Celtic and Rangers picked up cinch Premiership victories to set themselves up nicely for next Saturday’s top-of-the-table showdown at Celtic Park.
Resurgent Aberdeen closed the gap on faltering Hearts in the race for third place, while St Mirren leapfrogged Livingston in the battle for a top-six berth.
Here, the PA news agency looks at five things we learned from the weekend’s fixtures.
Iwata find for Celtic
Having made seven substitute appearances since joining in January, Tomoki Iwata finally got the chance to start a game for Celtic after injury ruled his fellow Japanese midfielder Reo Hatate out of the 2-0 win at Ross County. The 25-year-old gave a hint of why he was named J-League player of the year last year with a classy and composed display at the base of the Hoops midfield. Ange Postecoglou said he was “the one who looked most sure-footed in terms of the pitch and the handling of the ball”. It remains to be seen if he will be considered for a start in Saturday’s top-of-the-table showdown with Rangers as the Hoops bid to open up a 12-point advantage at the summit.
Tillman proving worth to Rangers
Malik Tillman joined the Light Blues last summer on a season-long loan from Bayern Munich with Rangers having the option of making the move permanent. The 20-year-old’s every performance has been keenly scrutinised by fans with that scenario in mind but he is undoubtedly in credit and he showed in the 2-0 win over Dundee United at Ibrox on Saturday why Michael Beale is keen to keep him in Glasgow. Tillman, powerful yet silky, scored either side of the break with a predator’s instinct to keep the three points in Govan while taking his goal tally for the season to 12, with six in the last six games. Rangers fans will hope the USA international and Bayern Munich see his future in the cinch Premiership.
Hearts boss Neilson feeling the heat
What has happened to Hearts over the past two months? They ended January in good form and looked to be coasting towards third place in the Premiership. However, they have lost six of their nine matches across all competitions since the start of February, including each of their last four, cranking up the pressure on manager Robbie Neilson. The Jambos boss is likely to remain safe from the sack for now as his team are still third, albeit only a point above Aberdeen, but Saturday’s 2-1 loss away to a Kilmarnock side who played the last half hour with 10 men has led to significant dissent among the increasingly worried fanbase. Neilson needs a win at home to St Mirren on Saturday to ease the tension.
Aberdeen continue rise under Robson
Aberdeen moved to within a point of third-placed Hearts with a 1-0 win over St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park on Saturday. The victory – their fourth in succession and their fifth in six games – came after Barry Robson was handed the manager’s job until the summer following an impressive six-match spell as interim boss. The on-song Dons – who face relegation-threatened pair Kilmarnock and Ross County in their next two games – are entitled to fancy their chances of finishing third.
St Mirren homing in on top six
Stephen Robinson’s side had won just once in seven games in all competitions going into Saturday’s home match against Livingston but they came up with a performance and result which has put them firmly back in the race for a top-half finish. Mark O’Hara scored two penalties either side of a Tony Watt goal in a 3-0 win which lifted them from seventh place up to fifth, one point ahead of Hibernian and two ahead of Livi. It was the Buddies’ ninth win out of 16 games in Paisley, where they have lost only three league matches all season.