Kevin Clancy will take charge of Celtic’s trip to Rugby Park in Saturday’s televised lunchtime game, before Willie Collum oversees Rangers against Hibernian at Ibrox.
Kevin Clancy will take charge of Celtic’s lunchtime clash with Kilmarnock at Rugby Park on Saturday afternoon, the SPFL has confirmed.
The 34-year-old will be in the middle for his first Hoops game of 2018 as the champions and current Scottish Premiership leaders visit Ayrshire for the 12:30pm kick-off, which will be screened live on BT Sport.
Celtic are unbeaten in the 25 previous games that the Fifa whistler has officiated, winning 23 and drawing two – stretching back to his first in February 2013. The only other occasion he’s previously handled a game between the two sides was three years ago in a 2-0 away victory for the Hoops.
It will be the fifth time Clancy will encounter Brendan Rodgers’s side this season in what will be his 28th match of the campaign overall in all competitions. He has so far brandished 107 yellow cards, sent off five players and awarded three penalties.
The Glasgow-born official was also in charge of Celtic’s 4-1 win over Hearts on the opening weekend, October’s 4-2 League Cup semi-final win over Hibernian, the 5-1 thrashing of Motherwell in December and, most recently, their 2-0 success at Dundee on Boxing Day.
Elsewhere, Willie Collum will oversee Rangers’ meeting with Hibernian at Ibrox, as second takes on fourth in the top flight.
It will be the sixth time already this season that Collum will oversee a match involving the Gers, but the first since their surprise 2-1 reverse at Kilmarnock on December 23.
He will also be at the helm for his 30th game of the campaign in all competitions and, not for the first time in his career, has come under fire in recent weeks amid some controversial decisions.
Controversial Euro 2016 whistler Willie Collum incurred the wrath of Kilmarnock fans after giving Aberdeen a dubious penalty for the opening goal in Saturday’s 4-0 win at Rugby Park.
Notoriously card-happy and not one to shy away from a big decision, Willie Collum is no stranger to controversy.
And Scotland’s Euro 2016 referee found himself in the spotlight again on Saturday after a penalty award which had more than a hint of contention about it.
Kilmarnock were containing Aberdeen well until the 25th minute of their Scottish Premiership encounter at Rugby Park when Killie keeper Jamie MacDonald and Dons playmaker James Maddison came together.
On first viewing, it seemed MacDonald had been fouled by Maddison, losing the ball from his grasp before the slightest of contact sent the on-loan Norwich man to the deck.
Many home supporters expected a free-kick for their side, but were left aghast when Collum pointed to the spot and booked MacDonald to boot.
It allowed Adam Rooney to send the keeper the wrong way from 12 yards and gave the Dons the platform to a comfortable 4-0 victory in Ayrshire, with Rooney scoring later after strikes from defenders Andy Considine and Ash Taylor.
It was a tough decision for Collum to make, with the incident happening at such a fast pace, but he wouldn’t find much sympathy on social media as Scottish football followers roundly condemned the call…
The penalty Aberdeen got at Rugby Park on Saturday (from Willie Collum?) is just laughable. Farcical decision.
But Ronny Deila’s men returned to winning ways in dominant fashion and might have won by more with Kris Commons – on his first league start since November 22 – denied twice by the crossbar and twice by Killie keeper Craig Samson.
It was the perfect sign-off for the Hoops ahead of jetting off to Gran Canaria tomorrow morning for a winter training camp before returning to face high-flying Hamilton a week on Saturday.
Killie, meanwhile, knew a third straight league victory would have moved them into the top six for the first time in over a month.
Despite the defeat, Allan Johnston’s men are nine points better off than at this stage last term and equipped themselves well, particularly after the break.
A nonchalant effort from Muirhead, who replaced Chris Johnston in a surprising tactical substitution after 35 minutes, was kept out by Gordon.
Jamie Hamill’s low drive was diverted narrowly wide by Muirhead and Mark O’Hara curled over the crossbar from 20 yards.
But, although Killie put up firm resistance, Celtic remained firmly in control to record a seventh straight win over the East Ayrshire outfit.
The Scot rattled the crossbar twice with thunderous efforts from the edge of the box as the hosts were left hanging on amid the incessant Celtic pressure.
Killie took 28 minutes to conjure any opportunity of note as Josh Magennis met an inswinging free-kick from Alexei Eremenko, his glancing header forcing Gordon to save low to his right.
The visitors went ahead soon after as Honduran full-back Izaguirre latched onto Johansen’s pass before crashing an unstoppable left-footed volley past Samson for only his third goal for the club.
Recording 63% of possession in the first period, Deila’s team kept the ball better than their hosts on the artificial surface and deserved more than a one-goal lead for their efforts.
Only a superb one-handed save from former St Mirren stopper Samson prevented a fierce Commons drive from finding the back of the net.
Man of the match Commons was the source of all danger to the home rearguard – and Killie defender Mark Connolly had to take one in the face to keep another powerful shot at bay.
The gloss eventually arrived on 72 minutes as Efe Ambrose’s header from a Johansen corner was flicked home by Serbian striker Scepovic, whose only other goal this term also came in a 2-0 win over Killie at Celtic Park in October.
The Hoops gave only a second outing of the season to 20-year-old right-back Darnell Fisher late on and continued to stream forward.
Killie’s stand-in skipper Connolly was fortunate to escape punishment after appearing to handle Izaguirre’s shot in the box before Celtic substitute Callum McGregor’s deflected shot kissed the outside of the post in stoppage time.
The 37-year-old former fireman will be in the middle for Kilmarnock’s clash with newly-promoted Dundee at Rugby Park on Saturday.
With no official confirmation of promotion to the top-flight, it appears this is a one-off trial game for the Renfrewshire whistler, who is normally found in the three tiers below.
His last game was Hibernian’s televised 4-0 win at Livingston in the Championship a fortnight ago, having been the fourth official for Partick Thistle’s goalless draw with St Johnstone in the Premiership last weekend.
Aitken – a Category One official since May 2011 having first took up refereeing in 2002 – has been touted for inclusion on the Premiership list for a while after impressing in the lower divisions.
He will be assisted by linesmen Gordon Crawford and Willie Conquer and fourth official Steven McLean in east Ayrshire while observer Eddie Smith will be keeping a watchful eye over his performance from the stands.
“We were beaten by a bit more desire and willingness to chase lost causes and work hard for the team. I know they’re better than that and so far this season they’ve been up to everything that’s been put to them.”
Kilmarnock solid and fully deserved win. Dundee United were dreadful. Slow, flat and uninspired. Hope they don't use pitch as an excuse.
In an open and engaging first-half, Josh Magennis twice forced saves from Terrors keeper Radoslaw Cierzniak before clipping the top of the crossbar having muscled clear of Callum Morris.
Obadeyi glaringly screwed over from eight yards and the influential Alexei Eremenko volleyed off target as the dominant hosts, who kept possession well on the rain-soaked artificial surface, had the better of the clear-cut opportunities.
At the opposite end, Nadir Ciftci headed Sean Dillon’s cross inches wide and the fit-again Armstrong was denied at point-blank range by Samson, who was replaced by debutant Northern Ireland U21 stopper Conor Brennan at the break after coming off worse in the collision.
Killie were always the more potent attacking force, taking the lead just beyond the hour when Eremenko’s low cross found its way to Obadeyi and the 24-year-old, who netted twice in last weekend’s 3-0 win over Partick Thistle, stabbed home after cleverly nutmegged his marker.
This seasons @OfficialKillie squad is fresh and exciting, can't believe people don't flock to Rugby Park in numbers!!
It did not take long for their superiority to be reflected further on the scoreline as, less than minutes later, Eremenko was the provider again with a well-floated corner which Connolly climbed above Jaroslaw Fojut to guide past Cierzniak from eight yards.
As McNamara conceded his side were defeated by “the better team”, the subdued visitors were never at the races and struggled to create openings in east Ayrshire.
Substitute Gary Mackay-Steven almost provided a spark but lashed over from a promising position while Killie’s replacement custodian Brennan – a summer buy from Leicester City – was called upon to deal with a Chris Erskine shot.
McNamara then had to call Ciftci back to the bench after replacing the Turkish striker, who sought to head down the tunnel after enduring a disappointing evening, with Ola Adeyemo.
“I told him to sit down,” explained the United boss on BBC Radio Scotland. “It was a frustrating night for him. I don’t think he was the only one that didn’t perform for us.”
Robbie Muirhead, though, could have widened the margins in Killie’s favour when his dipping drive was kept at bay by Cierzniak in stoppage time.
Killie had lost their previous five encounters with United but issued a huge statement against the team seen as the likeliest challengers to Celtic’s domestic dominance, keeping a third consecutive clean sheet in the process.
And their delighted manager has now called for consistency from his improving side, who have only lost two of their first nine league games.
“We showed what we’re capable and we’ve got to show that week in, week out. We defended really well. The last thing you can do is be complacent. We’ve got to remember the work we’ve put in,” Johnston said.
Didn't see that result coming – Killie 2-0 Dundee United. Good result for Johnston.
Celtic’s Kris Commons gave a timely reminder why he is the leading contender for Scotland’s Player of the Year award with a hat-trick against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park.
IF further evidence is required that Kris Commons is comfortably leading the way in the Player of the Year contenders, the Celtic forward gave another glowing reminder of why he is favourite to scoop the award at Rugby Park.
The 31-year-old, like many of his colleagues, was a peripheral figure in the first period but exploded into life following the intermission and yet again ended up taking the match ball home after claiming his third hat-trick for the club.
Undoubtedly the star of the show, the inspirational Scot grabbed an otherwise dull game by the scruff of its neck and swung it firmly in Celtic’s favour with an array of quality finishing to take his tally this term to 26 in all competitions.
Compare that to the solitary goal he had at this stage 12 months ago illustrates just how much he has improved on attributes that have prevented him from furthering his career in the past.
Dedicating the treble to the birthday boy, his three-year-old son would have been proud of witnessing another stunning salvo to add to a series of glittering match-changing performances.
It was hardly a single-handed salvage operation which overcame Allan Johnston’s men in the end but more often than not, Commons has dragged the Hoops out of the mire and over the finishing line.
With the days ticking by and the trophies being polished in anticipation, the awards dinner edges ever closer but there surely can be only one name being considered to clean out the end of season prizes in Scotland.
The travelling Hoops faithful who gave him a warm standing ovation at full-time will certainly be backing his case.
Changing the outcome in the blink of an eye, opening the scoring on countless occasions, tearing defences to shreds. The talismanic Commons has capably stepped into the shoes of Gary Hooper as the leading scorer, and has gleefully accepted the freedom given to showcase his talent, with the invaluable assistance of his team-mates.
Accepting the sole responsibility and extra scoring burden within a title-winning squad can harm the confidence of the best in the business but the Mansfield-born ‘magician’ has felt no such pressure.
As the Kilmarnock defence harshly discovered, his unique ability to split centre-backs in two and breach the resistance in tight contests is utterly ruthless.
The stand-out performer in a faltering campaign and described as ‘the master’ by his manager, Commons has lit up the Scottish Premiership this term and was the catalyst to another comfortable victory in their unchallenged quest to sew up another title.
He may have admitted in the tunnel afterwards that the primary focus is smashing the 100-point barrier and not on individual plaudits but even by his own admissions, his remarkable form must exceed even his own expectations.
Expressing his desire to add more goals to his growing account before the season is out, the division’s defenders – however experienced – must be shivering in their boots.
Commons began proceedings in East Ayrshire at the tip of the midfield diamond, employed in conjunction with 17-year-old Liam Henderson, captain Scott Brown and Norwegian Stefan Johansen but could not become the instant influential presence that he has so often been this term.
The former Derby man has always set high standards and works towards personal targets and after a lacklustre first period, he quickly set about providing the spark which turned the momentum.
The Hoops had struggled for a cutting edge until the 57th minute when, exchanging passes with Leigh Griffiths, Commons slithered down the outside of Lee Ashcroft and poked home into the bottom corner.
Just over a minute later, his scoring instincts were exorcised again and the game was effectively over.
Commons inevitably initiated the move by playing the ball out to marauding Welshman Adam Matthews down the right but he did not stand to admire his raking pass, instead continuing his raid into the box and got his just rewards by tapping home from close range.
The most changed factor of his game is his hunger to take the next step and positive attitude to chase lost causes.
The retired 12-cap Scotsman did not rest on his laurels and wasn’t content with two goals but persistently searched for a hat-trick to crown his night. And that’s exactly what he did.
He certainly saved the best to last, collecting Charlie Mulgrew’s pass and turning exquisitely into space before striding forward and despatching an accurate low shot which nestled into the bottom corner beyond a helpless Samson.
With nine games remaining, there is still plenty of time for Commons to make a further impression, which would surely get Gordon Strachan persuading him to end the international exile.
Another championship winning medal may be just around the corner but the 30-goal benchmark that the top marksmen aim to achieve is first in sight for a man that has personal glory within his grasp.
Fraser Forster has smashed records, Virgil van Dijk has been a revelation and the authoratitive Scott Brown has captained the ship with leadership skills like no other. But it’s goals and assists that change games and ultimately win titles.
Putting Georgios Samaras, Amido Balde and Teemu Pukki to shame, Commons has been the shining light down the pathway to an unforgettable league campaign and the integral clog in a settled side which has run like clockwork.
On reflection, a personalised glass momento is the least he deserves, as recognition of the best-scoring season of his career alone. You cannot discount his overall contribution, assists, corners, free-kicks and even the odd piece of defending.
It’s easy to forget – the goal-line clearance from Hearts’s Dylan McGowan spared Celtic’s blushes back in December.
Stevie May has been the main source of St Johnstone’s goals, the Dundee United youngsters have come of age and Aberdeen have their fair share of nominees. Commons though, in all honesty, is a class apart. In a league of his own.
Neil Lennon has continually talked up Commons’s chances of picking up the 2013/14 best of the rest accolade and now after the latest man of the match showing, the engravers might just start carving his name into the record books.