Scottish Premiership: What did we learn from the midweek games?

Six games, 15 goals and two late twists - it was certainly an intriguing night of Scottish Premiership action on Wednesday as Celtic conceded, then scored, in stoppage-time to cleave out a two-point advantage at the top of the division.

Rangers dropped points, Hibernian's revival stuttered again, and St Johnstone edged clear of bottom spot. But what did we learn about each of the 12 teams?


Brown answers captain's call at vital time

How big a goal will Scott Brown's winner against Hamilton Academical prove to be come May? In such a tight title race, it was imperative that Celtic capitalised on Rangers' dropped points to extend their lead at the top of the table, and they've got their captain to thank for that.

Neil Lennon spoke post-match of how his side were "subconsciously" thinking about Sunday's League Cup final, but that can't be applied to his captain. Wednesday's winner was Brown's fourth of the season, more than he's scored in any of the past four campaigns, and the captain will know more than anyone that this fight will go on until May as they look to fend off their toughest competition in nine years.

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Brown is 'modern-day Celtic great' - Lennon

Katic recall for League Cup final?

Leading 2-0 and cruising, two defensive lapses cost Rangers as they slipped two points behind rivals Celtic. Overall, their defensive record has been solid this season, but there are still questions over the best centre-half pairing.

In both Steven Gerrard's seasons as manager to date, Connor Goldson and Nikola Katic started as the preferred pairing before the Croat was dropped - this term for Filip Helander. But at Pittodrie, Goldson and the Swede were nowhere for both of Aberdeen's goals and grew increasingly erratic in their distribution.

Katic was drawing praise for his no-nonsense attitude and improved passing before being dropped. Could he come back into favour for Sunday's League Cup showdown with Celtic? Or will Gerrard back the current pair to recover from a blip?

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Highlights: Aberdeen 2-2 Rangers

Aberdeen give supporters hope

After a 5-0 shellacking the last time they faced Rangers was followed by a 4-0 hammering at the hands of Celtic, it is fair to say large swathes of the Aberdeen support were beginning to lose faith that their team could compete with the Old Firm.

And after being 2-0 down after half an hour and comprehensively outplayed by Rangers at Pittodrie, fans could be forgiven for a sense of deja vu as another meek performance played out before their eyes. However, Jon Gallagher's goal sparked a comeback as a change of shape - and attitude - earned Aberdeen a deserved point. "What I needed to see, and what the supporters needed to see, was that type of performance in the second half," manager Derek McInnes said.

With players still to return from injury, this performance will give fans renewed hope, particularly with the elusive Scottish Cup starting after the winter break.

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McInnes says Aberdeen draw 'will shut a few critics up'

Polworth steps in to Turnbull's shoes

Motherwell fans feared the worst when David Turnbull suffered a knee injury before the start of this season, but their fears have been dampened by the manner in which new signing Liam Polworth has managed to fill in for the young star.

The former Inverness Caledonian Thistle midfielder has quickly slotted in to Stephen Robinson's side and provided 11 assists - eight in the Scottish Premiership and one in Wednesday's 3-0 win at St Mirren. When Turnbull returns, the manager will have a decision to make.

Motherwell form

Kilmarnock lacking in firepower

Having scored three goals inside the first 14 minutes against Hearts a couple of weeks ago, Angelo Alessio and his team must have been licking their lips at the prospect of facing Hibernian, who have the joint-third worst defensive record in the division, and St Johnstone, who have the second worst.

But against the Perth side, they had just one shot on target all game. And it took over 60 minutes to arrive. They had just three in the entire match. And that despite being at home to the side who were bottom of the league at the time.

The lack of creativity in the final third must be addressed if the Ayrshire side have hopes of challenging for a European spot this season.

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Highlights: Kilmarnock 0-0 St Johnstone

Hibs sliding back into bad habits

After a 'bounce' of three successive wins, Hibs are going back to the kind of form that plagued former boss Paul Heckingbottom, throwing away leads against Kilmarnock and now Ross County.

Without reaching the flowing heights of the weekend, the visitors controlled the first half and really should have been further ahead. However, a horrible misjudgement from goalkeeper Chris Maxwell gifted the Highlanders an equaliser and more defensive uncertainty led to a second Ross Stewart goal.

Maxwell earned his chance after some below-par performances from Ofir Marciano but the on-loan Preston goalkeeper must be under pressure now, with the Israel international and recently-arrived Adam Bogdan both more imposing figures between the sticks.

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Ross will 'get to bottom of Hibs' inconsistency'

County stop the rot with Stewart double

Ross Stewart was the Ross County hero, with his two second-half headers earning the Dingwall side a first Scottish Premiership win in 10 games. The big forward is a handful but did not have to work too hard for his goals, which were both put on a plate for him by the generous visitors.

Co-manager Steven Ferguson said his side "got people around the ball and we were making contact", which is a more technical way of saying his side rolled up their sleeves and got stuck in. They certainly upped their aggression after a meek first-half display and that got them a foothold in a game.

The power and persistence of Stewart did the rest - with a big helping hand from Hibs.

Ross Stewart is a forward in form

Livingston 'go to war'

In the build-up to Wednesday's 1-1 draw at Tynecastle, Gary Holt urged his players to "go to war". They certainly did as instructed. Livingston's defence stood up brilliantly to an aerial bombardment, with Rickie Lamie and Jon Gurthrie at the heart of a resilient effort.

Holt's boys can also play. With Scott Robinson, Stevie Lawless and Scott Pittman driving a hugely energetic midfield, and Marvin Bartley doing the heavy lifting, they are dangerous on the ball and fiendishly tough to break down.

The worry for Holt will be that his side are not ruthless enough. Although they are eighth in the table, they have not won in eight games and nearly two months. A clinical streak could be pivotal to their push to move away from the bottom group.

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Livingston's Bartley struggles to remember last goal

Struggling Hearts show fight

Hearts' form may be dreadful - Wednesday's 1-1 draw with Livingston means they have won only one game in their past 10 fixtures - but at least they showed the fight and persistence to battle back and salvage a draw.

Had Craig Halkett buried a sitter before Livingston's opening goal, they might well have pushed on and won well. Squandering chances is part of their problem.

Another element is a softness in Hearts' defence, illustrated by the simple manner in which they were undone by a long throw-in. They have shipped nine goals in their past three matches and only scored one. They are in desperate need of the clarity and stability a new manager would provide.

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Hearts 'will turn around under new boss' - MacPhee

Accies away resilience could be key

Even though Hamilton would have been expected to lose at Celtic Park, the continuation of their winless run will be a concern. The Lanarkshire side are without a victory in nine, but the resilience that the league's third-bottom side are showing is admirable.

But for Scott Brown's injury-time winner, Hamilton would have earned a third away draw in as many games. On Saturday, they took a point at Livingston without registering a shot on target, and previous to that they earned one at Kilmarnock after playing with 10 men for an hour.

Come May, these away points could be vital for Brian Rice's side. However, they will need to ensure they can pick up the wins need at home.

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Highlights: Celtic 2-1 Hamilton
St Johnstone

Reasons for optimism?

It's been a bleak season for St Johnstone thus far. Not many goals scored, far too many conceded.

Though they were unable to add to their goal tally on Wednesday, Rugby Park has not been an easy venue for opposition sides. Kilmarnock have only lost at home once in the league this season and that was in stoppage time against Rangers. In fact, they've only conceded five goals in their eight home league games.

Yet St Johnstone seemed far the more likely side to score in their 0-0 draw. Though Tommy Wright believed his side could have taken more from the game had their decision making been better in the final third, he will undoubtedly be most pleased with his defence. The Perth club had kept just one clean sheet in the league all season but doubled that tally with some comfort. Things may be looking up.

St Johnstone claimed an away league clean sheet for the first time since February.
St Mirren

St Mirren need new strikers

Jonathan Obika has played 1,144 minutes of Scottish Premiership football this season and has only scored three goals. Break that down to goals scored per 90 minutes, it comes out at around 0.23. Or roughly one in every four games.

While St Mirren have a number of issues to contend with after their sixth defeat in seven games, Jim Goodwin will be acutely aware of the fact that his side have conceded fewer goals than five clubs in the division but have the worst offensive record among the 12 Premiership sides.

The Paisley side won't be able to get out of their slump until they start scoring at a similar rate as their rivals.

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Highlights: St Mirren 0-3 Motherwell

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