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Forget The Lack Of Goals Let’s Praise Premiership Defending

Date: 26th August 2020

After a few weeks of Covid-19 threatening to once again derail Scottish Football, it’s great to finally talk about the game on the pitch once more. 

After the latest round of fixtures, some fans have again been critical about the lack of goals in the Scottish Premiership. Yet having watched the games, I think we need to look at the positive signs and applaud our top team’s defences thus far in their league campaigns. 

We’ve had twenty-seven completed games so far this season and in that run of fixtures we have seen a return of fifty-six goals. Only two of those matches have seen a goal return of four or more (Hibs 4-1 win over Livingston & Celtic’s 5-1 triumph over Kilmarnock). So if you average it out it’s just over two goals per game. 

Yet for me instead of automatically complaining about the lack of goals, I am more inclined to praise the defensive set-ups that team’s have produced this term. 

Out of those twenty-seven results in the Premiership, we have seen a whopping sixteen clean-sheets. Only four clubs have conceded more than five goals. 

League leaders Rangers haven’t conceded any in their opening five fixtures and joint leaders Hibs have conceded just twice. Newly promoted Dundee United have also played five times and they haven’t conceded a goal a game either. 

Last week Rangers were held by Livingston. That defensive performance from Livi was fantastic as they remained compact throughout and were constantly switched on at the back as they battled every minute of that game. 

Against champions Celtic, Dundee United did a wonderful job in defending from the front as their attackers constantly pressed the Hoops backline. They also heroically won pretty much every ball that was crossed into the box from wide positions. Their centre-backs (Mark Reynolds & Mark Connolly) did a fantastic job in keeping danger man Odsonne Edoaurd quiet. 

St Mirren are another side that have looked more composed and organised since this season kicked off. Richard Tait has enjoyed a wonder start to his Buddies career and had a terrific goal-line clearance last weekend when he produced a wonderful acrobatic effort to stop Ross County’s goal bound effort from crossing the line. 

His manager absolutely loved it…

I have also been impressed with the standard of goalkeeping too. St Mirren new boy Jak Alnwick, Dundee United shot-stopper Benjamin Siegrist and St Johnstone’s Elliot Parish have been particular standouts in my opinion. 

It’s not that the defenders have just been sitting back either. Richard Tait as been scoring and setting up goals, Hamilton Accies centre-back Hakeem Oddoffin grabbed a vital late winner for his side in their win in the Lanarkshire derby and Coll Donaldson has scored a sublime volley for Dundee United too. 

Ful-backs have been eager to venture forward and create things in the final third too. Rangers duo James Tavernier and Borna Barisic have completed five assists between them, while Celtic left-back Greg Taylor has registered two assists in his first three games this term. Josh Doig (Hibs), Jack Fitzwater (Livi), Josh Reid (Ross County) and Dan McNamara (St Johnstone) have done well with their energetic bursts forward and commitment to their team’s game plan. 

The central midfielders are also putting in more challenges and shoring up their team defensively. On average Accies Scott Martin has a tackling average of 3.8 tackles per game – the best average in the league. Alex Gogic has helped transform Hibs form with his colossus midfield general performances.  Iain Vigurs might be a veteran now but his work-rate and defensive nous has been invaluable for Stuart Kettlewell at Ross County this year. 

Now I am not saying it has all been about the great defending this season. A few teams will be worried that they can’t create enough or put away chances. Motherwell, Hamilton and St Johnstone instantly come to mind.

But I have enjoyed the fact most of our teams have looked very organised, composed in possession, tight at the back and have some standout performers that have given them a defensive edge. We have been moaning about the state of Scottish defending for quite some time now, so I think it is important when we see positives that we point them out and applaud those that are making defending an art again! 

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