Rangers' underrated star, deja vu for Celtic failings, Dundee United strike duo, the worst penalty of the season - Scottish Premiership winners and losers
A look back at the weekend action from the Scottish Premiership as Rangers extended their lead at the top of the table.
Winner – Nicky Clark & Marc McNulty
It is the latest curiosity of 2020. Lawrence Shankland is now being left on the bench by manager Micky Mellon. The United talisman watched on as Nicky Clark and Marc McNulty built an understanding and partnership with the former playing off the latter in a withdrawn role alongside Paul McMullan.
Former Hibs striker McNulty was involved in both goals, sliding a lovely through ball for Liam Smith to set up Clark for the first before cushioning a header into the path of Clark to instinctively volley past Ryan Fulton.
It keeps United in fifth place and points towards some positive signs and shows the team aren’t Shankland plus 10 others.
Winner – Mitchell Pinnock
The Kilmarnock forward isn’t someone who is going to win many races or turn his hand to any sort of weightlifting. But steadily, in the blue and white, he is showing himself to be a football with a creative mind and a lovely left foot.
Pinnock set up Eamonn Brophy for the opening goal for 10-man Killie in the 3-1 win over Ross County with a lovely cross.
With Kirk Broadfoot and Gary Dicker in resolute form, they provided Killie with a solid base to build from and Pinnock was key in knitting the team together in the final third.
Finally, a word for Danny Rogers. The fingertip save which he produced to prevent Josh Reid from scoring was excellent. The goalkeeper was doubted by some Killie fans at the start of the season but has been proving his worth.
Winner – Scott Arfield
Once again there are any number of Rangers players who could be selected as a winner but Scott Arfield was influential for the Ibrox side in their easy 4-0 win over Aberdeen. He will have an assist to his name for the Ryan Kent goal but it was the nature of his all-round performance which stood out.
The 32-year-old performed a more conservative role in the first half, drifting right and deep to allow James Tavernier to motor forward. Rangers had clearly targeted the Aberdeen left and it was Arfield who was pulling everything together in that area.
After the break, the midfielder showed his direct qualities, making those forward runs to support play that we are more accustomed to as seen with the third goal.
Loser – Ross Callachan
There are penalty misses like Aleksandar Mitrović. Then there are penalty misses like Michael Gray’s for Sunderland. Ross Callachan’s effort in Hamilton’s 2-1 defeat at Dundee United fell into a whole new category.
It arrived in the aptly named City of Discovery with a search party still out looking for the attempt from 12 yards. It wasn’t ballooned over the bar but blasted into orbit with pace.
The spot kick was a fine opportunity for Accies to get at least a point after a relatively tight game. Brian Rice’s men were the better side for parts of the second half and took the lead through Callachan but didn’t have the quality to add their lead, hold on to a result or come from behind.
The former Hearts midfielder would follow the penalty miss up with a wild effort from a free-kick.
Loser – Ross County
You are beginning to wonder where the next win is coming from for the Staggies. They have picked up just two points from the last 21 available and are really struggling to get out of a rut under Stuart Kettlewell despite a decent squad.
Their next two league fixtures are Aberdeen and Rangers before Hamilton come to Dingwall on December 19.
It is now perhaps easier to see where the next win is coming.
Loser – Celtic’s predictability
Ryan Porteous talked about it after the game. Hibs boss Jack Ross had pinpointed Celtic's weakness at dealing with diagonals. Sky Sports pundit Kris Boyd criticised Jeremie Frimpong and Diego Laxalt for leaving the centre-backs exposed. Regular and obvious failings for Celtic once again as they fell further behind rivals Rangers.
Neil Lennon's men are becoming easy to play against, in and out of possession. The first half was a Celtic team who looked like they had one game plan, get the ball to Ryan Christie and hope for the best.
This season was meant to be a procession, a celebration. Instead it is a pained experience. Each week a no and more painful torment.
Loser – Derek McInnes
Aberdeen were ravaged by injuries and the frustration of self-isolation following Scotland’s Under-21s defeat in Greece. It meant McInnes had to pair Funso Ojo and Greg Leigh in the midfield, while, at times, the team resembled a 6-2-2.
If the likes of Lewis Ferguson, Jonny Hayes and Dylan McGeouch were available or Dean Campbell wasn't coming back from a long-term injury, McInnes’ men would have been more competitive.
Ojo and Leigh’s performances were the equivalent of at least being a man down. You could see it in the first two goals conceded, the way Kent skipped pass Ojo and then the second where Leigh almost got out of the way of Kemar Roofe.
Loser – Jack Ross’ gameplan
Jack Ross' game plan was heading for the winner treatment and looking back it largely was. But he was undone by two rash clearances from two of his best performing players on the day. It is hard to analyse due to the simplicity of the mistakes from Ryan Porteous and Paul Hanlon.
Porteous seems to have these erratic moments in most games. Or perhaps they are more pronounced due to the reputation which was built around him early on in his career but for the most part he was very composed.
Hanlon was excellent throughout then inexplicably scuffed a clearance straight to the feet of Diego Laxalt. Three points became one.