Last weekend was fascinating for anyone interested in looking after our planet. The COP 21 Paris climate change conference ended positively with over 200 countries signing an ambitious legal agreement to hold states to emissions targets to signal the end of the fossil fuel era. Environment campaigners everywhere rejoiced and decades of tense negotiation may well have yielded a result Mother Nature can be proud of. Personally I'm delighted though perhaps I was happier knowing global warming was helping me stop the missus putting the heating on earlier each day! Seriously, with winter shut-downs now again on the horizon for the Scottish Premiership teams and 'summer' football also confirmed for next season, the weather does impact the way we follow our teams more than we may acknowledge - after all I wasted 30mins two weeks ago writing a preview for a game in Kirkcaldy that never happened!
Moving on, despite it being somewhat tricky to predict inclement weather in Scotland, I hope we're moaning about the shut-down next season as that means we'll be back playing our trade in the top division - a necessity if we're to finally rid our club of all the negative baggage gained in recent years. Quite simply (and possibly literally) we cannot afford not to be promoted this season and despite our manager and certain players saying the pressure isn't on, it most certainly is. Moreover, we arguably couldn't have a trickier fixture to start the Christmas period, with a tough away match to Falkirk tomorrow lunchtime.
Of course, last week both we and Falkirk dropped points in matches we could/should have won. The Bairns were away to Hibs but couldn't see off a ten man Edinburgh side whilst we also could only manage a point via a late equaliser at home to Morton. Suffice to say a draw won't suit either of us tomorrow so I'd expect an open game - possibly very similar in nature to last Saturday match at Ibrox. Falkirk will defend in numbers but will also counter quickly and will be dangerous through the threats of John Baird and Craig Sibbald. They will take advantage if the sloppiness we experienced against Livingston and Morton is repeated.
Obviously because of last week's poor performance it will be of more interest to our fans if Mark Warburton changes his starting XI. Both Dom Ball and Rob Kiernan have generally done quite well of late but both also contributed mistakes to Morton's second goal last week. Meanwhile, despite continuing to create goals, James Tavernier looks short of confidence at right back and his appalling error caused the 'Ton's first goal. No matter the back four the manager selects, we cannot give away such cheap goals going forward. As such, it will be interesting to see if the more experienced Danny Wilson returns tomorrow - even if his early season form wasn't great either.
Moving into midfield, we have a variety of options available for tomorrow's game. Do we persist with the apparent first choice three of Halliday, Zelalem and Holt or could someone like Shiels or Law refresh us creatively? I'd expect one of the latter two to start instead of the on-loan Arsenal youngster as their experience could prove vital in an area of the pitch we must dominate - both in attack and when defending. Indeed, as much as the manager is fond of talking only about us, I doubt he'll want to leave Halliday isolated tomorrow (or in our next match against Hibs) so a recall for Shiels seems sensible to help us in a defensive sense.
There may also be places available further forward in attack. Martyn Waghorn and Barrie McKay have generally done the business in whatever role they've been deployed in but both struggled against Morton. Meanwhile, despite his headed goal last weekend, Kenny Miller didn't really contribute effectively and seemed confused about where he was playing. The problem for the manager is that the replacements for these three first choice players haven't really impressed enough either. Clark and Oduwa have shown glimpses of what they have to offer but can we really rely on them from the start? Our other striking option Ryan Hardie lacks experience but the only way to get it is to be given the responsibility of playing regularly. Will he feature?
Generally, notwithstanding the issues discussed above, I think we may see pretty much the team team tomorrow that started last week's match. However, no matter who starts it's not just the unseasonally mild weather that's increasing the temperature on our players and manager. Tomorrow will be a big test of their ambitions and the heat is on.
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