Scottish Premiership: five things we learned, by Rob Maclean

Rob Maclean continues his weekly assessment of the main talking points from the top flight action.

Red card can't stop relentless Celtic

Callum McGregor was sent off early in the second half against Hamilton
McGregor was sent off early in the second half against Hamilton

Celtic's Christmas spirit couldn't have been more impressive as they made their 10 men look like 12 in the hammering of Hamilton at New Douglas Park.

The Premiership leaders were a player down for virtually the whole of the second half after Willie Collum and his officials wrongly reckoned Callum McGregor should be shown a second yellow card.

That could, and probably should, have been a big turning point for Accies who had matched up to Celtic pretty well in the first half before losing a 41st minute goal and seemed well-equipped to bounce back with their superior numbers.

Stuart Armstrong's 30-yard Christmas cracker of a second goal changed all that. Hamilton were visibly deflated and depleted Celtic had grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck.

The final score was 3-0 going on one or two more. It was another significant show of strength, and demonstration of desire, from the champions who're set to further stretch their title advantage going into the New Year.

Rangers building momentum in search for second

Rangers defender Clint Hill
Rangers kept a clean sheet at Ibrox to make it four league wins in a row

Rangers are grinding out the results at the moment which make them the next best thing to Celtic in the Premiership but they'll have to ratchet up their performance levels to hold out any realistic hopes for Hogmanay.

It's the third Old Firm game of the season on the last day of 2016 and it'll be a big surprise if this one at Ibrox doesn't go the same way as the other two at Celtic Park in September when Rangers lost 5-1 and at Hampden in October when a 1-0 win took Celtic to the League Cup final.

Comparing Rangers to Celtic at the moment is pointless. Brendan Rodgers' team are in a league of their own.

Rangers' goal is to finish second, no matter how far behind the winners-in-waiting that might be.

Beating Aberdeen to runners-up spot would be no mean achievement.

Their immediate aim is to get three points in Perth on Wednesday night, targeting what would be an impressive five wins on the bounce.

Saints on song

St Johnstone are one point behind Hearts in fourth, with a game in hand
St Johnstone are one point behind Hearts in fourth, with a game in hand

St Johnstone won't see it that way and don't rule the Perth team out of this season's battle for European places.

Most of the chat about qualification for Europa League qualification, if you know what I mean, has been about Rangers, Aberdeen and Hearts.

But Tommy Wright's Saints are unbeaten in December so far with two wins and a couple of draws. They could have won much more comfortably on Friday night than the 1-0 margin at Kilmarnock.

Scorer Murray Davidson had another attempt cleared off the line, Liam Craig hit the post and Graham Cummins was denied by a double stop from Killie keeper Jamie MacDonald.

St Johnstone are again a stick-on for a top six finish and they might just fancy themselves for another European adventure.

Thistle finally find welcome goals

Kris Doolan was on target for Thistle
Thistle were too strong for County on a blustery Friday night

No-one who saw Partick Thistle's previous performances at Tynecastle and Celtic Park could have been too surprised at their emphatic pre-Christmas win in Dingwall.

They drew with Hearts and should have won. They created half a dozen decent chances against Celtic, took none of them, and lost 1-0.

The Jags were due to stick a few opportunities away and, sadly for Ross County, they chose Friday night to score three Premiership goals in a game for the first time this season.

It won't disguise, though, for manager Alan Archibald the need to bring in a goalscoring alternative up front to Kris Doolan. Young striker Ade Azeez is promising but doesn't hit the net often enough.

Thistle need to add end product to their often-attractive attacking football if they're to avoid an end-of-season scrap in the drop zone.

Nip and tuck dogfight set to continue

Inverness CT striker Alex Fisher
Bottom club Caley Thistle missed some good chances at Ibrox on Saturday

Fourteen miles will get you from Dingwall to Inverness and there's precious little distance between Ross County and Caley Thistle in the Premiership placings despite the fact one's in the top six and the other's at the bottom of the league.

The Highland pair both lost their last match before Christmas and they're bookending that tightly-packed posse of teams - the Struggling Seven - who are all in danger at the moment of featuring in the battle against relegation.

So although County and Inverness are in sixth and 12th places, respectively, there are only four points between them.

The shuffling for position in the lower reaches of the top division will no doubt continue into the second half of the campaign and a fascinating finale seems guaranteed.

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