“Afternoon Simon, and Happy New Year to you and all clockwatchers,” writes Simon McMahon, the Guardian’s voluntary occasional part-time Scottish football correspondent. “ Of course after the starter at Ibrox earlier, the main course in the SPFL today is Dundee United’s visit to Aberdeen [still goalless – ed]. In the Scottish Championship struggling Dundee are at home to leaders Hearts later. There are a few games off in the lower leagues, so best check the fixtures if you’re planning on heading out to a game. I’m looking at you, George Galloway.”
Crystal Palace’s goalscorer hasn’t made it to half-time – Jeff Schlupp is limping from the field, and Eberechi Eze coming on.
Watford continue to lead Swansea 1-0, thanks to Ben Foster’s excellent save from Ayew, tipping the ball over the bar as it flew towards the roof of the net (pretty close to him, it must be said, but still – reflexes).
Middlesbrough are now beating Wycombe, Marcus Tavernier cutting in from the right, ghosting past a couple of half-hearted challenges and then scoring with a beautifully-struck left-footed shot from the edge of the area. It’s 1-2 there now.
Gymnastic celebration of the day:
Burton Albion, bottom of League One, look like they’re on their way to a fifth successive defeat, being as they are 3-0 down at home to Oxford United after a little more than half an hour, Olamide Shodipo with the third (and, a little earlier, the second).
Middlesbrough have equalised against Wycombe, Marcus Browne heading in a corner from about five yards out despite some very close attention from a defender or two.
“I’m as neutral as neutral can be when it comes to Sheffield United,” writes Kari Tulinius. “I should be indifferent to their plight, but it’s become so painful to watch them lose and lose again, week after week. I just can’t watch their games anymore. I can only imagine what it feels like to be a fan of the Blades.” I’m with you. I don’t mind if they get relegated – though I’m old enough to feel that there really should be a team from Sheffield in the top flight – but two points in January is just cruelty.
“About that Palace goal, I cannot help but just think about how football really is a game of inches,” writes Adam Kline-Schoder. “If Egan (I think) hadn’t made that little step up to give Zaha time, if whoever tried to intercept Benteke’s layoff had made full contact and hadn’t inadvertently deflected it to put it on a plate for Schlupp … Sheffield United are not having things fall for them at all, and – I feel – have again been desperately unlucky. Even so, it is great to see Benteke looking confident again, and Palace appear to have impressively put that tonking by Liverpool firmly behind them.” That is about the sum of it.
A goal in one of today’s two Scottish Premiership bottom-of-the-table six-pointers, as Ross Draper gives Ross County a 1-0 lead against St Johnstone. That is a very Ross-heavy scoreflash, and a second goal of the season for the 32-year-old midfielder, one of five players called Ross in the Ross County squad.
Watford take the lead at Swansea, Tom Cleverley rifling in a low shot from 20 yards!
Adam Armstrong is at it again, the Blackburn striker grabbing his 16th goal of the season – he’s level with Ivan Toney at the top of the Championship charts now – after being played through on the left at Birmingham, running into the area, opening up his body and sidefooting in at the far post. Very fine, full-confidence finishing there, but the defending was shockingly poor.
League One leaders Lincoln City have taken the lead at Wimbledon, Tayo Edun shooting through a crowded penalty area after a corner.
Wycombe have taken an early lead against Middlesbrough, the team with the division’s worst defence playing the one with the third-best defence, and it was very lovely from Uche Ikpeazu, who cuts in from the right before curling a left-footer in at the far post!
GOAL! Crystal Palace 1-0 Sheffield United (Schlupp, 4 mins)
Zaha gets down the left before pulling back to Benteke, whose lovely first-time touch finds Schlupp bursting into the area, and he sidefoots it in!
Mansfield score the league’s earliest goal, Ollie Clarke giving them a first-minute lead over Port Vale.
I may be a little distracted by goings-on at the Liberty Stadium, where Watford play Swansea in the Championship’s match of the day. The Swans have been forced into a last-minute team tweak, after Joel Latibeaudiere got injured in the warm-up. Ryan Manning comes in.
Here’s Ewan Murray on Rangers’ victory in the Old Firm derby:
It seems odd to point towards January defining moments in a title race where, even before kick-off in this Old Firm game, Rangers held a 16-point lead. Still, victory for Steven Gerrard’s team here – assisted in no small part by the sending off of Nir Bitton – surely eliminates any lingering Celtic hope of a 10th title in a row. Celtic hold three games in hand but they need snookers now; or, more specifically, an unlikely Rangers implosion.
Celtic were the better team before Bitton’s moment of rashness, which arrived just after the hour mark. With the hitherto ineffectual Alfredo Morelos running to chase a long ball, just outside the angle of the penalty area, the Israeli hauled him to the ground. Neil Lennon and his Celtic players offered little complaint as Bobby Madden issued a red card. It was hard to avoid the sense that, there and then, Celtic’s dreams of title retention had been dashed.
Much more here:
A couple of match reports for you to read before the big kick-offs. First, here’s David Hytner on Tottenham’s rather fortunate win over Leeds:
José Mourinho has been a little grouchy of late, moaning about the inability of his Tottenham players to follow on-field orders and railing at the perceived failings of authority, namely the late decision to postpone Wednesday’s game against Fulham.
The last thing he needed was for news to break on the eve of Leeds’s visit that three of his players had flouted coronavirus rules by attending a Christmas party. What was going through the minds of Sergio Reguilón, Erik Lamela and Giovani Lo Celso? Presumably nothing.
Yet Mourinho felt the storm clouds lift as his team won for the first time in five Premier League matches and won well, with a reassuringly stable presence helping to make the difference, to go third in the table.
Much more here:
Chris Wilder has a pre-match chat:
We’ve taken a few hits along the way. Today we’ve got nine out injured or unavailable. But a football result isn’t decided on a teamsheet, it’s decided by what happens out on the green bit. We know we have to have a great second part of the season if we want to survive in the Premier League.
We had a couple of issues regarding the virus, but these things happen. They didn’t happen for us last year and they’re coming in bucketloads at the moment, but we’ve just got to get on with it. We’re up against an established Premier League club. That’s what we’re trying to do. Obviously at the moment it’s not going the way we want it to go, but we’re fighting, we’re punching, and we’re hoping that today will be the day we get ourselves going again.
Rangers have wrapped up a 1-0 win over Celtic in Scotland’s lunchtime kick-off, and they now lead the Premiership table by … hang on … how much?
Further snowfall updates: it’s been snowing in Bolton, where Crawley Town play this afternoon. This match is on, though.
This was the scene at Rotherham United today, as a sudden snowstorm caused the groundsmen some alarm. The game is
Team sheets have been handed in across the land, and here are the starting XIs for the one Premier League fixture. Sheffield United have nine players missing and a 16-year-old on the bench:
Crystal Palace: Guaita, Ward, Tomkins, Kouyate, Mitchell, Townsend, Milivojevic, McArthur, Schlupp, Zaha, Benteke. Subs: Butland, van Aanholt, Dann, Ayew, Sakho, McCarthy, Batshuayi, Eze, Riedewald.
Sheff Utd: Ramsdale, Basham, Egan, Stevens, Bogle, Norwood, Ampadu, Fleck, Osborn, McGoldrick, Mousset. Subs: Baldock, Lowe, Verrips, Brewster, Bryan, Hackford.
Referee: Stuart Attwell.
It’s that time again! 3pm on a Saturday afternoon is nearly upon us, and with it just the one Premier League fixture, and not as many in other divisions as you’d have expected. Chilly weather has caused several postponements, and Coronavirus outbreaks several more – they’re all marked on this big list of today’s fixtures.
Beyond Sheffield United’s latest attempt to actually win a game, standout fixtures include Watford, having beaten the Championship leaders, Norwich, in their first game under new manager Xisco Muñoz, travelling to second-placed Swansea for the second; another new manager in League Two as Paul Hurst takes charge of his first match as relegation-threatened Grimsby host Cambridge, who will move into the play-off places if they win; it’s third v sixth in League One as Charlton visit Hull; and the bottom four in the Scottish Premiership play each other.
Here’s the full list (all 3pm GMT kick-offs unless stated):
Brighton v. Wolverhampton (5.30pm)
Crystal Palace v. Sheffield United
Tottenham Hotspur v. Leeds (12.30pm)
West Brom v. Arsenal (8pm)
Birmingham v. Blackburn
(Postponed because of a Covid outbreak at Bristol City)
Brentford v. Bristol City
Huddersfield v. Reading
(Postponed because of a Covid outbreak at Luton)
Luton v. QPR
Millwall v. Coventry
Norwich v. Barnsley
Preston North End v. Nottm Forest
Rotherham v. Cardiff
Stoke v. Bournemouth (7.45pm)
Swansea v. Watford
Wycombe v. Middlesbrough
(Postponed because of a frozen pitch)
Accrington Stanley v. Portsmouth
Bristol Rovers v. Blackpool
Burton Albion v. Oxford Utd
(Postponed because of a Covid outbreak at Fleetwood)
Fleetwood Town v. Ipswich
Hull v. Charlton
Northampton v. Sunderland
(Postponed because of a Covid outbreak at Peterborough)
Peterborough v. Doncaster
Plymouth v. Gillingham
(Postponed because of a Covid outbreak at Rochdale)
Rochdale v. Milton Keynes Dons
(Postponed because of a Covid outbreak at Shrewsbury)
Shrewsbury v. Crewe
(Postponed because of a frozen pitch)
Swindon v. Wigan
Wimbledon v. Lincoln City
(Postponed because of a frozen pitch)
Barrow v. Exeter
Bolton v. Crawley Town
(Postponed because of a Covid outbreak at Morecambe)
Bradford v. Morecambe
Colchester v. Tranmere
Forest Green v. Oldham
Grimsby v. Cambridge Utd
Harrogate Town v. Cheltenham
Leyton Orient v. Salford City
Mansfield v. Port Vale
Newport County v. Southend
Stevenage v. Scunthorpe
Walsall v. Carlisle
Aberdeen v. Dundee Utd
Hamilton v. Motherwell
Hibernian v. Livingston
Kilmarnock v. St Mirren
Rangers v. Celtic (12.30pm)
Ross County v. St Johnstone