Rangers stay top as refs threaten strike

by Jody Moylan

It’s all doom and gloom. The protests are beginning. The decision-makers are being heckled from the sidelines and the solution might well be coming from abroad. Scotland is in crisis.

Well, in a football sense at least. At the time of writing an SOS to the FAI looked increasingly immanent, with Irish referees, as well as Welsh, being shot up the shortlist to take control of this weekend’s SPL fixtures.

On Sunday all Category One officials acted unanimously at their monthly meeting, deciding strike action was the only remaining option in the midst of alleged fears for their safety. The call to put down their whistles came after what a referee’s statement referred to as “an unprecedented level of abuse,” in recent weeks.

Last week, Celtic chairman John Reid called on Dougie McDonald to step down from his role as an official and asked for the SFA to sack him if he did not. McDonald’s U-turn surrounding a penalty decision on October 17 at Tanadice, and the ensuing misleading of Neil Lennon has been the root (albeit not officially acknowledged) of the problem. While Icelandic and Norwegian referees have refused to step into the breach, Irish officials may well answer the call with the FAI stating, “If there is an official request we will consider it”.

On the park the week that was started off positively, with Scotland putting in a solid first-half performance, at least, against the Faroes at Pittodrie. Three goals before the break from a side with seven new recruits in the starting 11 was ample return for a manager whose seat in the dug-out has become increasingly hot over the past number of months.  Danny Wilson, Kris Commons and Jamie Mackie spared any blushes for Craig Levein in what had been a potential banana skin. Of the youngsters on show Aston Villa’s Barry Bannon put in perhaps the finest performance as he ran the midfield. The run-up to the friendly was farcical, with 15 of the first choice squad pulling out before Tuesday night but the result was a positive (however facile) for a manager who registered his third win in seven matches.

Rangers stayed on top of the SPL after Saturday’s round of games as they beat Kilmarnock 3-2 in a cracker in Ayrshire. Conor Sammon continued his brilliant run of form this season with a personal brace for Killie but the Irish man’s tally was bettered by, typically, Kenny Miller. The 31-year-old Scot is central to Walter Smith’s plans and with 18 goals already this term his form and health are pivotal to all aspirations at Ibrox. Sammon knocked in his 13th of the season with his second for Killie and the former UCD man is flourishing under Mixu Paatelainen.

Gary Hooper’s terrific recent form continued for Celtic away to Dundee United. His 23rd minute goal was cancelled out at the death, however, when Sean Dillon dramatically got in to flick home a Barry Douglas free-kick 3 minutes into stoppage-time.

Hearts continued their strong run with a 2-0 win at home to Hamilton. Rudi Skacel and David Templeton made the all-important contributions here with Skacel opening the scoring with a long-range screamer on 3 minutes. Templeton did his best to outdo the Czech seven minutes after half-time when he bagged his own collector’s item with a rare peach of a goal.

Two of the Irish contingent in Inverness grabbed all the goals between them in a 4-2 victory  over Hibernian at Caledonian Stadium. Richie Foran’s 7th minute opener was followed by a hat-trick from Adam Rooney. The Dubliner added to his second-half penalty with two clinical finishes to bring his haul to 13 goals this season.

Stalemate was the outcome in Paisley as a quality strike from Motherwell’s Nick Blackman cancelled out St Mirren’s lead, which had come courtesy of Gareth Wardlaw. It would have been a much needed win at Mirren Park as they hover precariously close to Aberdeen , who themselves are second from bottom after another loss at home to St Johnstone. Mark McGhee’s outfit have been guilty of some lacklustre performances of late but it was a moment of misfortune at Pittodrie that sealed their fate on Saturday. Zander Diamond was the scapegoat this time as his own-goal seven minutes from time ensured the Perth side got their first win in five games.

17 November 2010

Scotland 3 – 0 Faroe Islands

20 November 2010

Aberdeen 0 –  1 St Johnstone

Celtic 1 – 1 Dundee United

Hearts 2 – 0 Hamilton Academical

Kilmarnock 2 – 3 Rangers

St Mirren 1 – 1 Motherwell

Inverness CT 4 – 2 Hibernian

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