Scottish Premiership: What did we learn from Wednesday's fixtures?

It was a monumental night in the Scottish Premiership - one that will perhaps be looked back upon as the night Celtic sealed their ninth league title in a row.

While Neil Lennon's side posted their eighth consecutive win since January's winter break, Rangers slumped to their second defeat in a little over two weeks, this time at the hands of a resurgent Kilmarnock.

Here's what we took away from the midweek fixtures.

Celtic

Celtic ruthless and hungry

It was a monumental night for Neil Lennon and his side. While Rangers continued to stutter through poor post-winter break form, they mercilessly tore Hearts apart.

The win all but puts an end to the title race, with the free-scoring nature of Celtic's recent victories effectively adding another point to the massive gap.

If the Parkhead side had the striking partnership of Leigh Griffiths and Odsonne Edouard from the outset of the season, the title may have been over long ago. They looked deadly together once more, yet neither was needed to score in the 5-0 thumping.

Neil Lennon spoke post-match about his entire side looking ruthless and hungry in the second-half - and that's what will (most likely) be the key difference.

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Highlights: Celtic 5-0 Hearts
Rangers

Time to criticise Gerrard?

Rangers' title hopes are now hanging by a thread after defeat by Kilmarnock left them 10 points behind Celtic, even though they have played a game fewer than their rivals. Manager Steven Gerrard questioned whether his players have the mentality to maintain a title push and criticised their ability to deal with adversity, all of which are legitimate points. But is it time to question the Englishman himself?

The former Liverpool captain has deservedly received praise for improving Rangers during his time in charge, but his own ability to adapt and react to adversity during games can be questioned. Rangers generally have one style of play and a system they stick to.

When it works, as it did brilliantly before the winter break, it is mightily impressive. But, when they are struggling for ideas, Gerrard often delays making substitutions and continually sticks to playing just one striker even against deep-lying defences.

In fairness, he was quick to take responsibility, saying post-match: "I'm not going to sit here and try and force any blame in any other direction than myself." But should he now take more of the flak?

Rangers graphic

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Highlights: Kilmarnock 2-1 Rangers
Aberdeen

Aberdeen find their shooting boots

There would have been a fair few groans when the teams walked out to the pitch with Sam Cosgrove absent. The striker had scored 21 goals up until the team's dismal run of five games without a goal.

Yet the solution was staring Derek McInnes in the face - Curtis Main was sensational in the win that ended the drought.

Aside from the goal, he was a handful throughout the game. Furthermore, some competition might just be what Cosgrove needs to start banging them in again.

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McInnes 'so pleased' for 'brilliant' Main
Motherwell

No clear fix for Motherwell

That's five games without a win for Motherwell now.

Their fantastic start to the season is at risk of being diminished. While things may not be that bad yet, with the side just one point off third-placed Aberdeen, the problem manager Stephen Robinson has is that there is not necessarily a clear problem with his team. At least not a consistent one.

Against Celtic, the front three of Jermain Hylton, Chris Long and Rolando Aarons looked bright and offered reason for hope, despite the heavy scoreline. Against St Johnstone, they were totally ineffective and, had it not been for a bizarre stroke of luck, they would have not been on the score-sheet at all.

Robinson said that they had only themselves to blame for the loss - and he was totally right. What will frustrate him is that, although St Johnstone deserved the win in terms of chances created, Motherwell most likely would have earned a point had Christy Manzinga not been sent off, or had they simply got rid of the ball in stoppage time rather than sloppily lose it in their own half.

Next up is a home tie against St Mirren, a game Robinson himself described as "very winnable". Concerns will further grow if they fail to win that one.

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Highlights: St Johnstone 2-1 Motherwell
Livingston

Dykes keeps Livingston on course

Livingston didn't exactly blow St Mirren away on Wednesday night, but they did, ultimately, manage to pick up another important home win and that was largely down to the excellence of Lyndon Dykes. The Australian striker has now scored 12 goals for the West Lothian club in all competitions and, crucially, seems to be doing so at the right moments in crucial games.

Whether it be Livingston's 2-1 victory over Forfar Athletic in the Scottish League Cup, both 2-1 victories over St Mirren, the 2-0 win over Celtic, or the 4-0 victory over Ross County, Dykes continues to play a part in his team's most important victories. So much so that of the 10 games he's scored in this season for Livingston, Gary Holt's side have remained unbeaten in all but one.

Dykes
Hibernian

Miserly at the back, hungry up front

One defeat in seven league and cup matches in 2020 points to a marked improvement for Hibs under Jack Ross, who took over in November.

In Scott Allan and loan signing Greg Docherty, they have midfielders with the vision to find Christian Doidge and Marc McNulty up front, while winger Martin Boyle adds pace to the attack. A clean sheet against Ross County in the 3-0 win at Easter Road will boost the confidence of the defence.

If they can continue to be more miserly at the back then Livingston in fifth place ought to be their immediate target, rather than the concern of having Kilmarnock and St Johnstone eyeing their top-six place.

Christian Doidge has scored 16 times in 33 games for Hibs this season
kilmarnock

Killie evoke memories of Clarke

Kilmarnock's victory against Rangers very much went with the template laid down by previous manager and now Scotland head coach Steve Clarke. The compact 4-4-2, while also posing a threat with the ball, led to regular results against the Old Firm, and Rangers in particular, last term.

Manager Alex Dyer was, of course, Clarke's assistant and said post-match he learned a lot from him and was flattered by the comparison with his old mentor. But Dyer himself should take immense credit for turning Kilmarnock's fortunes around after a tough start to his reign. They've now won three league games in a row and can aim for a top-six spot once more.

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Kilmarnock boss Dyer 'absolutely buzzing' after Rangers win
St Johnstone

Saints continue to look up

Well, Tommy Wright has certainly turned things around at McDiarmid Park.

It was only a few months ago that his side were sitting bottom of the Premiership and he was being asked questions about whether he felt under pressure. Since then, only Celtic and Livingston have taken maximum points off his side, losing just two of their last 13 games.

Despite facing a side who could have gone third in the table, it was his side who played the better football and seized the initiative against Motherwell. The Perth team fully deserved their stoppage-time winner, despite Motherwell's best attempts to grind out a draw.

His players look full of confidence, particularly Drey Wright and Callum Hendry up front, and they will now be looking up rather than nervously over their shoulders. They're just three points off Hibs in sixth, with a game in hand over Jack Ross' men.

St Johnstone have won three games in a row for the first time since January 2019
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Staggies want to be 'difficult to play against'

There's no lack of fight in the Ross County ranks, but, by co-manager Stuart Kettlewell's own admission, they are missing consistency.

Ninth place in the Premiership, the Staggies are six points ahead of Hamilton Academical, who occupy 11th, the relegation play-off spot.

Their next match is at home to resurgent St Johnstone before trips to Aberdeen and Motherwell ahead of a visit by Rangers. There are no easy points in there.

Kettlewell hopes to "find a way to be difficult to play against away from home and being difficult to play against in general". They won't have long to discover the right formula with 10th-placed St Mirren, Accies and Hearts on their heels.

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Highlights: Hibernian 3-0 Ross County
St Mirren

St Mirren continue to struggle on the road

St Mirren manager Jim Goodwin was in good spirits going into Wednesday's clash with Livingston, stating that he hoped his side could take a point at the very least but would certainly push for all three.

On the night, there was little to suggest that they were capable of that. Not only have their West Lothian rivals been formidable at home but the Paisley side have also been pretty terrible on the road.

Goodwin's side may have claimed a point at McDiarmid Park and Easter Road in recent weeks, but that's about it. And, in their 13 away games in the Premiership, they've picked up just five points from a possible 39.

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Highlights: Livingston 2-1 St Mirren
Hamilton

Clean sheets at a premium for Accies

A worrying trend is forming for Hamilton - perhaps underlined by their inability to stop an Aberdeen side who had failed to score in the league this calendar year until this resounding 3-1 win.

Derek McInnes' side will have been encouraged heading into the game that they could break their duck against the Lanarkshire outfit - since it was November that Hamilton last kept a clean sheet.

That's 11 league games on the bounce without shutting out their opponents - and 26 goals conceded during that period.

Hamilton are known for their survival skills, but the trend needs to change if they want to avoid the drop.

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Hearts

Defensive chaos

In the thrilling 3-2 loss at the hands of Kilmarnock, it was clear Hearts needed to address multiple defensive frailties - one goal was from a goalkeeping error, one was from a long ball and one was poor tracking on the edge of the box. It is now also clear nothing has been learned by the Tynecastle outfit in the last week.

Set-pieces remain a problem, with Celtic centre-half Christopher Jullien unopposed when rising for his headed goal - and it wasn't the only time throughout the match the defence looked shaky from set-plays. James Forrest and Greg Taylor, despite playing as wing-backs, were afforded an incredible amount of space throughout the game down either flank.

Goalkeeper Joel Pereira once more made a costly mistake in punching a rebounded shot directly to the feet of Olivier Ntcham for the opener.

While they will face easier teams than rampant Celtic in the coming weeks and months, manager Daniel Stendel will not feel confident watching his side so routinely gift goals to opposition.

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Hearts 'deserved to lose 5-0' against Celtic - Stendel

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