Scottish Premiership: What did we learn from the weekend's games?

Celtic and Rangers keep on winning, Motherwell's great run continues and Livingston have broken into the top six in time for Christmas.

We had a hat-trick hero in West Lothian, while Kilmarnock have now gone four in a row without finding the net.

Aberdeen were furious over a red card, while Hamilton were delighted to end a long winless run and move off the bottom of the table.

Hearts are propping up the league after a third defeat on the trot for the new manager and the Hibs boss's choices are under scrutiny going into a huge derby.

Here are the top takeaways from the Scottish Premiership...


Wasteful finishing has Celtic in a sweat

Celtic got there eventually against Aberdeen, but only after a sweat of their own making. Total first-half dominance and a succession of misses chances ended with a 1-1 scoreline at the break after a sucker-punch equaliser from Dons striker Sam Cosgrove.

Neill Lennon's league leaders should have been out of sight instead of scrambling for a winner. Odsonne Edouard's strike was then greeted with palpable relief from the home fans and Cosgrove's red card made the final stages comfortable. But converting their superiority to goals would make life a lot easier.


Kent flying at last

With top scorer Alfredo Morelos missing through suspension at Easter Road, Rangers needed a talisman. Ryan Kent answered the call with a performance that shows why he cost £7m in the summer.

The winger has demonstrated little of that form so far in an injury-interrupted season, but the way he tormented Hibs, after being gifted an early goal, hints at a breakthrough moment. Kent will be crucial if Rangers' title challenge is to go the distance.

Highlights: Hibs 0-3 Rangers

Robinson keeps the 'Well fans jolly

Stephen Robinson may well enjoy Christmas more this year than he did 12 months ago. Back then, the Northern Irishman had some supporters suggesting his time at Fir Park was up. A year on and he is as popular in North Lanarkshire as Santa Claus.

After 19 games last season, Motherwell had 18 points and were languishing in ninth. They then lost 1-0 at home to Kilmarnock to fall 20 points behind the Ayrshire men.

A year on, 18 games have yielded an impressive 34 points - 11 clear of Kilmarnock. If they can continue a run of form which has heralded four wins in their last five games, they could be on course for a return to Europe, something that will be in many Motherwell fans' letters to Santa.

For Motherwell fans, thrilled to see their team sitting third in the league, there are two men with beards spreading festive cheer this Christmas.

Motherwell stat

Motherwell win to move back up to third


Reds show plenty of grit in defeat

Aberdeen are beginning to relish trips to Glasgow's East End - or at least travel with less trepidation. While Derek McInnes' men have lost seven successive home meetings with Celtic, including a couple of heavy tonkings, their rope-a-dope game plan at Parkhead has brought some joy.

They had won one and drawn one of their last three visits and were on track for another positive result an hour into Saturday's encounter. Then they lost a goal, and star striker Sam Cosgrove to a debatable red card, and that was the end of that.

But the way his side hung in there under heavy pressure, and nicked an equaliser before falling to a defeat that cost them third place, proves McInnes has plenty of mettle in his squad.

dons statkilmarnock

Killie need on-form Brophy

Alex Dyer was installed as caretaker manager following the abrupt departure of Angelo Alessio but could do nothing to change Kilmarnock's fortunes in front of goal.

Eamonn Brophy is not only the Ayrshire club's main striker, he also has eyes on leading Scotland into the Nations League play-offs in March and beyond that potentially a place at Euro 2020.

However, he will need to improve on his record of just four goals in 21 appearances this season.

He found an inspired Motherwell goalkeeper Mark Gillespie in his path for much of the 1-0 defeat, but his miss from 10 yards when teed up by Stephen O'Donnell is the sort of opportunity he needs to be taking to improve the fortunes of his club and to keep him in the international reckoning.

Top-six at Christmas thanks to Dykes hat-trick

It was the Lyndon Dykes show at the Tony Macaroni Arena, with the striker scoring Livingston's first ever top-flight hat-trick. A standing ovation and a hug from manager Gary Holt rounded off an excellent performance.

He took each goal well but has hard-working team-mates to thank. For the first, Ricki Lamie put the ball on a plate for Dykes, who just had to hit the target from six-yards. The big Aussie was in the right place at the right time for his second, following a long-range effort from Marvin Bartley and the same player provided an inch-perfect cross for the third.

Holt refused to be drawn on speculation linking him to the Kilmarnock job, but should he continue to impress in the second half of the season, it may not be long before another team come calling.

A trip to Pittodrie will already be on Livingston minds, but for now Holt's men can tuck into Christmas dinner safe in the knowledge they will be in the top half of the table come Boxing Day.

Lyndon Dykes becomes Livingston's first player to score a top-flight hat-trick
Lyndon Dykes becomes Livingston's first player to score a top-flight hat-trick

Derby day so crucial for Ross

Back-to-back defeats against the Old Firm is no disgrace, but the manner of those losses leaves head coach Jack Ross with problems going into a Boxing Day derby. The midfield looked lightweight in both games, especially Friday night's home defeat to Rangers in which his side were alarmingly overrun.

Ross' decision to field both Scott Allan and Stevie Mallan in the middle of the park, along with three forwards, left his side short of the tenacity and steel required against the Premiership's big two, while the action at Tynecastle is sure to be frenzied with Hearts desperate for points.

After starting his tenure with successive wins, Hibs have now picked up just one victory in five games under Ross. A rare derby win on the other side of Edinburgh would be just the tonic.

Watch: Porteous red leads to chaos at Easter Road

County's away form will leave fans feeling queasy

Ross County co-manager Steven Ferguson refused to blame a bout of winter sickness through the week for his side's 4-0 drubbing in West Lothian. As late as Thursday, the Highland side had just eight fit first team players.

The club refused to request a postponement, a decision they may have been regretting when Lyndon Dykes nodded in his third of the day.

County have just one away victory this term, and that came back in September when Ross Stewart netted a last-gasp winner at Fir Park.

A trip to St Johnstone before the New Year may bring some relief, but an Old Firm double-header on the road after the winter break suggests those travelling down the A9 every other week do so more in loyalty and hope rather than expectation.

St Mirren

St Mirren picking up results where it counts

A 0-0 draw away to St Johnstone certainly isn't much to write home about, yet it was another example of Jim Goodwin's side taking important points off the teams around them in the bottom half of the Premiership.

Saturday's point adds to another one won at home to Livingston the week before, as well as wins over Hamilton, Ross County as well as another three points against Tommy Wright's side in October.

Indeed, in nine league games against Ross County, Hamilton, Hearts and St Johnstone, the Paisley outfit have lost just two. And while they're sitting in the league may remain precarious, at least fans can take assurances from games against rivals in the scrap for survival.

St Johnstone

St Johnstone rebuilding form from the back

Tommy Wright wasn't particularly pleased with his side's performance but he did stress the importance of another clean sheet for his defence.

Indeed, the Perth side have now gone over 270 minutes of Scottish Premiership football since they conceded a goal and as a result they've only lost one of their past five league games.

Wright's side have scored just 14 goals in 17 games - the worst return in the league - but recent defensive performances suggest the way forward and back up the league table may come from the back.


Hamilton find points in fine margins

In their previous 10 matches, Accies had only lost by more than one goal once.

There was not a single win in that run, but in the entire season, only Rangers (twice) and Motherwell and Ross County (both in the opening three matches) have won by more than one goal against Brian Rice's men - even free-scoring Celtic only won by one goal in both meetings.

Saturday was another fine margins game - but one Hamilton came out on top of, for the first time in 12 matches. They struggled to handle Steven Naismith, but once the Scotland international went off injured at half-time, the hosts were ruthless.

Victory lifts Accies off the bottom and next up is a home game against St Johnstone. They could be proving everyone wrong, once again, about being the team most likely to go down.

Hamilston statsHearts

Another setback for Naismith?

Hearts gave a good account of themselves in Wednesday's 2-0 loss to Celtic, a glimpse of what Daniel Stendel's side could look like.

The first half at Hamilton was just as promising, with a continuation of the tempo and desire shown at Tynecastle against Neil Lennon's side.

However, it all fell apart when the returning Steven Naismith was substituted at half-time.

The experienced Scotland forward has managed just three 90 minute appearances for Hearts this season as the Edinburgh club find themselves bottom of the league at Christmas, with just one point gathered from their past seven outings.

A barrage of corners and an eventual goal from Oliver Bozanic may be a promising sign going into the Boxing Day derby at home to Hibs, but yet another injury worry for Naismith adds to the new manager's mounting problems.

Daniel Stendel cuts a frustrated figure after his side were beaten 2-1 by Hamilton

Top Stories

Around Scottish sport