SPL rebels aim for ‘Arab Spring’

Pressure has continued to mount on the Old Firm to accept new voting rules in the Scottish Premier League.

Yesterday Kilmarnock Chairman, Michael Johnston, compared the struggle of the 10 “rebel” clubs to that of the Arab Spring, “Hopefully we can be as successful as some of the pro-democracy movements elsewhere.”

The 10 clubs, which include Heart’s and Hibs, aim to end the 11-1 majority required for significant league changes and end the Glasgow duopoly on power. However Celtic chairman, Peter Lawell, has criticised their motives and claimed they are acting disrespectfully by excluding the Old Firm.

However Johnston rejects these claims saying, “Principally, this is about a measure of democracy that’s been lacking in the SPL in its decision-making processes.

“So this is the pro-democracy movement. It’s not a gang of 10 or anything subversive. It’s all up front and it’s perfectly open what we’ve been talking about, so there’s nothing hidden or disrespectful about it.”

It is believed the non-Old Firm clubs view a change in the voting system as the first step towards a fairer distribution of TV revenue and possible league expansion.

Round up of weekend sports fixtures

After the drama of last weekend’s Six Nations’ climax, the next two days promise a much quieter weekend of sport.

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Football

In the SPL, Hibernian take on Dundee United on Saturday, while Perth side St. Johnstone face Hearts. Other matches include Aberdeen v Inverness Caledonian Thistle, Dunfermline v St Mirren and Kilmarnock v Motherwell. The kick off for all matches is 3pm.

On Sunday, there is an Old Firm clash as Rangers play Celtic at Ibrox. Kick off is at 1pm.

Rugby

In the RaboDirectPro12 rugby league, Edinburgh take on Welsh side Newport Gwent Dragons tonight at 7.30pm at Murrayfield Stadium. The Scottish team will be hoping to get over their recent run of losses.

Glasgow Warriors also take on Aironi at Firhill at 7.35pm tonight.

Motor sport

On Sunday, the Formula 1 Malaysian Grand Prix takes place in Kuala Lumpur. Scot Paul di Resta will be aiming for another top ten finish after his tenth place at last weekend’s Australian Grand Prix.

Tennis

Andy Murray will face Colombian Alejandro Falla later on today in the Miami Masters. For more on this, click here.

Caldwell and Grant star as Hibs progress

Scottish FA Youth Cup – 3rd Round
Hibernian 2-1 Heart of Midlothian (AET)
Saturday 12th November 2011, Easter Road Stadium

7 points clear at the top of the under-19′s league table Hearts were the favourites to progress at the expense of local rivals Hibs. However failure to turn their dominance into goals proved to be their ultimate downfall as Ross Caldwell netted a brace to knock Hearts out of the cup.

Hearts started brightly from the kick-off and pushed upfield to win a corner after just 26 seconds and also before the five minute mark Jason Holt produced a dangerous cutback which flashed across the 6 yard box, however there was no player ready to pounce and send the ball into the back of the net.

The opening 20 minutes were however very even as both teams attempted to gain a foothold in a hotly contested Edinburgh derby. Hibernian’s Daniel Handling floated a cross into the box and the unmarked Phil Addison blazed over from inside the box with a volley he was unable to keep down. Ross Caldwell then played an incisive through ball for Daniel Handling and his angled drive had Hearts goalkeeper Jack Hamilton beaten, yet it thumped against the bar in what was the closest to a goal in the game yet.

Paul Grant in the Hibs goal was in excellent form, and he needed to be as a firm header from Callum Paterson looked destined to make the net bulge. This was closely followed by a disallowed goal. Grant was unable to keep out a speculative overhead kick from Jamie Walker however the young Hearts number 11 seen his fantastic effort ruled out for offside.

The game remained open as Hearts continued to prove to the stronger of the two sides, Grant had to pull off another fine save after David Smith had danced through the Hibernian defence and had a near post effort blocked by the presence of the Hibs stopper.

When Hibs finally broke free of the relentless Hearts attacks they almost scored. An erratic clearance from Jack Hamilton fell to Daniel Handling whose effort ended up on the wrong side of the post.

The second half started off in an uneventful fashion. With both sides eager to grab the first goal passes were increasingly going astray. However Fraser Mullen collected a pass from David Smith and his effort from inside the box hit the back of the net. His goal was created with great technical ability, which was apparent in the first half as both sides played intricate passing football. However a slack piece of defending allowed Mullen to slip into the box and drill his effort home on 61 minutes.

Ross Caldwell raced in on goal soon after and rounded Hamilton, however the ball rolled into an awkward angle and with an open goal his effort hit the post which then rebounded back to Sam Stanton who saw his effort blocked en route to goal and cleared by the Hearts skipper Christopher Kane.

Hibs continued to burst forward and after efforts from Euan Smith, Jamie Doris and another from Caldwell the persistence paid off.

In the 86th minute a long ball from Jordon Foster was dealt with poorly by Kevin McHattie and Brad McKay and allowed the omnipresent Caldwell a clear chance on goal and his forceful drive ended up in the top left hand corner of the net.

With the game at 1-1 extra-time beckoned and with both sides having chances wasted it was Hearts who ultimately paid the price for failing to convert their efforts.

Billy King for Hearts showed good footwork and managed to have his drive blocked by the Hibs goalie. From the goal-kick the ball found Caldwell who managed to stave off the challenge from McKay and let fly with another unstoppable effort. Hamilton was beaten all ends up as the hugely influential Caldwell managed to net his second goal of the game.

Hearts should have equalised as Sam Nicholson found himself in the 6 yard box when a Jamie Walker cross arrived. With an empty goal in front of him the game should have been leveled. His effort cannoned back off the bar much to the relief of the Hibs team.

Nicholson had another chance, this time in the second half of extra-time, McHattie’s free-kick was delivered in and Nicholson met it with his head, but it was tame and straight at Grant. This was the last effort Hearts had in the game and Hibernian held on for the win and almost added a third, however Alex Harris couldn’t find the net after an impressive run.

At the final whistle the crowd of over 2000 people gave both teams a standing ovation after an enthralling encounter and Ross Caldwell enjoyed milking the applause from the home support by running down the touchline.

Hibernian enjoyed the victory by making the most of their chances and having Grant in fine form despite the pressure from Hearts. The main issue for Hearts will be one of missed chances whilst their fierce Edinburgh rivals progress to the 4th round of the cup.

Hibernian: Grant, Doris, Stanton, Monaghan, Foster, Verth, Horribine, Gold, Caldwell (Donaldson 113′), Handling (Smith 58′), Addison (Harris 69′). Substitutes not used: Horne, Mitter.
Goals: Caldwell (86, 95)

Heart of Midlothian: Hamilton, Mullen, McHattie, Kane, McKay, Tapping (A. King 105′), Paterson (Nicholson 90′), Smith, Stewart (B. King 79′), Holt, Walker. Substitutes not used: Carswell, McGhee.
Goals: McHattie (61)

Local Sports round Up

By Lauren Paterson

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The final whistle on Scottish Football? An insight into the current furore

By Christopher Hall

For years Scottish Football has had it’s issues, everyone knows that.

Sectarianism, racism and debt have all manifested themselves over the last few years within the match day terraces and streets of Scotland. Refereeing enquiries, while omnipresent, are usually taken no farther than the post-match summary from the irate gaffer.

However, the question looms nearer. Are the current refereeing scandals a genuine threat to the game and the final nail in an already watertight coffin?

Only time will tell.

The happenings within the SFA will either be lost within a plethoric archive of footballing news articles or there will be a genuine outcome to this long running saga which poses a real significant threat to our national game.

To simply understand the situation you would personally have to comb through an infinite amount of news articles and reports and still not establish a firm conclusion. On the one hand, you have the letters from Neil Lennon outlining his misgivings with decisions given against his Celtic side at Tannadice and more recently at Parkhead in the Old Firm derby. On the other side, there are officials such as Stephen Craven deciding to quit the game in bizarre circumstances after his involvement in a decision to overturn a penalty for the Glasgow team last week. There appears to be a smoke screen appearing within the game which wont be cleared until the SFA provide their official investigation and a proper conclusion is reached which will allow normal service to resume.

To the fair minded individual, it is obvious that referees are not hired on the basis of their religion, creed or race but by their ability to handle a football match in a manner which is fair and competent. Edinburgh Napier News looks at some major decisions in Scotland in the past five years which have added fuel to the flames within the Scottish football refereeing debate:

* Hearts fans are incensed after Defender Takis Fyssas is given a straight red after an alleged challenge on Celtic midfielder Shaun Maloney (Jan 2006)

* St Mirren are in the news as Gus Macpherson is threatened with a fine for criticising an assistant official in a cup match against Dundee United. (Feb 2007)

* Craig Levein is fined £5000 by the SFA after a post match outburst against former whistler Mike McCurry. Levein was outraged after a string of bizarre decisions which went against his team in a match against Rangers (May 2008)

* Rangers player Kyle Lafferty is fined by his club after deliberately feigning injury which resulted in a straight red card for Aberdeen defender Charlie Mulgrew. (May 2009)

* Stephen Craven and Dougie Macdonald are under fire after awarding Celtic a penalty against Dundee United before quickly overturning the decision to the shock of Celtic Manager Neil Lennon (October 2010)

If you think that you’ve got what it takes to become a referee in Scotland the why not follow this link

Fans gear up for Capital clash

By Mark Pryde and David Maxwell

Edinburgh has been gripped by football fever as city rivals Hearts and Hibernian gear up for one of the most important derbies in over a decade.

Saturday’s game at Tynecastle comes at a pivitol moment in the season for both sides who find themselves at opposing ends of the Scottish Premier League.

Home side Hearts are currently in 8th place having suffered their worst start to the SPL season in 9 years, and under-pressure boss Csaba Laszlo is hoping a vital win over their fiercest rivals will propel the Jambos up the league standings.

“We have had an inconsistent season,” said last season’s Manager of the Year Lazlo. “Our results have been up and down, and we must get results.”

“Goals change games, and we havent been scoring enough recently. Tomorrow’s derby gives us a chance to change this, and get ourselve some points.

“Im confident we have what it takes to beat Hibs.”

One major criticism of Laszlo  this season has been an over-reliance on younger players, but 20-year-old midfielder Jonny Thomson believes his manager has little choice.

“Experienced players cost a lot of money nowadays,” said Thomson. “I dont think any SPL side can afford to buy success, so youth players are getting more of a chance.”

“You just need to look at players in our squad like Craig Thomson and Lee Wallace to see that blooding youngsters has its advantages.”

Across the city in Leith, Hibernian have started the season brightly and now find themselves 2nd in the league, one point ahead of SPL champions Rangers.

New boss John Hughes has made some shrewd moves in the transfer market including the signing of Irish pair Liam Miller and Anthony Stokes from Sunderland, and the Hibees are unbeaten in their last 6 league games.

Hibs fans will be hoping that a derby win on Saturday could provide a launchpad for a serious challenge against the traditional Old Firm dominance of the SPL.

“I do think the pressure is on them, they have to start winning football matches,” said Hibs Gaffer Hughes. They are at home and it is up to them to come out and win it.

“As such, it is going to be an interesting game tactically and I’m looking forward to that battle as well.
“On these occasions, the form book goes right out the window. We have to apply ourselves, keep our concentration. Derbies often come down to who has that wee bit of a maverick in their team to win the game and I think we can do that.”

The Edinburgh Derby has provided some classic encounters over the past few years, but fans from both sides of the divide will simply be hoping to see their side come away with maximum points on the day.

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Focus on the Capital as Derby Anticipates Drama

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Derek Riordan confronted by a fan at Tynecastle in May last year. Photo courtesy of The Daily Mail.

By Lauren Witherspoon

Hearts captain, Michael Stewart, has claimed that the media have undermined his team, by “manipulating” his words, to boost Hibs chances of winning the first Edinburgh derby of the season.

The SPL match of the day  kicks off at 12:30 on Saturday, with hearts hosting Hibs at Tynecastle, and there has been no shortage of drama in the countdown to D-day.

Stewart brandished the press “parasites” after it was reported he said Hibs recent surge up the SPL table was due to luck, and that Hearts failings were because they hadn’t had any of the rub of the green. The midfielder voiced his rage at the written press, saying: “They are complete parasites. They tried to manipulate, twist and put a spin on everything that has been said.”

Michael Stewart is expected to overcome the injury that saw him miss out against Motherwell at the weekend. The captain will relish the derby and if he plays to his full potential could overrun the Hibs midfield, and give Hearts the lift that they desperately need. However, the controversial player will have to leave the school boy behaviour in the dressing room if he is to control the game and lead his side to victory.

With Hibs currently sitting second place in the SPL, confidence is high amongst the Easter Road players. Hearts will have to play to their  strengths of physicality, especially in defence, and aim to close down the opposition by constricting the space that HIbs like to utilise when expressing their passing game.

The Hibs manager, John Hughes hasn’t commented on Stewart’s fall-out with the Scottish press this week, but has disclosed that Moroccan playmaker, Merouanne Zemmama, is struggling to be fit, facing a race against time to recover from the groin strain that seen him limp out of his team’s match against Aberdeen last weekend.

Hughes also said that as a “precaution”, he had to send some of his squad home from training with cold symptoms, as a precaution. He said: “We’ve had one or two sniffles and we immediately told the players concerned to go straight home.”

Derek Riordan will be eager to get on the score sheet after failing to in Hibs’s last three games. The September player of the month has a habit for saving his best for the Derby, and Saturday’s may be the place for Riordan to break his scoring drought. Riordan is a familiar face to the Hearts support after being the centre of controversy in the last May’s encounter, when the striker was involved with a Hearts fan that ran on the pitch to confront him after he scored from the spot. Riordan’s  penalty  won the match for a patched up Hibs team, and secured the bragging rights across the city that have dogged Hearts since.

Colin Nish may  be rewarded with a starting line up space in the Hibs team after coming off the bench to head in the winning  goal in the late stages of the match against Aberdeen. The tall striker, perhaps the least ‘silky’ of the Hibernian forward line, could work out to be a good choice, being the ideal player to get amongst a physical Hearts  defence, in a game according to history,  that will often turn into a scrappy affair.

The well publicised need for a prolific striker is a worry for Hearts fans, but England under 21 player Andrew Driver could be the Tynecastle outfit’s best option for goals. While Hibs have been impressive, their defence has been moved around since the beginning of the season, with John Hughes having to field the inexperienced David Wotherspoon. Wotherspoon has shown glimpses of brilliance, scoring on the first day of the season, but he found the pressure too much when Hibs to Ibrox recently, and allowed Rangers to have a free reign down the right wing. If Wotherspoon cracks under the derby atmosphere, Driver will expose the young defender and could enjoy the kind of freedom that will allow Hearts to score.

Hibs recent tendency for fielding five attack minded players could spark a nightmare afternoon for Hearts. Hibs will have to go for a direct approach to goal as the neatness of the Tynecastle pitch will allow Hearts to punish Hibs on the counter attack if there passing is not slick. Claims amongst fans that Hibs are strong favourites to retain the bragging rights maybe sensibly conceived on current form, but only a fool would expect the expected in an Edinburgh derby. For Hearts it will be a chance to gain a confidence boost, and with a defeat expected by many Heart’s fans, they have nothing to lose, which can prove a vital advantage in football.

Derby rivals clash over Rangers football vision

By Myles Edwards

Hearts and Hibs bosses have clashed over Walter Smith’s claim that Scottish football is dying a slow death.

The Rangers manager said on Friday that it would harm Scottish football if the Old Firm were to remain in the Scottish Premier League.

He said: “I think if we don’t leave the SPL, Scottish football is in danger of dying.  We are already seeing a downturn financially, with our top players moving out of the SPL.”

Csaba Laszlo, the Hearts manager feels that Rangers and Celtic are looking to ‘run away’ from the problems of Scottish football.

Laszlo is adamant that he would like the Old Firm to stay in the SPL and help make the league “more attractive for sponsors and supporters”.

He said: “We must not have problems, but solutions. We must search deeper.  I think at the moment we must make the league bigger, not smaller and weaker.

The Jam Tarts boss went on to say how he feels all 12 SPL clubs must pull together to improve Scottish football and look at it in a positive light.

“The problem in Scottish football is deeper.  I know we can come out, but to run away from the problems is maybe not the best solution.

“We must make Scottish football more attractive for sponsors, supporters and for the National team to play more successful football in the big competitions like Poland/Ukraine (2012) and also to bring more big name players back to the Scottish league.”

Hibernian manager, John Hughes appears more understanding of the Old Firm’s wishes to move south of the border, stating that he “understands why they [Rangers and Celtic] would want to go to pastures new”.

He said today: “Football is becoming global.  The revenue that they can make elsewhere would be tenfold to what it is in Scotland.

“Does Scottish football need the Old Firm? Yes – I think we do.  I think they are our showcase two teams; they carry the banner for Scottish football.

“If they did move, I think everybody else in Scotland would say, ‘We fancy our chances to win this league’.”

By Myles Edwards

Hibs take the spoils in Capital derby

courtesy of The Daily Mail

courtesy of The Daily Mail

By Stewart primrose

Hibernian won the Edinburgh derby for the first time in five attempts as they strengthened their hopes of a top six finish.

A Steven Fletcher goal early on was enough to give the green half of the city the bragging rights. The game was far from incident-free with both teams having a man sent off.

The match was evenly balanced throughout with both sides going close before Fletcher struck after 14 minutes. He got on the end of a cross from Alan O’Brien and the ball went in off the bar.

Hearts’ striker Christian Nade performed poorly throughout, passing up many scoring opportunities as the Gorgie boys went searching for an equaliser. Their cause was not helped when in-form winger Andrew Driver was substitued after suffering an injury 25 minutes into the game.

The game was fired into life when Goalkeeper Janos Balogh  was sent off after fouling Fletcher when the player had a clear run on goal. Hibs’ Sol Bamba was then red-carded for being last man after tripping up Nade, although this was disputed strongly by his team mates.

Mixu Paatelainen, the Hibernian boss, was delighted with the win.

“These games mean everything to us, the supporters and so many people, and it’s a fantastic feeling to win the game.”

“I felt that their goalkeeper’s sending off was clear-cut, but Sol Bamba’s was more of a collision and he was not the last man. I think the referee wanted to level things out.”

Csaba Laszlo, the Hearts manager, felt his side did enough to at least merit a point.

Hearts Fans put on a brave face courtesy of newsimg

Hearts Fans put on a brave face courtesy of newsimg

We had opportunities to score through Christian Nade and Michael Stewart.

“You must put the ball in the net. If you score, you have an easy life, but we didn’t do that today.”

“If you lose a derby, it’s painful. I hope we have more luck in the nine league games we have left.”

The result means Hibs stay above Motherwell in that all important sixth place. Despite the defeat, Hearts are in third position, five points clear of nearest challengers Aberdeen and Dundee United.

All is not ‘Well as Hearts stumble

Motherwell 1-0 Hearts

By Ross Hart

Hearts missed the chance to move level on points with Dundee United in the Scottish Premier League after a 1-0 defeat to Motherwell last night.

Chris Porter’s early header was enough to condemn Csaba Laszlo’s side to a fifth game without a win ahead of Sunday’s Scottish Cup derby with Hibernian.

The home side started the game with more purpose than their visitors and Jim O’Brien fired a ball across the face of the Jambos’ goal but no ‘Well player was able to capitalise. [Read more...]

Weekend Sports Preview

With a busy weekend of sport ahead, Ross Hart takes a look at the upcoming action.

Football:

Weather permitting, there is a full card of league fixtures this weekend and a Scottish Cup tie this evening.

Tonight, Inverurie Locos and Vale of Leithen will attempt for the fouth time to play their third round Scottish Cup tie after adverse weather conditions resulted in three postponements. The winners will be rewarded with a home tie against SPL side Motherwell in the fourth round.

In the Scottish Premier League this weekend, Rangers travel to in form Dundee United in the early kick off on Saturday. United have only lost once in their last 14 league and cup games and sit third in the table, while Rangers will look to put more pressure on leaders Celtic after defeating Hamilton 7-1 last weekend.

Celtic meanwhile are looking to recover from last weekend’s loss to Hibernian by defeating the other half of Edinburgh at Celtic Park. Last night’s Champions League victory over Villarreal provided a confidence boost but Hearts have won five successive matches to maintain their push for European football next season.

Hibernian will look to build on their victory over the leaders last week by defeating struggling Hamilton at Easter Road. The visitors sit bottom of the table after recording only one win in their last 12 league matches but are boosted by striker Richard Offiong signing a contract extension.

In the other SPL games, Aberdeen will look to maintain their position within the top six at home to Falkirk, while St Mirren will climb above Inverness with victory at Love Street. Motherwell host Kilmarnock on Monday evening in a game to be broadcast live on Setanta Sports.

In the First Division, Dunfermline Athletic, who sit second in the table, look to keep up their push for promotion as they travel to play Queen of the South in Dumfries while Livingston will be looking to earn a first victory for new boss Paul Hegarty as they travel north to take on Ross County.

Rugby:

The Edinburgh Gunners are again in action this weekend as they travel south to play London Wasps in a Heineken Cup pool two clash. The sides met at Murrayfield last weekend with the Gunners falling to a 25-16 defeat so Andy Robinson will be hoping his team can gain revenge on former Scotland coach Ian McGeechan’s team on Sunday afternoon.

Scotland’s other European representatives Glasgow Warriors take on Bath at Firhill on Sunday and will also be looking to avenge defeat by their English counterparts. Sean Lineen’s team narrowly lost out last weekend by 35 points to 31 at the Recreation Ground.

Snooker:

Ronnie O’Sullivan is looking to defend his Maplin UK Championship title as this year’s tournament gets underway on Saturday in Telford. Current World Champion O’Sullivan kicks off the defence of the UK Championship against Rory McLeod on the opening day of the tournament.

There is plenty of Scottish representation, with five players flying the saltire. Five time UK Champion Stephen Hendry takes on England’s Stephen Lee while the ‘Wishaw Wizard’ and current Grand Prix champion John Higgins faces world number 20 Joe Swail.

Former World Champion Graeme Dott faces Ireland’s Ken Doherty while the clash between world number two Stephen MaGuire and Jamie Burnett, ranked 43 places below, guarantees a Scottish name in the second round.

Arbroath to wait for Hearts’ money

By Ross Hart

Hearts have come to an agreement with Arbroath to postpone payment of money owed to the Second Division side over the Andy Webster transfer deal for a month.

The debt of around £15,000 is Arbroath’s cut of the deal that took Webster from Hearts to Wigan in 2006. Arbroath inserted a sell on clause into the deal which took the player to Edinburgh in 2001.

Arbroath secretary Garry Callon said: “We are due £14,437 plus VAT with the interest on top and we have been told that will be paid on January 9.”

Webster was with Hearts for five years before invoking a loophole in governing body FIFA’s contract law. This clause allowed the player to leave for a club outside Scotland if his current employers were given adequate notice.

He then signed for Wigan but his time at the JJB Stadium was hit by injury and he signed for Rangers a year later on loan before making a permanent move to the Glasgow club.

The delay in the payment comes amid fears of a cash crisis at Hearts. Earlier this month, players received their wages four days late and win bonuses were also due to them.

It is rumoured that the Jambos’ owner Vladimir Romanov is preparing to sell on some of the club’s top earners, such as captain Christophe Berra, in January to ease the cash-flow problems the club face.

Weekend Sport Preview

Graeme Macleod previews this weekend’s sports action.

Rugby:

Heineken Cup Pool Two

Edinburgh Gunners vs. London Wasps

The Gunners welcome Guiness Premiership champions Wasps to Murrayfield for this Heineken Cup clash on Friday. Edinburgh coach Andy Robinson is set to make one change to the team that defeated Ospreys last week. That means full-back Chris Paterson is set to make his 50th european appearance for the hosts as they look to repeat their 2005 win over Wasps.

The visitors are two-time winners of the competition with their last success coming as recently as 2007. This will be Wasps first match since a boardroom reshuffle – which saw World Cup winner Lawrence Dallaglio appointed a director of the club – earlier this week.

Football:

Scottish Premier League

Falkirk are looking to bounce back from conceding a late equaliser against Hibernian last week when they host St Mirren.

Inverness CT welcome Dundee United to the Caledonian Stadium while Kilmarnock host Aberdeen at Rugby Park.

Motherwell were dumped 2-0 at Pittodrie last week and will be looking to get back to winning ways when they host in-form Hearts at Fir Park. The Jambos picked up a superb three points last week thanks to a 2-1 win over Rangers at Tynecastle. That means Csaba Laszlo’s side have won five games in a row, lifting them up to third spot in the SPL table.

Rangers take on Hamilton to Ibrox looking to bounce back from that defeat. Walter Smith is likely to have Kenny Miller, Sasa Papac and Steven Davis back in the squad.

In Sunday’s match, Hibernian entertain Celtic at Easter Road. Mixu Paatelainen’s men salvaged a draw at Falkirk last week thanks to sub Colin Nish’s late strike and the towering forward is likely to be vying for a start when the champions visit. Celtic on the other hand are looking to rack up their 13th consecutive league win before Wednesday’s Champions League match agains Villarreal.

Scottish Cup

In the re-arranged third round fixtures, Edinburgh City host Brechin City at Meadowbank Stadium while Spartans travel north to play Elgin City. Forfar Athletic take on Stranraer and the all non-league matches see Forres Mechanics face Dalbeattie Star and Inverurie Locos host Vale of Leithen, with the winners in that match set to be take on Premier League Motherwell at home in the next round. Junior outfit Lochee United host Second Division Ayr United with the winners meeting Kilmarnock in Round Four.

Boxing:

Amir Khan vs. Oisin Fagan

Bolton fighter Khan returns to the ring for the first time since his 54-second knockout at the hands of Breidis Prescott. The Olympic silver medalist is looking to rebuild his career following that defeat, the first of his professional career. The 21-year-old boast a record of 18-0-1 and will have to win this one to keep his hopes of a world title fight alive.

Opponent Fagan turned professional in 2003. The Irishman goes into this fight in London with a record that reads 22-0-5. The ‘Gael Force’ last fought in March against Paul Spadafora when he lost in a split decision after 10 rounds.

Oscar De La Hoya vs. Manny Pacquiao

After Khan vs. Fagan, attention turns to Las Vegas where Oscar De La Hoya takes on Manny Pacquiao. This fight sees two of the best pound-for-pound fighters going head-to-head with the winner likely to be rewarded with a multi-million pound match with Ricky Hatton next year.

De La Hoya’s record reads 40-0-4 and his last appearance in the ring was a win over Steve Forbes in May. Pacquiao comes into the fight with a record of 47 wins, two draws and three losses. This clash with the ‘Golden Boy’ presents probably the biggest challenge of the Filipino’s career.

Big football weekend for Capital clubs

By Ross Hart           

This weekend marks the third round of the Homecoming Scottish Cup and two part-time Edinburgh sides will be looking to defy the odds and advance to round four.

Spartans travel north to play Elgin City of the Third Division, while Edinburgh City take on Second Division Brechin City at Meadowbank Stadium.

Spartans have earned a reputation for giant killing in the tournament, having twice reached the fourth round in recent seasons.

This season they have already beaten junior side Pollok and Third Division Annan Athletic, who won a vote ahead of Spartans to gain entry to the Scottish Football League after Gretna went out of business last season.

Their hosts Elgin, by contrast, have had a poor start to their league season, having won just two out of their 14 matches and go into the tie on the back of a 5-0 loss to Annan.

Edinburgh City meanwhile have beaten Highland League sides Nairn County and Wick Academy to progress to the third round but they arguably face the toughest test.

Brechin are currently joint top of the Second Division, recording 32 points and 27 goals in the process and are serious contenders to win promotion to Division One.

But Edinburgh have claimed seven points from their three league games played and will look to Robbie Ross to fire them through, the striker having scored 15 goals this season.

An exciting day of cup football awaits and the Edinburgh duo will be hoping they will join their illustrious city neighbours Hearts and Hibernian in Monday’s fourth round draw.

Three Match Ban for Jambos’ Stewart

by Karen Clark

Hearts midfielder Michael Stewart has been given a three match suspension after his sending off on Saturday’s match against St Mirren. Stewart lashed out against St Mirrens’ Hugh Murray in the first half of the game but despite this, Hearts managed a one nil win with ten men.

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The red head has a poor history of discipline on the pitch and this is his third sending off since signing for Hearts in 2006. He has also managed to rack up a total of 18 yellow  cards. Ex Jambo’s gaffer, Steve Frail, has said about his temper, “There is no denying he is a good footballer but he has had a lot of bookings and red cards so it would be better if he could channel that aggression.” The midfielder will still play this Saturday in an away game at Inverness but will miss crucial home matches against Falkirk and Rangers.

The incident also overshadowed the Rememberance Service at Haymarket in which all the players attend to remember the clubs war dead. Hearts were flying high in the top of the league in Novemeber 1914 and 16 players went to France to fight in the First World War. Seven players didn’t make it back home and they are among those remembered every year at the service at the Heart of Midlothian War Memorial.

Stewart is also an amabassador for PoppyScotland and knows only too well the importance of this event. Speaking before Saturday’s game he said, “The best way to pay tribute and to be respectful to the history of the club is to get the three points.”

“Of course, this is a big occasion for the club with what is going on this weekend and the history we have. But the best way to pay tribute is get the three points and not dwell or concentrate on anything else.

“You don’t want to be distracted from what you are trying to do on the pitch because ultimately, if you get three points that’s the best way to pay tribute.”

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