Side with Super Js

  • By: Gareth Friel
  • Last Updated: November 29 2012, 12:35 GMT

St Johnstone are Gareth Friel's outright pick in the Scottish Cup and he also has two bets for the weekend's fixtures.

Steve Lomas: Can guide St Johnstone to glory

It may have been over six months since Hearts' 5-1 thrashing of bitter rivals Hibernian in the Scottish Cup final but the bragging of the Jambos fans shows no sign of relenting.

Barely a day goes by without celebrity Hearts fans like Sir Chris Hoy being pictured doing a "5-1" sign, much to the chagrin of their city neighbours.

A Scottish Cup fourth round victory on home soil might not exactly constitute revenge but it would go some way to relieving the pain for Hibs fans. Particularly as they haven't won any of the last 12 derby matches.

The repeat of the final is one of three all-SPL affairs with a derby in the north as well where Ross County host Inverness while it's Aberdeen v Motherwell.

There are a number of other intriguing ties with Kilmarnock hosting runaway Second Division leaders and League Cup giantkillers Queen of the South while the First Division's top two Partick Thistle and Dunfermline face off at Firhill.

Celtic, who host Arbroath, are odds-on favourites for the trophy across the board which is hardly surprising. But as we witnessed last season in the Scottish Cup semi-final defeat to Hearts and the League Cup final loss to Kilmarnock, even without Rangers nothing is guaranteed.

Dundee United, away at Stranraer, come next in the betting followed by Rangers and then a clutch of SPL clubs including Aberdeen, Motherwell, Hibs and Hearts.

The outright betting at this stage is always tough, especially with the draw as open as it is. Although three SPL teams will definitely go this weekend, most of the rest shouldn't have too many problems. A St Johnstone and Dundee face First Division opposition but Celtic, Dundee Utd, Kilmarnock and St Mirren all face teams from Division Two.

Steve Lomas' St Johnstone look a bit overpriced to me at 22/1 with Boylesports (they are available at 25/1 but the each-way value isn't as good). They are well placed in the SPL despite a poor start and have taken four points from six available against Celtic, showing they can compete with the best on their day.

They have a good balance to their side and boast the fourth best defensive record in the SPL, although a lack of goals is a slight worry.

I don't see why they should be significantly longer odds than Hearts and, with some bookies, Kilmarnock. With a favourable draw, the Perth side could go far and are worth taking on in the each-way market.

As mentioned before, outwith the all-SPL matches, I don't see many of the other top-flight teams having too many problems against lower division opposition, but Kilmarnock could have a tough time of it against Queen of the South at Rugby Park.

The League Cup winners' defence of their trophy ended with a shock 2-1 home defeat to Second Division side Stenhousemuir earlier in the season and they have been hit and miss in the SPL.

Killie followed up an excellent 3-1 win at Tynecastle against Hearts with a defeat by the same scoreline against Aberdeen while they were beaten at home by Inverness immediately after their stunning win against Celtic at Parkhead.

Kenny Shiels' side have managed successive victories only once so far this season and have struggled for consistency. One week they can be excellent but dismal the next.

Their opponents have already caused upsets in the League Cup. The Doonhamers knocked out Rangers, Hibs and First Division promotion contenders Morton in the League Cup before being edged out by Dundee Utd.

The Dumfries side, now managed by former Scotland international Allan Johnston, are running riot in the third tier, leading their nearest challengers by nine points and third by a further seven.

That exit to Dundee Utd is the only time Johnston has tasted defeat this season with the overall record reading 15 wins and five draws from 21 matches. With that sort of form, a small punt at 11/2 has to be worth taking.

Going back to the Edinburgh derby which takes place on Sunday afternoon, it may be worth backing a draw in this one.

Hibs have gone off the boil a tad in recent weeks, the 3-1 loss at Dundee a particular disappointment for them.

They are still six points clear of Hearts who have shown more resolve on the road. In the last month they have drawn in 90 minutes against Dundee Utd, Motherwell and Inverness. Having been a man down against United and playing against a backdrop of yet more financial problems, the players have emerged with plenty of credit.

Hearts seem to gain an extra confidence when playing against Hibs and given their recent record and with the cup final win still fresh in their memories that should be the case again.

Hibs won't want yet another derby defeat while Hearts could do with the revenue a sell-out replay would bring. A draw wouldn't be a disaster for either side and is worth taking at 23/10.


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