Rob Maclean's weekend football review: Hearts, Rangers, Aberdeen, Partick Thistle

Aberdeen players celebrate
Aberdeen are proving they are the second best team in the country

Rob Maclean continues his series assessing the main talking points from the weekend's Scottish football action.

Hearts hitting the wrong note

Here's the message I'm taking out of this weekend-long debate about who's running the Hearts team. We wouldn't be having it if they weren't slipping alarmingly down the league.

Head coach Ian Cathro works for the director of football and no-one would be caring about notes being passed down from the directors' box by Craig Levein, or his appearance in the dressing room at half-time, if all was going swimmingly. It's not.

Hearts have won only five of the 17 games since 30-year-old Cathro took charge.

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Highlights: Aberdeen 2-0 Hearts

At that stage, they were three points ahead of Saturday's opponents Aberdeen. Now they're 17 behind.

A five-point advantage over St Johnstone has now become a two-point deficit, with the Perth team taking over fourth place.

Player recruitment and team tactics are surely more valid talking points than the dynamic between Cathro and Levein.

McInnes's Dons could break Fergie record

Comparisons between Aberdeen's team of 2017 and the legendary line-up of the early to mid-80s are pointless.

But it's a real feather in the cap for the current crop that they're on the brink of breaking the club record for consecutive home wins.

The pre-knighthood Alex Ferguson's Dons reeled off nine straight victories at Pittodrie in the 1985-86 season.

Derek McInnes and his team matched that achievement with their 2-0 defeat of Hearts on Saturday and have every chance of going one better.

Aberdeen are 25 points behind Celtic, but they're Scotland's next best thing and are in the process of proving it.

Where are the home-grown players at Ibrox?

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Highlights: Rangers 4-0 Hamilton

Pedro Caixinha wants his Rangers team to 'play like kids'. But what about putting some home-grown kids in the team?

Now, I realise that's hardly a priority at the moment for the new Portuguese gaffer as he looks to chase Aberdeen for Premiership runners-up spot and, at the very least, qualify for Europe.

Caixinha got off to a solid start at Ibrox on Saturday with four goals and three points against a struggling Hamilton team who slipped to the bottom of the league.

When he mentioned kids afterwards, he was talking about his players getting a child-like enjoyment from their football, but it did make me think about the lack of youngsters progressing from Rangers' Murray Park academy into the first team.

It's not immediately Caixinha's problem, but it must be a concern for the bean-counters who've been expecting some return on a major long-term investment in youth development.

Playing to the final whistle

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Highlights: Kilmarnock 1-1 Partick Thistle

Partick Thistle would be a win away from fifth-placed Hearts had they not lost late goals these last two Saturdays.

Jags fans thought nothing could be worse than that stoppage-time equaliser by Inverness at Firhill - until they watched a goalie gaffe deprive them of another victory at Rugby Park.

Only keeper Tomas Cerny can explain, perhaps, how he managed to fumble a speculative long-range trundler from Kilmarnock's Connor Sammon into the back of the net in the 87th minute for another 1-1 draw.

If you're looking on the bright side, and Cerny would probably prefer to, Thistle are still unbeaten in their last five matches and 10 points clear of any relegation worries.

But it could so easily have been five straight wins and an almost certain top-six finish.

Interest at both ends of the Championship

The tail is wagging in the Championship and we were seven minutes away from the bottom four all winning on Saturday.

Dumbarton lost a late equaliser at Easter Road, but that still goes down as a more than decent point against leaders Hibernian.

Raith Rovers got all three against promotion-chasing Dundee United, Ayr United won at Dunfermline and St Mirren kept up their escape bid with a big win in Dumfries.

There are now only eight points covering the six teams below the promotion play-off places and it's become increasingly difficult to predict which of them will secure safety.

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