Halloween is upon us once again, and the SPL provided some more gruesome encounters over the course of the weekend. Horrific refereeing at Tynecastle, coupled with a frighteningly toothless Hearts attack lead to Paulo Sergio, possessed with rage and injustice, being sent angrily to the stands. And if that wasn’t enough to turn your hair white, then yet another dismal display by Neil Lennon’s Celtic will surely have Hoops fans petrified of the prospect that Rangers could win the league before Christmas.
Off the field and the financial future of both Hearts and Rangers seems precarious enough to make the blood run cold of many supporters. If one isn’t paying their taxes, then the other isn’t paying their players wages.
Back to on field matters, and since the SPL began in 1998 there have been more than a handful of Halloween horror shows. Here is a look back at just 10 of those gruesome performances that occurred on this famous weekend.
Kilmarnock 2 Celtic 0, Saturday 29th October 1998
Celtic slipped into third place in the SPL, allowing their opponents Kilmarnock to go three points ahead of them into second, and gave arch rivals Rangers a four point advantage at the summit. A healthy crowd of just under 17,000 packed into Rugby Park as Killie deservedly took all three points. The home side took the spoils with second half goals from Mark Roberts and Ally Mitchell, and were helped immensely by an impressive midfield display from former Rangers star Ian Durrant. Indeed, it may have been worse for Celtic had former Rangers striker, and current manager, Ally McCoist not been out injured for Killie at the time. Stephane Mahe was sent off late in the game on a bitterly disappointing afternoon for the Hoops.
Aberdeen 1 Rangers 5, Saturday 30th October 1999
The only thing more ghastly than the Rangers away kit on this dismal afternoon at Pittodrie was the Aberdeen defending, although in all fairness they were up against a side already 20 points ahead of them in the table. A harsh penalty decision had given the Dons the lead as Thomas Solberg converted the spot kick for his first ever Aberdeen goal. The home side actually performed well throughout most of the first half, but the real horror show began on 36 minutes when Paul Bernard was sent off for a crazy tackle on van Bronckhorst. By that time Jonathan Johansson had already levelled for Rangers. It may be a tad harsh to describe this match as a horror show, as Aberdeen put in an admirable performance against a very strong Rangers team, but the final 22 minutes saw the Ibrox side score four more goals through Mols, Amato and Johansson completing his hattrick. Bernard’s moment of madness will possibly be seen as the really horrific moment, and turning point, for Ebbe Skovdahl and the Aberdeen support.
Hearts 0 St Johnstone 3, Saturday 28th October 2000
A dreadful day for the Jambos, following a humiliating 6-2 derby defeat at Easter Road the week before. Jim Jefferies, who would depart Tynecastle for Bradford in a matter of weeks, saw his side comfortably beaten by an impressive Saints team. Towering centre back Kevin James gave away a penalty early in the second half, which was converted by Kiegan Parker, and from then on in there was only going to be one winner. Paddy Connolly added two further goals, as the Tynecastle support turned on Chief Executive Chris Robinson with a red card protest, and fans gathered outside the stadium following the final whistle to demand his resignation.
Rangers 0 Kilmarnock 3, Saturday 28th October 2000
On the same weekend as Hearts were dismantled in Edinburgh, Rangers were experiencing a similar sensation in Glasgow against Kilmarnock. The 3-0 defeat meant that Advocaat’s side had only won once in seven matches, and only score once in five. It also left them in fourth spot in the league, four points behind Killie themselves, ten behind Hibs and a massive THIRTEEN adrift from league leaders Celtic. The depressing facts were rolling in for the Ibrox men, as this was the first time they’d suffered three league defeats on the trot since 1985/86, and their heaviest home defeat since Allan Johnston scored a hattrick for Hearts in a 3-0 victory at Ibrox in 1996. Bobby Williamson’s Killie side were well deserving of the victory, and scored their goals through Christope Cocard, Gary Holt and an Arthur Numan own goal.
Motherwell 1 Livingston 5, Saturday October 26th 2002
Halloween came early this year at Fir Park, as visitors Livingston took full advantage of an awful defensive display from the Steelmen. Debutant Khaled Kemas scored for the home side, but it was little more than consolation as, by that time, ‘Well were 3-0 down. Former Hearts midfielder Lee Makel opened the scoring in the first half with a fierce drive, and in the second period Cherif Touré Maman added goals number two and three. The response from Kemas was just a brief respite for the hosts, as David Bingham and then Xausa completed the rout for Livi.
Rangers 5 Aberdeen 0, Sunday 31st October 2004
Aberdeen’s previous visit to Glasgow prior to this encounter had been an impressive victory over Celtic, but Jimmy Calderwood’s men were to have a far less positive experience at Ibrox as they were destroyed by Alex McLeish’s side. Goals came from Steven Thompson, Peter Lovenkrands, Fernando Ricksen and a Nacho Novo double.
Rangers 1 Inverness 1, Saturday 29th October 2005
Rangers awful start to the season continued as they failed to capitalise on league leaders Hearts first defeat of the season at Easter Road, and remained in fourth spot – eleven points behind the Gorgie side, eight behind Celtic and four behind Hibs. A damp afternoon at Ibrox saw the hosts squander chance after chance against a resilient Caley side, and although they did manage to rescue a point, it was scant consolation for a side bereft of confidence. Craig Dargo’s first half goal lead to boos ringing around Ibrox at the break, and although Steven Thompson did restore parity in the second period, the home fans left the ground bitterly disappointed as their side’s season crumbled around them even at this early stage.
Falkirk 5 Dundee United 1, Saturday 28th October 2006
Under pressure United boss Craig Brewster saw the final nail driven into his coffin as his bottom of the table side were dismantled in Falkirk. It would be the manager’s final game in charge after a dismal spell at Tannadice. On loan Arsenal striker Anthony Stokes grabbed a hattrick for the hosts, with further goals from Russell Latapy and Mark Twaddle. Collin Samuel did pull one back for the visitors, who also had Noel Hunt red carded, but it was not enough to save Brewster’s job, or United’s blushes, on a very disappointing day for the men in tangerine.
Gretna 0 Inverness 4, Saturday 27th October 2007
A paltry 1,020 fans gathered at Fir Park – Gretna’s temporary SPL home – for a dismal display by the SPL new boys. It was the lowest ever attendance at a Scottish Premier League game at the time, and summed up a side who were to go out of business the following year. This was a basement battle between the league’s bottom sides, but there was still a massive gulf between the two teams. Inverness lead through a Dennis Wyness penalty after just two minutes, and never looked back. Further goals from Don Cowie, Barry Wilson and Roy McBain made it a resounding result for Craig Brewster’s side.
Celtic 0 Hibernian 0, Saturday 29th October 2011
Under pressure Celtic manager Neil Lennon sees his side drop a further two points behind leaders Rangers, and also further behind second placed Motherwell. The dismal goalless draw at home to Hibs – who have themselves been struggling for the best part of a year – leaves the Hoops twelve points behind the leaders, and three behind ‘Well. It also means that the Parkhead side are now closer to 10th placed Aberdeen than they are to their fierce rivals, leading many to suggest that Lennon is just one more bad result away from losing his job. Horrific stuff indeed for Celtic supporters.