Scottish Premiership: Steven McLean to referee Aberdeen v Celtic

Fifa referee Steven McLean will take charge of the weekend’s first and stand-out fixture at Pittodrie as the top-flight’s top two go head to head for the second time this season.

Steven McLean referee
Reunited: It will be a first Celtic game of the season for McLean – and only his second of 2016 (Picture from Sky Sports)

REFEREE Steven McLean will take charge when Celtic visit Aberdeen in the Scottish Premiership this weekend.

The 35-year-old Fifa official will make his first trip to Pittodrie of the season as the champions look to move further clear at the top of the table this Saturday lunchtime (KO 12:00 BST, live on Sky Sports).

In their previous meeting back in August, Bobby Madden sent off Dons defender Mark Reynolds and awarded the Hoops a penalty late on in their 4-1 win at Parkhead.

McLean will encounter Celtic for the first time since he oversaw his only other match between the sides who have finished in the top two in the last three seasons earlier this year.

He gave out four yellow cards and put in a good display in Aberdeen’s 2-1 victory over Celtic at the start of February – one of two defeats the champions suffered on their trips to the Granite City last term.

Craig Thomson had a busy time last September as the Dons won by the same scoreline, awarding a spotkick for both sides and sending off Dons winger Jonny Hayes for a strong challenge on Mikael Lustig.

Other than the aforementioned Pittodrie clash, McLean also handled three more Celtic games last season – their 6-0 home win over Dundee last September, a 2-1 success at Hamilton a year ago and 2-2 draw with Hearts at Tynecastle on December 27.

Honour: McLean took charge of his first major showpiece at Hampden Park in May when turning out for the Scottish Cup Final (Picture from BBC Scotland)

Meanwhile, McLean will oversee his second Aberdeen game of the current season after their 3-1 win at Dundee in September – as the Dons’ Kenny McLean converted a penalty and Dundee’s Mark O’Hara was dismissed late on for a second bookable offence.

McLean handled seven Aberdeen games in 2015-16 but it will be his first match at Pittodrie since the end of February – a 1-1 draw with St Johnstone, in which he awarded the visitors a controversial late penalty.

The Glasgow-based whistler – who is a qualified fitness instructor – was in charge of the 2014 League Cup Final at Celtic Park when the Dons beat Inverness on penalties.

McLean then oversaw Hibernian’s dramatic 3-2 triumph over Rangers last season in the Scottish Cup Final, after which he and his fellow match officials were caught up in the unsavoury pitch invasion.

Before taking charge of the stand-out match of the weekend, he made the calls at Dens Park for bottom club Dundee’s 2-0 defeat by Partick Thistle on Wednesday night – booking six players in his sixth top-flight game this term.

Steven McLean points for goalkick (Hearts v St Johnstone - 2nd August 2015)
Siblings: Steven McLean is the older brother of former Ross County and Dundee United defender Brian McLean (Picture from BT Sport)

McLean – a Fifa referee since 2010 who refereed his first SPL game in November 2008 – has so far issued 67 yellow cards, sent off two players and awarded three penalties in 15 games this season in all competitions.

He will be assisted on Saturday by Douglas Ross, Andrew McWilliam and fourth official Kevin Clancy, who handled Aberdeen’s 2-0 League Cup semi-final win over Morton last weekend.

The eagerly-awaited contest – a dress rehearsal for next month’s Betfred Cup Final – will bring together challengers Aberdeen and leaders Celtic, who are four points clear having played two games fewer.

Elsewhere, Nick Walsh is to oversee Motherwell against Ross County, John Beaton will handle Rangers’ clash with Kilmarnock and Barry Cook has been appointed to St Johnstone against Partick Thistle.

You can see a full list of this weekend’s SPFL match official appointments here.

Scottish Premiership: Late drama as Aberdeen see off Rangers

Substitute James Maddison’s stunning free-kick gave Aberdeen a dramatic late win over rivals Rangers at Pittodrie in the first meeting of the sides since 2012.

  •  First meeting of the bitter rivals since January 2012
  •  Sub Maddison strikes stunning free-kick in 90th minute
  •  Andy Halliday penalty cancels out Jonny Hayes opener
  •  Only Aberdeen’s second win over Rangers in 14 meetings
  •  Rangers only scored seven league goals in as many games

Return: Rangers had won on their previous three trips to Pittodrie but couldn’t do the same as the bitter rivals renewed acquaintances (Picture from Sky Sports)
JAMES Maddison’s stunning late free-kick gave Aberdeen a dramatic victory over Rangers in a pulsating first meeting between the rivals for almost five years.

After a first half lacking in goalmouth action, the returning Jonny Hayes struck 22 seconds into the second period with a composed finish for the Dons.

He turned from hero to villain for tugging back Rangers captain Lee Wallace in the box, allowing Andy Halliday to superbly convert a 79th minute penalty.

But, in the 90th minute, substitute Maddison stepped up to produce a sumptuous effort from 22 yards, which flew past Wes Foderingham into the top corner.

A third successive win in all competitions lifts Derek McInnes’s team up to second place – four points behind leaders Celtic, who came from behind to thrash Kilmarnock 6-1 on Saturday.

But Rangers boss Mark Warburton was furious with the award of the decisive free-kick – when James Tavernier was booked despite appearing to poke the ball away from Hayes – and angrily confronted referee John Beaton on the pitch after the full-time whistle.

It leaves the Gers seventh in the table with nine points from seven league games – in which they have conceded the first goal in five of them.

But despite a respectable display and his side boasting 63 per cent possession, Warburton must be concerned as their winless run in the Scottish Premiership stretches to four games.

Nevertheless, it was a fantastic spectacle for the neutral – featuring nine yellow cards – as a long-awaited first meeting since January 2012 saw one of Scottish football’s most bruising rivalries renewed.

As predicted, there was a frantic and fast tempo to the opening exchanges in front of a near full house at Pittodrie, with both sides – who reached the Betfred Cup semi-finals in midweek – taking time to settle into a rhythm.

Harry Forrester’s shot deflected behind by Anthony O’Connor before an Adam Rooney effort at the other end was blocked by Danny Wilson – illustrating both sets of defences were on top in the first period.

The first flashpoint took 10 minutes to arise when Joe Garner took offence to a foul on him by O’Connor, but referee Beaton handled the situation well, reminding them in no uncertain terms who was in charge.

A lack of control early on was emphasised by Garner’s needless sliding challenge on Hayes, which earned him a yellow card.

The ex-Preston striker made his presence felt throughout and he should have done better when heading Tavernier’s delightful cross over the crossbar on 17 minutes.

Rangers – backed by almost 2,000 fans for their first trip to the Granite City since 2011 – enjoyed 61 per cent of possession in a first half during which they were increasingly dominant.

Tavernier’s free-kick from 20 yards couldn’t a way past the Aberdeen wall before Joe Lewis was required to make an excellent save, scampering across his goalline after Garner’s wayward shot looped up off Shay Logan’s foot and was bound for the bottom corner.

Jason Holt – on his 50th Rangers appearance – rifled a half volley straight at Lewis after Garner missed his kick from Tavernier’s cutback before Barrie McKay curled off target on his right foot.

Aberdeen sat deep for long periods and struggled to carve out any kind of chances, with a Kenny McLean drive tipped over superbly by Foderingham the closest they came.

But after a first half lacking in goalscoring opportunities, the second period exploded into life as the Dons – who introduced Maddison for Peter Pawlett at the interval – drew first blood in no time at all.

A simple long ball forward by Lewis was flicked on by Rooney into the path of the onrushing Hayes, who easily escaped the Rangers defence to slot underneath Foderingham.

The Gers mustered a positive reply as Halliday’s free-kick flashed across the face of goal and drifted wide, before Wallace fired over from range but an effective end product continued to desert them.

Waghorn, fresh from a hat-trick against Queen of the South on Tuesday, then scooped over inexplicably from six yards after McKay’s cutback caught Garner by surprise.

Aberdeen largely offered a sporadic threat on the counter thereafter but remained a solid unit to thwart the Gers, who sent on Niko Kranjcar and Michael O’Halloran in place of Forrester and Waghorn.

Hayes got clear again down the left and his low effort was denied by Foderingham at the near post, after the Dons soaked up a sustained period of pressure.

But the Irish winger was at fault after bringing down the marauding Wallace, who was released in behind by substitute Kenny Miller.

It gave Rangers fan Halliday the chance to step up and send Lewis the wrong way from the spot, for his second goal in as many games.

From then on, Aberdeen pressed for a winner and, as the end of normal time approached, 19-year-old Maddison supplied it in dramatic fashion with the deadliest of free-kicks – surely a goal of the season contender.

Rangers desperately tried to respond but time was against them as they suffered their second league defeat of the season, while the Dons recorded a first win over the men from Govan since 2009.

James Maddison
Catching the eye: The on-loan Norwich midfielder scored for the second successive league game after netting in last Sunday’s 3-1 win at Dundee (Picture from Sky Sports)
Aberdeen 2 (Hayes 46′, Maddison 90′)
Rangers 1 (Halliday 79′ pen)


Aberdeen XI
Four changes: Mark Reynolds, Adam Rooney, Jonny Hayes and Peter Pawlett came in for Ash Taylor, Jayden Stockley, James Maddison and Wes Burns (Picture from Sky Sports)
Substitutes:  Maddison (on for Pawlett 45′), Burns (on for McGinn 78′) and Taylor (on for Rooney 90+1).
Not used:  Alexander (GK), Storey, Storie, Stockley.
Booked:  Hayes, McLean, Shinnie, Reynolds, O’Connor


Rangers XI
Four changes: Lee Wallace, Wes Foderingham, Harry Forrester and Barrie McKay replaced Lee Hodson, Matt Gilks, Niko Kranjcar and Michael O’Halloran (Picture from Sky Sports)
Substitutes:  Kranjcar (on for Forrester 63′), O’Halloran (on for Waghorn 69′) and Miller (on for Garner 77′).
Not used:  Gilks (GK), Hodson, Senderos, Dodoo.
Booked:  Garner, Wilson, Kranjcar, Tavernier


John Beaton referee
Mixed: Beaton started the game well and was on top of most things but was often too quick to issue cards and shouldn’t have awarded the decisive free-kick late on (Picture from Sky Sports)
Referee: John Beaton – 7/10
Assistant referees: Dougie Potter and Andrew McWilliam
Fourth official: Don Robertson

Attendance: 19,263


Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes:

Derek McInnes
Second time: The former Rangers midfielder’s only previous win over the Gers as a manager came in a 4-1 success with St Johnstone in 2010 (Picture from Sky Sports)
“It was a sensational winner. The players fought hard for that. First half, I was really annoyed with how we played. Getting the [Jonny Hayes] goal gives the players that belief and confidence to go and get the win. They [Rangers] get a lifeline with the penalty kick. Wee James [Maddison], what a free-kick. We should be shouting from the rooftops with how good that is. We deserved the three points.”

Mark Warburton
Crucial decision: Warburton felt the referee handled a difficult game well before awarding the free-kick which allowed Maddison to struck a memorable winner (Picture from Sky Sports)
Rangers boss Mark Warburton:

“We dominated the ball first half completely but went in at half-time frustrated it was 0-0. We gave away a schoolboy goal and for three or four minutes we looked a bit rocky. We lost our composure then got the ball down, then played. We got our rewards via the penalty and I thought there was (only) one team in it. I said to (assistant) Davie Weir we’d be frustrated to only get a point here when we have come and delivered a really good performance. I am never happy to drop a point, never mind three. I will be careful what I say about the free-kick. Everyone saw the ball move. The fourth official on the sidelines saw the ball move and made a comment. And yet a free-kick is given.”

Rangers striker Joe Garner told the club’s official website:

“We’re obviously very disappointed. I think the first half we played very well and over the last couple of games we have played well but we need to start picking up points now. You could say that we dominated or that we were the better side but that happens in football. We just have to try to take our chances and be positive.”

Scottish Premiership Preview: Aberdeen v Rangers

After the excitement of the Old Firm, another of Scottish football’s bitter feuds is back as the two rivals hoping to compete for Celtic’s crown meet at Pittodrie for the first time in five years.

Best of enemies: Aberdeen and Rangers have revelled in some unsavoury confrontations in the past but this season’s encounters may prove to be more friendly affairs (Pictures BBC/Sky Sports)

ONE of Scottish football’s most intense feuds resumes this weekend after being put on hold for four years.  

Regarded by many as the next best thing to the Old Firm, Aberdeen against Rangers has often been a fiery fixture, which embodied the competitive edge to the former Scottish Premier League era.

With the Dons rediscovering their form in last week’s classy come-from-behind win at Dundee, Derek McInnes’s side will be primed to take on a beleaguered Gers side who have endured a difficult start to their long-awaited Premiership return.

A tough fortnight on the pitch, which saw the Glasgow side unravel at Celtic Park before failing to find a way past Ross County, has deepened off it with the implosion of the banned Joey Barton creating an unnecessary distraction.

The outspoken Englishman’s latest outburst seemed to have proved detrimental to both his career and Rangers’ season, but the experienced midfield man – now the subject of a betting investigation – has vowed to fight back.

The fiasco could not be more welcome or ideal, during a period in which the Gers have only won one of their last four games – and, even more worryingly, look disjointed and defensively frail.

But their regular League Cup keeper Matt Gilks, a former team-mate of Barton’s at Burnley, took to the media to insist it hasn’t unsettled the squad or affected their match preparations.

After breezing past Queen of the South with their best display of the season to set up an Old Firm clash in the Betfred Cup semis, under-fire boss Mark Warburton will hope a sense of normality has been restored ahead of Sunday’s testing trip to Pittodrie – an experience former Gers captain Barry Ferguson admitted he didn’t enjoy during his playing career.

Although their last meeting produced a tepid 1-1 draw at Ibrox in January 2012, there is a certain nastiness to this particular rivalry, which is steeped in tradition as well as controversy.

This was emphasised in a typically bruising encounter in October 2011, the last time the men from Govan made the trip to the north-east, when Kyle Lafferty’s clinical finish and a Nikica Jelavic penalty helped the Gers to a 2-1 victory, putting them in firm control in the title race.

On the road: Rangers fans have seen their side win only one of their three away league games so far this season – a 2-1 victory at Dundee last month (Picture from Sky Sports)

But neither have fully established themselves as pacesetters having opened the campaign in stuttering fashion, punctuated by glimpses of brilliance and moments of madness in equal measure.

Heading into the seventh round of matches, both sides are adjacent in the table with almost identical records – fourth and fifth respectively, with two wins, three draws and a defeat from six league games.

Aberdeen had a more difficult route than Rangers into the League Cup’s last four, as recently as Thursday night, with Adam Rooney’s 90th minute header the difference against a stubborn St Johnstone.

Mixed: Although Aberdeen are unbeaten at home in seven games in all competitions this term, the Dons have won only one of their three league games at Pittodrie so far (Picture from Sky Sports)

It extended the Dons’ steady but unspectacular opening to the campaign but – like the Gers – their only domestic defeat thus far has come at Celtic Park, with Aberdeen on the end of a similar resounding loss at the end of August.

The Scottish Premiership’s marquee clash of the weekend is expected to be played in front of a sell-out Pittodrie crowd as well as the Sky cameras for what should be a Sunday lunchtime to savour (KO 13:00 BST).

And both the Dons and the Gers will be desperately hoping for the win which would provide a psychological boost to their faltering bids in challenging champions Celtic.

While, from the neutral point of view, it has all the ingredients of a classic.







Ready to return: The 29-year-old, Rangers’ longest serving player having joined in 2011, is expected to slot back in after missing the midweek League Cup tie (Picture from Sky Sports)

Aberdeen skipper Ryan Jack will be sidelined once again as he continues to recuperate from knee surgery.

Winger Jonny Hayes missed Thursday’s League Cup tie against St Johnstone after sustaining a hamstring injury in the warm-up but the Irishman expects to be fit to face the Gers.

Rangers captain Lee Wallace should return at left-back after being rested for Tuesday’s League Cup tie against Queen of the South.

Andy Halliday, who described taking over the armband in midweek as “one of the proudest moments of my career”, is set to continue in midfield with Barton – the man he had a training ground row with last week – suspended by the club for three weeks.

Kenny Miller will be included in the squad, despite being arrested in connection with an alleged disturbance at a restaurant, but Jordan Rossiter remains unavailable with a calf strain.

Matt Gilks was in goal against the Doonhamers in midweek but is set to return to the bench, with Wes Foderingham likely to come back in.


John Beaton referee (Hibernian v Rangers - 1st November 2015)
Top-flight: Former press officer and Euro 2016 additional assistant referee Beaton will take charge of his fourth Premiership game of the season (Picture from Sky Sports)

Referee: John Beaton
Assistants referees: Dougie Potter and Andrew McWilliam
Fourth official: Don Robertson

Fifa official Beaton, 34, has already had some eventful games and controversial moments so far this season – giving 11 yellow cards and a penalty for a dive, three penalties in 45 minutes, booking two players for diving in the same game and sending a manager to the stands for sarcastically applauding a decision.

But the Lanarkshire whistler will be hoping for a quieter afternoon in arguably his biggest match of the campaign so far – and his first between Aberdeen and Rangers.

You can read more about Beaton’s appointment here.


Aberdeen 2 (Vernon 10′, Maguire 30′, 87′ sent off)
Rangers 3 (Miller 34′ pen, 52′, Jelavic 67′)
September 2010, SPL, Pittodrie

It was another early-season showdown at Pittodrie which produced one of the most thrilling games between these bitter rivals in recent times.

Reigning champions Rangers looked on course to suffer their first defeat of the season when Scott Vernon and Chris Maguire fired the Dons into a 2-0 lead inside half-an-hour.

But Kenny Miller, currently in his third spell with the Ibrox club, continued his excellent form at the start of the campaign by first converting a controversially awarded penalty before blasting home his second to level the scores.

Nikica Jelavic notched the winner midway through the second half and Aberdeen’s Maguire saw red late on as the Gers moved above Celtic at the top of the SPL on goal difference, with both sides winning their first six league games.

You can read more about the match here.


Despite the lack of meetings in recent years, Rangers have found life difficult in the Granite City over the last decade.

However, the Gers have won on their last three visits to Pittodrie, but have had to overcome obstacles along the way and come from behind in games.

Aberdeen haven’t beaten Rangers since a 1-0 success at home in November 2009 – surviving the dismissal of captain Mark Kerr to earn three deserved points in the SPL through Lee Miller’s early goal.

But in the subsequent seven meetings, it’s been tight every time but the Gers have won on six occasions – albeit only by a one or two-goal margin.

Indeed, other than SPL games, the sides haven’t crossed paths in a cup competition since September 2004 when Rangers won 2-0 away from home in the League Cup.


There have been so many keenly fought encounters between the sides in times gone by – and the bookmakers expect this one to be no different.

It’s a difficult one to call and the odds make it no easier to make up your mind if you fancy a flutter.

Aberdeen are favoured to win at 13/8 by SkyBet, sportingbet, Coral and betfair, while betway, BetBright, Marathon Bet and BoyleSports prefer Rangers to take three points at 8/5.

Perhaps the safest option is backing a draw – which is currently 12/5 with SkyBet, BoyleSports, BetVictor, Coral, Marathon Bet and 188Bet.

You can view a full list of winning odds here.


New battle: As was the case in the Old Firm derby, the two managers will come face-to-face in the dugout for the first time (Pictures BT/Sky Sports)

Rangers boss Mark Warburton has been criticised by many in recent weeks amid the latest turmoil to filter through Ibrox and the club’s inability to hit the ground running on their top-flight return.

Some have even called for his removal, with pundit Chris Sutton claiming Warburton is “arrogant” and has two games to save his job.

But the defiant former Brentford boss has shook off the haters and, after a shambolic display against fellow fierce rivals Celtic earlier this month, insists his players are ready for the challenge they face against the Dons.

He said: “They want to play in these type of games. It will be a 20,000 sell-out and an intimidating atmosphere and they will enjoy that. It has been five years since we have been up there. The fans are looking forward to it and so are the players.

“We are looking forward to the trip north. After what happened at Parkhead hard work is the only way of getting better.”

Opposite number Derek McInnes has questioned why his side have been given two days less to prepare for the game but insists the Dons will be at full strength and ready for Rangers.

Speaking after his team booked a League Cup semi spot against Morton, McInnes said: “We need a big effort from everyone for Sunday. It’s ridiculous that Rangers have 48 hours of extra recovery before a league game when there doesn’t need to be.

“Why our game was moved to the Thursday, I don’t get. But it is what it is – and we’ll be ready for them come Sunday.

“It will be a full house here, everyone wants to be involved in it. I think it’s a significant fixture on the calendar, Aberdeen against Rangers.

“It probably gets everyone fired up. They’re a good side, they had an impressive performance the other night.

“Rangers have got too much quality, having invested heavily in a squad that already looked good in the Championship, to consider them anything but a tough nut to crack. But we’re in good form. And tonight’s result helps.

“I don’t know about us being favourites. I can’t go and spend £2 million or £3 million and pay the wages they do. But we always feel we can win, especially at Pittodrie. Sunday is no different.”

More to get you in the mood…

Scottish Premiership: John Beaton to referee Aberdeen v Rangers

John Beaton will oversee Aberdeen’s Scottish Premiership showdown with Rangers at Pittodrie, after Nick Walsh handles his first Celtic game when Kilmarnock visit Parkhead on Saturday.

John Beaton speaks with Hibernian's Fraser Fyvie against Rangers
Steady start: Beaton will take charge of his fourth Premiership game during the seventh round of fixtures (Picture from Sky Sports)

JOHN Beaton will be the referee for this weekend’s standout Scottish Premiership clash between Aberdeen and Rangers.

The 34-year-old will be in the middle when the two sides expected to challenge Celtic for the title this term meet at Pittodrie this Sunday lunchtime (KO 13:00 BST, live on Sky Sports).

He will be assisted by Dougie Potter and Andrew McWilliam, while Don Robertson, who took charge of Celtic’s 2-2 draw at Inverness last Sunday and Rangers’ 5-0 Betfred Cup win over Queen of the South on Tuesday, will be the fourth official.

Beaton will be hoping for a less eventful match than the incident-packed match he oversaw at McDiarmid Park last weekend, as St Johnstone beat Hearts 1-0.

He booked Saints strikers Chris Kane and Graham Cummins for diving and sent Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson to the stands for an apparent sarcastic clap towards him after 76 minutes.

However Neilson, who has since avoided a touchline ban, said afterwards he felt the dismissal was more influenced by fourth official Mike Roncone, as opposed to the referee.

Opposite number Tommy Wright said he would fine the players if he agreed with Beaton’s decision but, having reviewed the footage, the club have challenged the yellow cards the two forwards received.

Role: Beaton was an additional assistant referee as part of Willie Collum’s Scottish team of officials for two group games at Euro 2016 (Picture from BBC Scotland)

Beaton will be in the middle for his 11th game of the season in all competitions – and third to be shown live on TV. He has so far brandished 53 yellow cards, two red cards and awarded eight penalties.

Earlier this month, Beaton gave three penalties in 45 minutes to Dunfermline, all of which were saved by goalkeeper Cammy Bell in 10-man Dundee United’s 3-1 win at East End Park in the Championship.

Last month, he dished out a massive 11 yellow cards and awarded Hearts a controversial spotkick when Jamie Walker appeared to dive over Kieran Tierney in their 2-1 defeat by champions Celtic at Tynecastle on the opening weekend of the Premiership season.

The Motherwell official, who first became a referee in 1997, has officiated the 2015 Ramsdens Cup Final, two League Cup semi-finals, two Scottish Cup semis including one last season, and been an additional assistant referee for two Scottish Cup Finals.

A Category One official since 2009, he has established himself as a regular in the Scottish Premiership since his first game – Dundee United’s 3-0 win over Dunfermline in March 2012 – and is one of seven Scottish referees on Fifa’s international list.

Beaton, whose cousin Steven Nicholls is also a referee, hit the headlines last year when he was headbutted during a volatile derby in Saudi Arabia between Al Hilal and Al Nasr – during which he issued three red cards.

John Beaton explains decision (Dundee Utd v Dundee - 11th August 2015)
Occupation: Beaton, who once had ambitions to be a journalist, is now a full-time referee after giving up his day job as a communications officer at Strathclyde University (Picture from Sky Sports)

It will be the second time the Lanarkshire-based whistler will encounter both teams in 2016-17 already.

Beaton was in the middle for Aberdeen’s 2-1 win over Partick Thistle at Pittodrie on August 20, in which he sent off Thistle captain Sean Welsh who showed dissent towards him to earn a second yellow late on.

He also gave the Gers an early spotkick on their way to a 3-0 win over Stranraer at Ibrox in July’s Betfred Cup group phase in the first round.

Sunday’s televised contest will see one of Scottish football’s most intense feuds resume as the Dons and the Gers lock horns for the first time since a 1-1 draw at Ibrox in the top-flight in January 2012.

With so much time having passed, only Craig Thomson and Willie Collum have officiated a game between the sides out of the current crop of Scottish referees.

Heading into the weekend, Derek McInnes’s side and Mark Warburton’s Gers boast almost identical records – with nine points from six games – and sit fifth and sixth respectively in the table.


Nick Walsh in action (Hibernian v Alloa)
Relative rookie: Walsh is in his fourth season as a senior official and will oversee only his seventh Premiership match at Celtic Park (Picture from Sky Sports)

Nick Walsh will take charge of his first Celtic game when the champions host Kilmarnock at Parkhead on Saturday (KO 15:00 BST).

The 30-year-old is seemingly in favour with the SFA at the moment, with this his fourth top-flight refereeing appointment of the season already, having only been promoted to Category One over the summer.

But it is a reflection of his lenient and consistent start to the campaign – he has only brandished six yellow cards in his three other Premiership games, which unusually have all been won by a 2-0 scoreline.

Walsh has handled Partick Thistle’s win over Inverness on the opening weekend, Ross County’s victory over Kilmarnock on August 20 and St Johnstone’s success at Firhill a fortnight ago.

The Stirling-based whistler has also officiated six other games, including stepping in for Willie Collum in Ayr United’s 2-1 Betfred Cup win over Hamilton in July.

Establishing himself: Walsh made his Premiership debut in Ross County’s 1-0 win over Partick Thistle in April and received two more before the end of last term (Picture from BBC ALBA)

But he was public enemy number one at Easter Road last weekend as Ayr shocked Hibernian with a 2-1 victory after Hibs midfielder Marvin Bartley became his first red card victim of the season for a challenge on Jamie Adams.

The decision came at a crucial time and led Hibs boss Neil Lennon to blame what he described as “a poor refereeing performance” for the Championship title favourites’ loss.

Walsh was one of the most card-happy officials in Scotland having brandished 123 yellow cards and 14 red cards in 32 games last term, as well as awarding 10 penalties.

The Glasgow-born official was a regular in the Championship and fourth official for numerous Premiership games in the last two seasons.

But his attitude was questioned by Motherwell boss Mark McGhee, who felt his communication should have been better when in control of electronic board duties during April’s 4-1 defeat at Aberdeen.

Walsh will be assisted by Graham Chambers, Alasdair Ross and fourth official Stephen Finnie, with Willie Young keeping a close eye on his display as the SPFL referee observer.

He has so far stayed under the spotlight in his top-flight assignments but could be in for a tougher afternoon with more focus on the champions and every call under close scrutiny.

Despite leading the table by three points, Brendan Rodgers’s Celtic will want to bounce back after losing their 100 per cent league record in last weekend’s 2-2 draw at Inverness.

Meanwhile, Lee Clark’s Kilmarnock, who survived the play-offs last season, sit ninth heading into the weekend with six points from as many games and will hope to replicate their goalless draw in Glasgow last term.

You can view the rest of this weekend’s SPFL match official appointments here.

Craig Thomson to referee top-two Pittodrie clash

Referee Craig Thomson will be in the middle for the top-two clash between Aberdeen and Celtic at Pittodrie in the Scottish Premiership on Saturday.

Craig Thomson referee (Inverness CT v Celtic - 11th April 2015)
Past encounters: Thomson has overseen nine previous Aberdeen-Celtic games stretching back to 2004 – seven of which have been at Pittodrie (Picture from Sky Sports)

CRAIG Thomson will be the man in the middle when the Scottish Premiership’s top-two meet at Pittodrie this weekend.

The 43-year-old from Renfrewshire was also in charge the last time champions Celtic faced Aberdeen when Scott Brown’s goal settled the contest on May 10 which featured four bookings.

Thomson has a wealth of experience in handling high-profile matches which will lend well when one of the most eagerly-anticipated fixtures in Scottish football takes place in front of the Sky cameras on Saturday lunchtime.

Ronny Deila’s league leaders are a point ahead of the Dons – who are level on 15 points with third-placed Hearts and have a game in hand against Hamilton Accies next Tuesday night.

Thomson will be assisted for the 12:30pm kick-off by David McGeachie and Willie Conquer while the fourth official will be George Salmond.

Craig Thomson books Scott Brown (Celtic v Rangers - 1st February 2015)
Well-respected: Thomson is highly thought of by managers and players alike but has a tendency to use cards more frequently (Picture from BBC Scotland)

The Paisley-based whistler missed the first two weekends of the season because of illness and was replaced by Willie Collum for the Petrofac Training Cup first round tie between Hibernian and Rangers at Easter Road.

He has since overseen four top-flight games and Falkirk’s League Cup win at Partick Thistle – brandishing 24 yellow cards, sending off Motherwell’s Jake Taylor at St Johnstone and awarding two penalties.

It will be the second time that Thomson encounters Celtic already this term after their 4-2 win over Inverness at Celtic Park on August 15.

The former solicitor appears to have been selected over fellow Uefa Elite official Collum, who has endured a tough start to the domestic campaign having sent off Hearts defender Callum Paterson at Hamilton Acciesa red card which has subsequently been rescinded.

Among his highlights last term were the League Cup semi-final between Celtic and Rangers, the Premiership play-off final second leg at Fir Park, 26 Premiership matches and the Scottish Cup quarter-final between Dundee United and Celtic which featured three red cards and two spotkicks.

Craig Thomson at Tannadice (Dundee Utd v Celtic - 8th March 2015)
Busy: Thomson handled 47 games across seven different competitions last season and sent off eight players in the process (Picture from Sky Sports)

Edinburgh-born Thomson oversaw eight Celtic games in total in 2014-15 compared to six involving Aberdeen.

The vastly-experienced official – who has been a regular in the Scottish top-flight since 2002 and joined the Fifa list a year later – has been in the middle for three League Cup finals and three Scottish Cup finals as well as many Champions League and international matches.

He also went to the European Championships in 2012 as one of 12 referees – his first major tournament – and is among the officials vying for a place in next summer’s finals in France.

Celtic won all four league meetings with Derek McInnes’s side last season in games overseen by referees Alan Muir, Bobby Madden and John Beaton.

Craig Thomson referee
Thomson controversially sent off Virgil van Dijk when Celtic were condemned to their only league defeat of the 2013-14 season at Pittodrie (Picture from BBC Scotland)


SPFL Premiership match official appointments (11th and 12th Sept 2015)

Steven McLean will take charge of a first Hearts game since the opening weekend against Inverness in the Highlands on Friday night.

Brian Colvin will be in the middle for a third Premiership match of the season when strugglers Dundee United and Kilmarnock meet at Tannadice on Saturday.

Willie Collum maintains his near ever-present record in the top-flight when handling a sixth game as Partick Thistle host Dundee at Firhill.

Motherwell’s clash with Ross County will be overseen by Don Robertson while Andrew Dallas will handle St Johnstone’s match against Hamilton Accies.

Ten-man Celtic go top with late winner at Aberdeen

CELTIC recovered from the dismissal of captain Scott Brown to snatch a late winner at Aberdeen to go top of the Scottish Premiership for the first time this season.

Aberdeen v Celtic - captains, Dons mascot and referee Alan Muir

CELTIC moved top of the Scottish Premiership for the first time this season as Virgil van Dijk’s last-gasp winner sank Aberdeen.

Adam Rooney put the Dons ahead with his third league goal of the season before Stefan Johansen equalised seven minutes before the break.

The Dons were much the better side in the second half and were seemingly on the road to victory when Hoops skipper Scott Brown was sent off late on.

But van Dijk had other ideas, guiding home Johansen’s corner from close range with a minute of normal time remaining.

The centre-back was dismissed himself on Celtic’s last trip to the Granite City in February – their only league defeat last season.

But his third goal of the season sparked wild scenes of celebration among the 2,000 travelling fans who contributed to the biggest attendance at Pittodrie so far this term.

Following Inverness’s 4-2 win over Hamilton and Dundee United’s 1-0 defeat at Motherwell earlier in the weekend, Ronny Deila’s side now lead the way on goal difference after earning their fourth straight league win.

The Dons had won seven of their nine previous games since losing at Parkhead in September and could have moved above the champions if they were to record a fourth successive victory of their own.

Aberdeen v Celtic - Derek McInnesBut Derek McInnes’s side will be crestfallen with the result harsh on the Dons who suffered their first home defeat since the opening day.

Shay Logan, who was sent off after the final whistle for foul and abusive language towards a linesman in the tunnel, was named in an unchanged Aberdeen side from Monday’s 1-0 win at bottom-club Ross County.

Aberdeen v Celtic - Dons players on Remembrance Sunday

Celtic’s on-loan Aston Villa winger Aleksandar Tonev did not travel, however, despite being cleared to play by the Scottish FA as the club lodged an appeal against the Bulgarian’s seven-game ban for racially abusing the Dons defender two months ago.

There was an extra edge to proceedings, as a result, with home fans chanting their support for Logan prior to kick-off before a minute’s silence on Remembrance Sunday was impeccably observed.

Aberdeen v Celtic - Hoops players on Remembrance Sunday

It was as quiet as it got around Pittodrie all afternoon as an electric atmosphere was generated – and the Dons faithful were screaming for a penalty inside three minutes.

Peter Pawlett accelerated into the penalty area and went down under the challenge of Brown but referee Alan Muir pointed only for a goal kick.

The Dons were dealt a blow when, after just 10 minutes, Willo Flood tweaked a hamstring and had to be withdrawn as Barry Robson – another former Celtic midfielder, who turned 36 this week – entered the fray.Aberdeen v Celtic - Willo Flood hobbles off injured

Celtic had made five changes of their own from Thursday’s Europa League draw against Astra in Romania with October’s Premiership player of the month John Guidetti returning after ineligibility and James Forrest made his first start since August after injury.

Anthony Stokes was fit again after a knock, Adam Matthews was preferred to Mikael Lustig at right-back and Lukasz Zaluska started in goal with Craig Gordon having sustaining a neck problem.

Despite enjoying plenty of possession, the Hoops struggled to assert any authority during the opening exchanges but created the first opening when Stokes guided a low sidefooter narrowly wide from Johansen’s lay-off inside the box.

The Dons, though, proved more than a match for the champions and it was they who made the breakthrough on 27 minutes.

Andrew Considine, after his initial throw-in was cleared, saw his shot spilled back into the danger zone by Zaluska and Rooney reacted quickest to bundle home his first league goal in six games via a deflection off van Dijk.

As Celtic upped the tempo in search of an equaliser, the Dutch defender was denied by Dons keeper Scott Brown with a header from Forrest’s corner.

The Dons still carried plenty of threat going forward, Ryan Jack slicing a 25-yard shot beyond the right-hand post when space opened up.

But the hosts were pegged back when Stokes released Johansen, who engineered a yard away from Mark Reynolds before clipping an expert finish into the far corner.

It was the first goal Brown, making his fifth Aberdeen appearance, has conceded since taking the gloves from Jamie Langfield.

The former Cheltenham stopper then had to parry a fizzing long-range effort from Johansen, the Norwegian taking it up himself to get among the goals of late from an advanced midfield position.

Forrest, who scored twice at Pittodrie last season, and former Celtic forward Niall McGinn both saw searching efforts fly over as an even first period drew to a close.

Hoops midfielder Brown was thwarted by his namesake with a 20-yard effort and the in-form John Guidetti nodded a Stokes free-kick wide in a strong second-half start from Celtic.

McGinn, without a goal in nine games, almost conjured a piece of much-needed magic for Aberdeen but his shot drifted beyond Zaluska’s goal.

Aberdeen v Celtic - Ronny Deila

Deila turned to Callum McGregor on the hour mark in place of Forrest as his side looked to turn their dominance in possession into a lead.

But the Dons had reason to be encouraged with McGinn inches away from finding the target, the Northern Irishman drilling another effort against the post after cutting inside of Adam Matthews.

McInnes introduced David Goodwillie in a straight swap with Rooney in attack at a point when the contest reached its feistiest point.

Jonny Hayes and Emilio Izaguirre were cautioned for squaring up to one another in a touchline tussle before Brown went into the notebook for an overzealous foul on Robson, who was also booked for a series of offences.

McGinn was the most likeliest to provide the decisive moment for the Dons, wasting another chance when he headed Ash Taylor’s centre over unopposed from 12 yards.

The hosts continued to have a foothold in what turned into a scrappy affair as Jack’s header was parried by Zaluska from McGinn’s delivery to the back post.

And their belief increased as, nine minutes from time, Celtic’s Brown was shown a second yellow card when adjudged to have brought down McGinn despite replays confirming there was no contact.

The buoyant home crowd urged their side forward as the Dons sought to make their numerical advantage count in the closing stages.

A Reynolds shot sparked panic in the Celtic box before Johansen blocked Jack’s effort following a long Considine throw-in.

But, in an unexpected twist to the tale, van Dijk was left all alone to stylishly guide Johansen’s corner into the net with his instep in the dying moments of regulation time.

The Dons roared back immediately with McGinn calling Zaluska into action with a 12-yard effort from a Hayes centre.

But they could not salvage anything as Celtic showed the hallmark of champions to produce a smash-and-grab raid which prompted an outcry of passion from a delighted Deila.

Aberdeen line-up v Celtic - 8th Nov 2014

Celtic line-up v Aberdeen - 9th Nov 2014

Aberdeen (4-2-3-1): 20 Brown, 2 Logan, 6 Reynolds, 5 Taylor, 3 Considine, 22 Jack, 8 Flood (Robson 10’), 11 Hayes, 16 Pawlett (Monakana 85’), 10 McGinn, 9 Rooney (Goodwillie 67’).

Subs not used: 1 Langfield (GK), 46 McKenna, 25 Shankland, 14 Smith.

Booked: Hayes (65), Robson (70)

Goals: Rooney (27)


Celtic (4-3-3): 24 Zaluska, 2 Matthews (Lustig 78’), 5 van Dijk, 27 Denayer, 3 Izaguirre, 8 Brown ©, 25 Johansen, 21 Mulgrew, 49 Forrest (McGregor 61’), 9 Guidetti, 10 Stokes (Griffiths 71’).

Subs not used: 38 Fasan (GK), 32 Wakaso, 33 Beram Kayal, 12 Scepovic.

Booked: Stokes (59), Izaguirre (65), Brown (67)

Sent off: Brown (81)

Goals: Johansen (38)

Alan Muir - Aberdeen v Celtic (Sun 9th Nov 2014)

Referee: Alan Muir (Scotland) – 8/10
Attendance: 19,051

Alan Muir to referee Aberdeen v Celtic

ALAN Muir will be the man in the middle when champions Celtic travel to Aberdeen in the Scottish Premiership this weekend.
Experienced head: Alan Muir has been refereeing in the Scottish top-flight since the start of the 2008-09 season (Picture from

ALAN Muir will be the man in the middle when champions Celtic travel to Aberdeen in the Scottish Premiership this weekend.

The 40-year-old will take charge of both sides for the first time this season in Sunday’s televised lunchtime kick-off at Pittodrie, live on Sky Sports (KO 12:30).

He will be assisted by David McGeachie and Michael Banks while George Salmond will assume fourth official duties.

It will only be the Edinburgh whistler’s fourth top-flight game of the season – and his first since handling Kilmarnock’s 2-1 win over St Mirren in mid-September.

Muir – whose occupation is a stock controller – has officiated 12 games in all competitions so far this campaign but has mainly dipped in between the Championship and League One.

He has brandished an average of four yellow cards per game, with his only red card shown to Queen of the South’s Kevin Holt in their 4-3 Championship defeat at Raith Rovers last month.

Muir sent off 11 players in 37 matches in total last term, which concluded with four straight Premiership matches and an appointment as an additional assistant referee for the Scottish Cup Final between St Johnstone and Dundee United.

He last oversaw Celtic in February’s 1-0 victory over St Mirren while his last Aberdeen game came in their 1-1 draw with St Johnstone in April.

Muir, a Uefa Category One official for two years before being removed from the list in 2011, once officiated a famous 9-0 Celtic success over the Dons in November 2010 in which he sent off a player from either side at Parkhead.

Two months later, he dismissed Aberdeen skipper Andy Considine in just the second minute before the Hoops ran out 3-0 winners in his last experience of a fixture between the two teams considered to be the powerhouses of Scottish football of late.

Fifth-placed Aberdeen can move as high as second depending on Saturday’s results while Celtic are in third with 23 points from 11 games.