SPL Review

Unconvincing Celtic close on Rangers

December 26, 2009

Glenn Loovens' first-half strike and a late Niall McGinn drive against Hamilton at Parkhead took nervy Celtic back to within a point of Scottish Premier League leaders Rangers with a 2-0 win.

Celtic, Niall McGinn
SNSCeltic's Niall McGinn will miss the North American tour

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The Dutchman volleyed in Barry Robson's corner after 14 minutes but the home side did not rest easy until McGinn, on for Scott McDonald on the hour mark, scored a second in injury time.

The win puts pressure on the Ibrox men, who play their game in hand against Hibernian at Easter Road on Sunday.

The post-Craig Levein era at Dundee United began in frustrating fashion as wasted chances saw them held to a goalless draw by Kilmarnock.

Caretaker boss Peter Houston watched his side dominate the first half at Tannadice only for Jon Daly - twice - and David Goodwillie to produce close-range blunders.

Sean Dillon also hit the bar and Damian Casalinuovo missed a golden opportunity, while Killie twice saw goals chalked off but gained a valuable point in their battle against the drop.

Peter MacDonald put his injury frustration firmly behind him as he struck a second-half hat-trick to give St Johnstone a 3-1 victory over Motherwell at Fir Park.

The striker netted his first goal since August 2008 when he cancelled out Steve Jennings' header early in the second half.

MacDonald, who was making only his third Premier League appearance of the season following a recurring hamstring injury, completed his treble in 17 minutes with two more clinical finishes.

Hearts captain Michael Stewart's decisive penalty at Falkirk as a 1-0 win propelled the Tynecastle outfit into the top six for the first time this season.

The midfielder's goal two minutes before the interval - after Jose Goncalves was fouled in the box - was the difference in a game bereft of clear-cut chances as Hearts put together successive victories in the league this term.

After a hard-fought first half, basement side Falkirk upped the pressure after the break but failed to find a way past a dogged Hearts rearguard.

St Mirren's game with Aberdeen was called off because snow had made approach roads to St Mirren Park dangerous. The game was postponed on the advice of Strathclyde amid fears for the safety of fans travelling to the game.