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SPFL Development League Roundup - 12th - 16th December 2016

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This week’s SPFL Development league fixtures saw Hibernian retain their advantage at the top of the table - thanks to an Oli Shaw hat-trick, Falkirk climb over several sides into 3rd place, and Inverness reduce their deficit at the bottom of the league table – amongst other highlights.

The standout fixture of this weekend was undoubtedly at the Excelsior Stadium, as Partick Thistle welcomed Hibernian in a top-of-the-table clash, with Thistle breathing down the neck of the Edinburgh side in 2nd place. Despite the pressure on the Hibees going into this fixture, they produced a performance worthy of title challengers, scoring three without reply, with all of the goals coming courtesy of Oli Shaw, who has already impressed on numerous occasions in this campaign.

A convincing win for Grant Murray’s side, against a Partick outfit who look set to run them close throughout the season, and sit in 3rd place.

One of the most crucial fixtures of the week saw a rock-bottom Inverness side travel to play Dundee, who themselves weren’t far from bottom spot going in to the game. Caley knew that a win would at least bring them closer to escaping the foot of the league table, while Dundee could push themselves further up toward the top half of the table. What followed was a tight affair; eventually settled by a Jamie Wilson goal 30 minutes from time, to hand Inverness a narrow win, but a crucial one nonetheless.

A frantic last 20 minutes at Cappielow Park saw Celtic grasp a point against Hamilton Accies in injury time. It took 70 minutes for the deadlock to be broken, and it came in favour of Accies, as Lewis Ferguson opened the scoring for the visitors. The celebrations proved to be short lived, as it only took a matter of two minutes for Celtic to grab an equaliser through Donnelly. A bit like London buses, you wait all day for a goal, and then two arrive in quick succession.

Hamilton looked to have snatched all three points with ten minutes remaining, when Marc Kelly grabbed the goal which appeared to be decisive. However, a late onslaught from the Hoops paid off in injury time, as Jack Aitchison brought the scores level with seconds to go, a dramatic ending to a game which had struggled to inspire up until the first goal. Celtic remain in 8th, whilst 4th place Accies rue a missed chance to climb up to 2nd.

The side who did finish the Tuesday fixtures in 2nd place was Alan Maybury’s Falkirk side, who recorded a professional 2-0 win against St Mirren at the Falkirk stadium. In a victory, which could have been of a greater margin, it was Scott Sheperd who provided the goods for the Bairns. His double secured all three points for the hosts, with the goals coming in each half. Four games unbeaten in a row for Falkirk now, who sit a mere two points behind Hibernian in the table, with a game in hand.

The final fixture of Tuesday's round of games saw a struggling Kilmarnock side take on Dunfermline at Kelty. The Pars opened the scoring through a Joe Cardle penalty, and it took until the 55th minute for Killie to grab their equaliser through Bojaj. A fair result in an even game, which leaves Dunfermline in 7th place and Kilmarnock just two points from bottom in 14th place.

Usually close of play Tuesday is the end of the week's SPFL Development League action, but this week five more ties took place in the latter stages of the week.

On Wednesday a young Hearts team were beaten 2-0 by the visiting Aberdeen side; Ross County returned to second place with a convincing win over Dundee United; and Motherwell were 2-1 victors over Rangers. The result wasn't enough to see Well climb from their sixth place position, but they are only four points off the top of a tight top end of the table.

The week was wrapped up with two further games on Friday. Celtic made up some ground on the leading pack with a solitary strike earning them a hard fought 1-0 victory in Inverness. Then, the small matter of the Dundee derby, which saw Dee and United share six goals and stay side by side in 12th and 13th place respectively.

Gregor Kerr | YFS South East Region Journalist
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