In Rangers’ continued absence, the expectation was Celtic would effectively have the Scottish Premiership wrapped up by now. It’s still almost certain they will retain their crown but at least this time they’ll have had to overcome Aberdeen’s stubborn resistance to do so.
The Dons’ unlikely title challenge has been inspired by the goals of Adam Rooney, and the Dubliner was at it again on Saturday, scoring twice from close range in the 3-0 home win over St Mirren to take his tally to 23 this season.
Victory brought Aberdeen level on points with Celtic until the Bhoys responded with a 4-0 win against Hamilton yesterday.
The top two meet next Sunday and that fixture, coupled with a desire to give youngster Lawrence Shankland some game-time, played a part in manager Derek McInnes’ decision to end Rooney’s hat-trick hopes by replacing him with 13 minutes to go.
“Adam’s goal return and performances since he came here have been excellent,” McInnes said. “Had he stayed on the pitch, there’s every chance he gets his hat-trick, but Lawrence has scored 22 goals for the reserves and has been itching to play his part.”
In the Championship, it was a weekend to forget for Keiren Westwood. The Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper was sent off for hauling down Tom Ince in the area and could only watch from the sidelines as Darren Bent converted the subsequent penalty to give Derby a 3-2 win. Owls boss Stuart Gray felt the red card was hard on his goalkeeper.
“I thought it was similar to the Wayne Rooney one the other night at Preston. The referee has a decision to make and I think we’ve been punished twice. It was harsh.”
It was a better day between the sticks for David Forde, as the Ireland number one kept a clean sheet in Millwall’s 0-0 draw with Fulham.
Jonathan Douglas celebrated signing a contract extension that ties him to Brentford until the summer of 2016 by scoring the play-off hopefuls’ opening goal in the 3-1 win over Bournemouth.
In League One, a Dave Mooney penalty helped struggling Leyton Orient to a 3-0 win over Oldham, while a Liam McAlinden goal helped Fleetwood Town to a 2-1 victory over Notts County.
Billy Clarke was on the mark for Bradford but the Bantams had to settle for a 1-1 draw at home to Walsall, while a Michael Doyle chip sparked a comeback that saw Sheffield United come from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 against Coventry.
In League Two, 37-year-old David Connolly rolled back the years to score a dramatic stoppage-time winner for Wimbledon in the 3-2 triumph over Luton, just minutes after coming off the bench.
Damien McCrory put the seal on a 3-1 win for leaders Burton against Dagenham & Redbridge, Brendan Moloney netted in Northampton’s 3-0 win over York while Barry Corr scored a penalty in a losing cause in Southend’s 4-2 defeat at Stevenage.