the A9 with all three points and then slipping up against Alloa at Tannadice. However, I just cannot see him or his rejuvenated players allowing that to happen.
Q: What can we say about Saints? This really is a remarkable winning run – agree?
IR: It is all the more commendable considering it has come after a 6-0 home hammering from Celtic. I think the term is bouncebackability.
NR: Remarkable just about does the run justice. It is a sequence of results that other teams with much bigger budgets can only dream of and the fact the victories have been achieved without conceding a goal is nothing short of astonishing.
Q: Does Scotland manager Alex McLeish know who Zander Clark is?
IR: Ignoring Clark is as predictable as it is pathetic. Scott Bain is a good keeper, as we know fine well in this neck of the woods, but he is Celtic’s second choice. Clark should actually have been in the Scotland squad long before this run of clean sheets.
NR: Put it this way, if Clark had produced his recent form for Aberdeen or Hearts, would the national manager have made the same call? I think not and the decision once again is a huge slap in the face for Saints as well as the player himself. It doesn’t add up – Bain’s starts this season, four. Clark’s clean sheets in a row, five. That says it all.
Q: Speaking of the national team, how
do you see the Nations League double-header against Albania and Israel going?
IR: I have the fear for Albania away and defeat there on Saturday would put a
dark cloud over the Israel game at Hampden the following Tuesday. That is the nightmare scenario. The call-offs must really be draining any optimism out of the squad.
NR: The fact Ian has concerns about our chances of beating Albania sums up just how far we have fallen on the international stage. However, as the old cliche goes, you can only beat what’s in front of you and hopefully the players can give the Tartan Army something to shout about.
Q :What a weekend it was in Angus. Fans are getting their money’s worth across the county just now, aren’t they?
IR: Arbroath are obviously on fire. Dick Campbell deserves enormous credit for that but I can almost hear him urging caution to his players. Barry Smith’s first game in charge of Brechin went well, too, did it not? What a way for Smith to start off – City fans will be smiling this week.
NR: Forfar must be fed up of the sight of Barry Smith. His last game in charge for Raith was a 4-0 defeat of the Loons and he obviously followed that up with a similar scoreline in his first game in charge of Brechin. As for Arbroath, as ever Mr Campbell will be desperately trying to dampen down expectations but that 10-point gap over Raith is considerable even at this stage of the season.