Scottish Premier League Final Day Round-Up: Saturday 12th & Sunday 13th May 2012

 

 

By Adam Higgins
Chief Football Editor

 

 

Kilmarnock won on the final day of the season for the first time in five years against already-relegated Dunfermline

 

In Saturday's action, two goals in the final four minutes ensured Kilmarnock finished seventh in the Scottish Premier League thanks to a 2-1 win over Dunfermline Athletic.

Relegated Pars were worthy of their first-half lead courtesy of Paul Willis' close-range finish following a Steven McDougall cut-back. Kilmarnock dominated after the break and Liam Kelly smashed the ball high into the net for the equaliser. Jude Winchester then fired the winner with a minute remaining. And the defeat meant that Dunfermline leave the top flight with only one home win over the course of the whole season.

Bernardo Dominguez Fernandez had been handed his debut in Dunfermline's goal after arriving from Huesca in January. He was one of seven changes made by Jim Jefferies as the manager prepared for life back in Division One by dispensing with most of the old guard as well as on-loan Rangers midfielder Kyle Hutton. However, the defensive frailties that have bedevilled the side all season emerged again as Kilmarnock started the better of the two sides. As Alex Keddie hesitated, Jordan McMillan's hasty attempt to clear struck Gary Harkins and slipped just wide of a Pars post. Ross Barbour was making his first start for Kilmarnock along with goalkeeper Kyle Letheren, with injury-plagued Ryan O'Leary being handed a rare place in the first XI, in place of Cammy Bell, Chris Johnston and Mo Sissoko. The young defender looked to be posted missing as McDougall, who was one of the fresh starters for the Pars along with Willis, set up the opening goal. McDougall headed a Joe Cardle free-kick back across goal for winger Willis to fire his first goal of the season from close range. The visitors looked more determined after the break and a low drive from William Gros forced Fernandez into a good save with his right boot. Barbour ought to have done better than head wide from seven yards and Andy Dowie did well to clear from in front of his own goal after Gary Harkins lofted an effort over Fernandez. Dunfermline appeared to have survived the onslaught, but Kelly pounced to fire into the roof of the net from just inside the box for his first goal of the season. The Pars thought they equalised seconds later, but Martin Hardie was ruled offside as he knocked the ball home from close range when he perhaps should have allowed fellow substitute Andy Kirk's header cross the line. Dunfermline paid for that moments later when Lewis Toshney cut the ball back from the bye-line for substitute Winchester to fire in the winner.

Click here to watch match highlights: Dunfermline 1-2 Kilmarnock

 

 

Hibernian were a little shaky defensively as they left the Highlands with nothing having won 1-0 in their previous visit earlier in the season

 

Inverness Caley Thistle made sure of a 10th-place finish in the Scottish Premier League with a 2-0 victory over Hibernian, who end their campaign one position below.

Former Stockport County player Greg Tansey found the net with a fabulous free kick on 62 minutes. And soon after, Jonny Hayes converted from the penalty spot after a handball offence from Matt Doherty.

In a first-half low on thrills, Inverness keeper Ryan Esson made a good save to keep out a fierce shot from George Francomb. Teenager Paul Grant made his debut for the visitors as manager Pat Fenlon rested several regulars ahead of next weekend's Scottish Cup final. But Inverness did nothing to test the 19-year-old during a drab first 45 minutes. This visitors were equally unadventurous, with both teams guilty of some dreadful passing and a lacklustre attitude. Hibs midfielder Ivan Sproule sprinted clear of an opponent to deliver a low cross towards striker Garry O'Connor but Caley Thistle stalwart Ross Tokely managed to divert the danger. With 35 minutes gone, a poor Tom Soares free kick was repelled by the home defence but only as far as Francomb, who fizzed in a strike from 25 yards that Esson did well to tip behind. Leigh Griffiths replaced O'Connor for the second half, with the pair likely to lead the line together at Hampden. But it was the home side that showed more attacking intent after the interval, Grant making his first SPL save when Hayes powered a shot straight at the youngster. Inverness defender Kenny Gillet thumped a shot over from 30 yards before Tansey's free kick opened the scoring. The English midfielder got the ball up and over the defensive wall with pace and power to leave Grant with no chance. Two nervous clearances in quick succession from Grant then presented Caley Thistle with opportunities, with Hayes shooting too high, while Tansey could only find the keeper's arms. A second goal arrived on 71 minutes when Doherty was penalised for handball and Hayes scored from the spot. Hibs skipper Ian Murray, in what was perhaps his last outing for the club, gave his team-mates a fright with an awkward defensive header at the near post area, which flashed narrowly wide of his own goal. Griffiths burst forward in a rare Hibs attack but was forced wide by Gillet and Esson was able to save the substitute's shot without too much trouble. There was concern among the Hibs ranks in the final minute when full-back Doherty, one of the few players on show certain of a place in the Cup final, hobbled off after a clash with Billy McKay.

Click here to watch match highlights: Inverness CT 2-0 Hibernian

 

 

Aberdeen's Ryan Jack (above right) competes for the ball with St Mirren's Graham Carey in the goalless SPL draw infront of a capacity crowd

 

While Aberdeen and St Mirren ended their mediocre seasons with a battling and scoreless Scottish Premier League draw at Pittodrie.

Darren Mackie, captaining the Dons in his final appearance for the club, missed two chances in the first half. Gavin Rae's shot narrowly missed the target as the hosts continue to press after the interval. St Mirren, whose best efforts came from Steven Thompson and Graham Carey, were stubborn in defence and the result ensured they finished above Aberdeen. The Paisley side end the campaign eighth, two points ahead of the Dons, who finish ninth for the third successive season.

Mackie, who joined Aberdeen as a teenager in 1998, had an early chance but his shot was turned round the post by St Mirren keeper Craig Samson. The hosts posed a threat at set pieces and a dangerous Jamie Masson delivery was flicked on by Mackie's head, forcing a clearance by Jim Goodwin to relieve the pressure on the visitors. Buddies striker Thompson's angled drive forced a save from Jamie Langfield midway through the first half and St Mirren came close again when Carey curled a free-kick wide. The ball fell to Mackie a few yards out moments later but the 30-year-old dragged his effort across the face of goal minutes before Masson tested Samson with a curling shot. Thompson picked up a booking for dissent just after half-time, meaning he will be suspended for the first league game of next season. A controlled, rising shot by Rae crept over the St Mirren crossbar as Aberdeen continued to force the issue. Another player leaving Pittodrie this summer, Rory McArdle, came on for Josh Magennis and Kari Arnason, whose future is unclear, made way for Isaac Osbourne in Aberdeen's next change. Ryan Fraser also came on for the Dons to replace Masson and the substitute's dangerous deliveries gave Samson some work to do. At the other end, Thompson's downward shot was pushed out by Langfield. And neither side was able to force a winning goal in the closing stages.

Click here to watch match highlights: Aberdeen 0-0 St Mirren

 

 

Gary Hooper (above left) was the star of the show netting all five of Celtic's goals in a thumping victory over Paulo Sergio's men

 

In Sunday's action involving the top six sides, Gary Hooper ensured Celtic's championship party went with a bang as he netted all five goals against Hearts.

Hooper tucked away two close-range finishes in the opening eight minutes and added a penalty when Joe Ledley was clipped by Arvydas Novikovas. Celtic continued to dominate after the interval and Hooper rounded keeper Jamie MacDonald to score on 66 minutes. With three minutes remaining, Hooper was in the right place again to complete the scoring. It was the perfect way to prepare for the Scottish Premier League trophy presentation, with Celtic having wrapped up the title five weeks ago. With one eye on next weekend's Scottish Cup final, Hearts made seven changes to their starting XI. But manager Paulo Sergio selected his first-choice defence and will be worried at how easily they were torn apart by a rampant Celtic in the early stages.

A Kris Commons drive was spilled by Jamie MacDonald and Hooper was first to react to knock the ball into the net. Soon after, Georgios Samaras weaved his way forward and sped past Hearts skipper Marius Zaliukas to set up Hooper for a second easy tap-in. With Hearts wobbling, MacDonald had to look lively to parry a Charlie Mulgrew free-kick from 25 yards. The early tempo dipped but Celtic retained in complete control, knocking the ball around with confidence. And Hooper completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot after 39 minutes when he drilled the ball down the middle from the spot after Novikovas had caught the heels of Ledley. Early in the second half, Commons delivered a fantastic free-kick to the back post area, only to see Samaras inexplicably duck under the ball when it looked like a certain headed goal. On the hour, a mistake by Glenn Loovens allowed David Templeton in for Hearts's only attempt on goal but the winger's curled shot slipped a couple of feet wide. The fourth goal came following more good work from the impressive Commons. A stretching Zaliukas could not cut out a raking pass from the Scotland midfielder, allowing Hooper to pick up the scraps, run around an exposed MacDonald. Immediately after the goal Beram Kayal got a warm ovation when he came on for Celtic skipper Scott Brown, the Israel midfielder making his first appearance since December after recovering from an ankle injury. Hooper looked determined not to allow anyone else a taste of glory when he got in the way of a Mulgrew shot. And the English striker completed a memorable day when he knocked in his 29th goal of the season, converting a clever cross from Samaras.

Click here for the full match report: Celtic 5-0 Hearts

Click here to watch match highlights of Celtic's victory over Hearts & title celebrations

 

 

Key player Sone Aluko (above) celebrates scoring a hat-trick for Rangers- his first for the club- on the final day of the SPL season 

While Rangers ended an eventful and turbulent season with a comfortable 4-0 victory over St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park.

With news of Charles Green agreeing a deal to buy the Ibrox club breaking hours before kick-off, Lee McCulloch's superb strike put the visitors ahead. Sone Aluko fired Rangers' second goal eleven minutes after the break and tapped home the third from Alejandro Bedoya's pass. Aluko completed his hat-trick with a powerful shot and Saints now require Hearts to win the Scottish Cup in order to qualify for the Europa League. Steve Lomas's side finish sixth - two points behind Hearts, who take on Hibernian in next weekend's Hampden showpiece.

The hosts were prominent early on and Cillian Sheridan's header from Liam Craig's corner was blocked on the line by goalkeeper Allan McGregor. At the other end, McCulloch's nodded effort called Saints goalkeeper Alan Mannus into action. Bedoya then blazed over the St Johnstone bar after doing well to work the space for a shot. But the visitors were in front by the 23rd minute as Ross Perry's pass was flicked on by Maurice Edu to McCulloch on the run and the stand-in captain swept the ball past Mannus on the half-volley. McCulloch then appealed unsuccessfully to referee Bobby Madden for a penalty kick either side of half-time, the veteran claiming a foul and then a handball against defender Fraser Wright. Rangers transfer target Francisco Sandaza headed over the crossbar from point-blank range as Saints threatened at a corner kick delivered in by Murray Davidson. Craig did enough to put Kyle Bartley off after the defender threw himself at Aluko's delivery, but it was not long before Rangers found the net again. Edu put Aluko one-on-one with Mannus and the former Aberdeen forward finished well to the goalkeeper's left. And Aluko got his second after Steven Whittaker and Bedoya picked apart the St Johnstone defence to set the Nigeria international up for a tap-in. Sandaza found the net with a close-range effort of his own but the Spaniard's celebrations were cut short by the offside flag. Lee Wallace's deliveries had caused St Johnstone problems all afternoon and another cross from the full-back led to Aluko's third, the 23-year-old getting the break of the ball and crashing a shot into the top corner. Aluko took the acclaim of the visiting fans as he left the field to be replaced by debutant Barry McKay, who almost sneaked in for a scoring chance in a late Rangers attack.  

Click here to watch match highlights: St Johnstone 0-4 Rangers

 

 

Topscorer Jon Daly goes to celebrate Dundee United's second goal with Danny Swanson as Motherwell fans look bemused in the background

Dundee United spoiled Motherwell's Champions League party with Johnny Russell and Jon Daly on target in a 2-0 win for Peter Houston's men at Fir Park.

Motherwell goakeeper Darren Randolph did well to deny Stuart Armstrong on two occasions before Russell bundled the ball in after eight minutes. John Rankin and Paul Dixon clipped the woodwork for United before Well striker Michael Higdon flashed a header wide. Daly settled the match in the visitors' favour with a close-range finish with eight minutes remaining. Motherwell captain Stephen Craigan announced his retirement earlier in the week and, although he could not end on a high, he was given a great send-off. The defender was presented with an award prior to kick-off and after five minutes the Fir Park crowd rose to their feet to applaud the Northern Irishman.

United broke the deadlock when Russell netted from close range, following a good double save from Randolph. The home side were dealt a further blow after twelve minutes when Steven Hammell was stretchered off and replaced by Tim Clancy following a collision with Danny Swanson. United came close to doubling their lead when Russell broke down the left flank and his cut-back found Rankin, who struck the outside of the post from a tight angle. Dixon then clipped the top of Randolph's crossbar with an excellent free-kick five minutes before the interval. The first half came to close after Higdon powered a header just wide of the target following a pinpoint delivery from Tom Hateley. Swanson picked up a yellow card after a careless challenge on Keith Lasley and he was fortunate to escape a further caution a minute later following a mistimed tackle on Clancy which referee Euan Norris was lenient upon. Manager Peter Houston reacted by replacing Swanson with Ryan Dow and the midfielder almost made an immediate impact, when he struck just over after collecting Scott Robertson's pass. Randolph made a great save to keep out Daly's curling effort and Dow again went close after connecting with Dixon's cross on 63 minutes. Craigan saw his shot from the edge of the box drift just wide, having earlier threatened with a first-half header. Gary Mackay-Steven came on for Armstrong in the 67th minute and the winger blasted inches wide within a minute of his introduction. Robertson passed up a glorious opportunity to extend the visitors' lead after being released by Russell just inside the penalty area, however, the midfielder struck well over the top. Craigan took his final bow after 78 minutes when he made way for Ross Forbes, who will also leave Fir Park at the end of the season. United doubled their advantage when Russell set up top-scorer Daly, who was playing in central defence due to an injury crisis, for a simple tap-in. Mackay-Steven saw his shot deflected wide by Shaun Hutchinson and Rankin's long-range strike could not find the target. Higdon's disappointing day continued when he fired well wide in the closing minute but both sets of fans went home happy, knowing they will be playing in Europe next season.

Click here to watch match highlights: Motherwell 0-2 Dundee United

 

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