Celtic look to follow up a fine win on Saturday against Ross County with a short hop to Paisley this evening to eventually play one of the now infamous early season postponements caused by Boli Bolingoli’s 24-hour flight of idiocy – but we won’t dwell on that.
As much as Covid-19 restrictions played their part in the original game being called off they are now very much prevalent for our opponents St Mirren. Jak Alnwick, Dean Lyness and Peter Urminsky were all unable to play for the Buddies on Saturday as the Paisley team went down 3-0 at home to Hibernian. The fact all three were goalkeepers means you can see why manager Jim Goodwin has been somewhat upset at being asked to play at the weekend or even tonight.
Details on how to watch the game tonight via St Mirren TV below…
— St Mirren FC (@saintmirrenfc) September 15, 2020
St Mirren managed to loan a goalkeeper – Zdenek Zlamal, Hearts third choice ‘keeper – and he only arrived 90 minutes before Kick off on Saturday. Hardly ideal preparation however as long as such rules are enforced consistently across the course of the season then St Mirren will have little grounds for complaint, if they will of course remains to be seen.
Thankfully St Mirren have recorded no positive coronavirus tests prior to Wednesday’s encounter with Celtic and the show goes on. A show you can now watch on St Mirren’s pay-per-view channel for £12.50. You also get match summarising from Frank McAvennie and Danny Lennon, possibly explaining why the Buddies stream is a bit cheaper than Ross County’s last weekend. Again, here’s where you need to go to access St Mirren v Celtic this evening.
The game was of course originally scheduled to be shown on Sky but the broadcaster has decided there is no room for Scottish football now that the English football season has started again. Food for thought next time a TV contract is up for grabs surely. It’s a complete lack of regard shown to Scottish football, but then Sky are not renowned for respecting football north of the border and we already knew that prior to signing the recent five-year deal.
It will be interesting to hear from the Ross County Chairman Roy MacGregor, a highly respected businessman, whether his club’s takings at the weekend for the Pay Per View match with Celtic were higher than had the game been shown on Sky TV. And as a businessman of some note, he’ll be well aware that it is often shrewd to cut out the middleman.
Hellos and Goodbyes
Buddies boss Jim Goodwin has made a fine impact on St Mirren and it’s fair to say, until Saturday – where there were clear mitigating circumstances – he’s built a side to not concede first and foremost, with the intention of building from those solid foundations. So far it appears to be working.
In terms of recruitment Goodwin saw 20 players leave this summer and has since sent a further two out on loan. Of those to leave the highest profile were probably Vaclav Hladky, the highly regarded goalkeeper moving to Salford City, Stephen McGinn to Hibs, former Celt Ross Wallace ending his short-term contract and forward Danny Mullen signing on at Dundee.
As costs are cut in such uncertain financial times there were seven contracted signings added to Jim Goodwin’s squad, with forward Kristian Dennis signing from Notts County, Jak Alnwick, former goalkeeper of ‘the’ Rangers signing on and left back Richard Tait has joined following a contract fall out with previous club Motherwell.
He’s been joined by former Celtic and Ross County right back Marcus Fraser, Lee Erwin who signed last week from Ross County and central defender and ex Aberdeen player Joe Shaughnessy has signed from Southend United. Midfielder Dylan Connolly has also arrived from Wimbledon while the midfield is bolstered further with the loan signings of Nathan Sheron, from Fleetwood Town and Isak Thorvaldsson from Norwich City.
The season so far
St Mirren started their season with a good home win over Livingston by a goal to nil with new boy Richard Tait scoring the only goal of the game after 30 minutes – a superb diving header.
The Buddies followed up with a trip to Ibrox where they were on the end of a three-goal defeat, before returning to winning ways and another clean sheet with a 1-0 win over Hamilton. This coming after a week off when this week’s original fixture was postponed.
In the following game St Mirren went in front through a Jonathon Obika goal against Ross County at The Simple Digital Arena, then lost Joe O’Shaughnessy to a 62nd minute red card. County took advantage to level the game through a Sheron own goal but the Buddies managed to hang on to secure a point.
Since then however it’s been back to back defeats for the Paisley men, firstly going down 1-0 to St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park and then Saturday’s 3-0 reverse at home to Hibs.
How they set up
St Mirren are a tough side to second guess. They’ve played six games, won two, drawn one and lost three and it’s safe to say they like to keep the opposition guessing.
They began the season with a 4-3-3 set-up in their win against Livingston and it paid off. They then went very defensive at Ibrox and played a cautious version of a 4-2-3-1 formation and simply played for damage limitation.
For their next two fixtures – the win over Hamilton and draw against Ross County – they played the now out of fashion 4-4-2. Despite the success with a traditional line-up they abandoned it against St Johnstone and lost.
📺 WATCH: Jim Goodwin doesn't rule out shock result against #CelticFC despite star signings
'Duffy is a terrific signing. Ajeti and Edouard looked really good at the weekend as well'
— PLZ Soccer (From 🏠) (@PLZSoccer) September 16, 2020
On that occasion Jim Goodwin adopted a three at the back an operated at 3-1-4-2. It was certainly ambitious but it backfired and in their last game against Hibs they reverted to 4-4-2 again and for the second week in succession the Buddies tasted defeat.
It’s refreshing to see manager’s attempt different tactics for different opponents but most will settle on one formation at the start of the season to allow the team to bed in without too many changes to confuse things. Four formations in six games then seems an odd decision then from Jim Goodwin. Against Celtic you’d expect they’ll look to frustrate so it’s unlikely they’ll play with two strikers, meaning you can assume Goodwin will revert to the cautious 4-2-3-1. If Celtic play a 3-5-2 as we did against County it would mean a congested midfield and that may suit Goodwin’s game plan.
One to watch
For ability there wouldn’t be many who could match Kyle McAllister but you’d assume his creativity would be sacrificed for more industry against Celtic. As to who is likely to try and unsettle the Hoops backline, you can safely assume Jonathon Obika will be sent into battle against Celtic’s back three.
Thankfully with Shane Duffy to marshal and cajole the more light-hearted Ajer and Jullien Obika may struggle to bully the Celtic defence as he has in the past. With two goals so far this season it’s safe to say he’s the man St Mirren fans will be looking for a big performance from.
One to target
When you are three goalkeepers down and you’ve had to borrow a third choice ‘keeper from a relegated Hearts side you have to say the man Celtic need to be piling the pressure onto would be the Buddies emergency loan Zdenek Zlamal.
Not exactly admired down Gorgie way, he’s at least had some more time training with his teammates to get up to speed than the 90 minutes of an introduction he was afforded prior to playing against Hibs, yet he’s the obvious weak link with a lack of match sharpness and game time. Set pieces in particular may be his undoing.
Celtic can turn the screw
Celtic returned to a 3-5-2 formation at the weekend and despite a tepid first period they really warmed up with a superb second half performance.
Having two strikers of the ability of Ajeti and Edouard, a defence now organised by a man who looks like he’d take conceding goals personally in Shane Duffy and a midfield that looked creative again, the only weak link you can see now is having to play James Forrest at left wing back.
That issue will be addressed in the transfer window and despite the lack of balance Forrest has performed admirably in the last couple of games as he’s moved to that role. The fact it allows Jeremie Frimpong to patrol the right flank will also be a concern to our opponents.
Saturday’s win over County should be that catalyst for Celtic to kick on now and try and get maximum points prior to the next international break. St Mirren may be better organised defensively under Jim Goodwin but they won’t have enough to keep Celtic at bay for 90minutes. Indeed, should Celtic score early it may be a long night for the Buddies.
The first goal will be vital and Celtic have enough firepower to do just that. It should be a comfortable win for Celtic as we at last get into our stride after a frustrating stop-start season so far – and we’re back to Bolingoli. Apologies.
I’m going for a 3-0 for the Celts, with Callum McGregor long overdue an opening goal – or so says my betting account.