by John Reid

It’s a tale of defences on top and the unexpected success of unfancied teams in the SPL this week, as we head into the international break with Motherwell on top of the league and St. Johnstone rooted to the bottom.

Motherwell went top after a 4-1 win against Inverness, with Michael Higdon grabbing a hat-trick.  Motherwell, who had an excellent season last year under Stuart McCall, and also performed creditably in Europe midweek against Levante, could be one of the main challengers to Celtic for the SPL title. For Inverness, the struggles continue, with four goals conceded for the second week in a row.

Hibs continued their excellent start to the season with a creditable 2-2 draw with Celtic.  This was particularly satisfying for them as they managed to come back from a goal down twice, something which wouldn’t have been anticipated last season or even at the start of this one.  The game took place in the aftermath of Celtic’s qualification for the Champions League after their 2-0 victory over Helsingborgs, and it seems Celtic’s injury problems caught up with them, as Hibs snatched a deserved point, Paul Cairney’s solo goal being the highlight.

Another team who many thought would be struggling this season, Dundee, had their first win of the campaign at Hearts, the home side struggling to shake off the hangover of their heroic efforts against Liverpool this week, and the loss of David Templeton to Rangers.  To be fair, after Dundee opened the scoring with a third minute Ryan Conroy penalty, Hearts did have most of the play and missed a penalty of their own, but Dundee held on for the win.

Ross County continued their unbeaten start to the season with a goalless draw at home to Kilmarnock, a game which Kilmarnock boss Kenny Shiels claimed was “anti-football”.  Aberdeen’s goalscoring woes continued as they drew nil-nil at home to St. Mirren, their third goalless draw in a row.  The trilogy of zero-zero’s was complete as St. Johnstone and Dundee United played out a drab draw.

Looking down the divisions, Partick Thistle maintained their 100% record in the first division with a 4-0 win over Hamilton.  In the second divison, Queen of the South stay top after a 6-0 win over Arbroath, whilst in the third, Rangers had a 5-1 win over Elgin, with two goals from new signing David Templeton, but Peterhead stay top after a 2-0 win over Montrose.

Looking at the transfer window, the most intriguing singing, aside from David Templeton going from scoring at Anfield to playing in the third divioson in the space of 72 hours, was Celtic’s signing – on loan – of Getafe’s top goalscorer Nicolas ‘Miku’ Flores.  It will be interesting to see if he can adapt to the ‘rigours’ of the SPL.  Also interesting to note that Dundee United managed to keep hold of the highly rated pair of Johnny Russell and Gary Mackay-Stevens.  Hearts also managed to rebuff an effort from Rangers to sign Ryan McGowan.

Despite their being no SPL next week, the column will be back with a look at Scotland’s game versus Serbia as World Cup qualification begins.