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Sunday, 16 December, 2018

Hibs' clash with Kilmarnock could feature few cards

Premiership returnees have proved to be tricky opponents

Scott Brown of Celtic controls the ball against Hibernian
1 of 1

3pm Saturday

It is easy to understand why William Hill think there is an unusually small chance of a low number of cards in the Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership game between Hibernian and Kilmarnock. But they may have gone a bit too far in quoting under 45 booking points at 5-4.

Each yellow will count as ten and each red as 25. So the bet will win if there are no more than four yellows and no reds, or if there is one red and no more than one yellow. The chance of one of those things happening might just be better than the odds suggest.

There have been a lot of cards this season in Hibernian games – even more at Easter Road than on other grounds in the Premiership. The average make-up at Easter Road has been 50 booking points. So a card count that is merely typical for Easter Road so far this season would make bets on under 45 bookings points losers.

Obviously that does not sound encouraging. The seed of hope is in the fact that in Hibernian’s games, home and away, most cards have been shown to their opponents.

This enables us to say two things. The first is that Hibernian have received fewer cards than we should have anticipated from them – not more but fewer. The second is that other teams have collected more cards against Hibernian than is usual for them. Why should this be?

Hibernian are enjoying a great first season back in the Premiership. Before kick-off they are fourth in the table, which would be enough at the end of the season for a Europa League place if Celtic win the Premiership – which they could as early as Sunday – and the William Hill Scottish Cup. Hibernian could yet finish third or second, either of which would guarantee a Europa League place come what may.

Opponents have found games against Hibs even harder than they would have expected at the start of the season, and one of the consequences may be that they have had to make more tackles, meaning that they will also have mistimed more tackles and collected more cards. That would explain some of what has happened, but not all. The rest might be just unfortunate coincidence. If so, under 45 booking points could represent value for money.

Kilmarnock’s results have improved dramatically since Steve Clarke became manager in October. He and Hibs boss Neil Lennon are among nominees for the PFA Scotland manager of the year award. There has been nothing unusual in the card counts in Killie’s games, or in games refereed by Don Robertson.

Under 45 booking points Hibernian v Kilmarnock
1pt 5-4 Hills

Thought for the Day

The film 100 Streets starts with a speech by a character called Kingsley: “Life’s pretty simple, you know. It’s long periods of waiting broken up by brief moments of change. That’s it. That’s all it is… The moments of change? They’re what give your life its shape, its form.”

He was not the first to say this. Imlac said something like it 250 years ago in Samuel Johnson’s book Rasselas. And so have others.

I have written that betting profits or losses often accrue in bursts, between which there is little difference in outlay and returns.

You can look at some Premier League champions in this way – as well as in other ways, not instead of them.

Manchester City earlier this season won 18 games in a row. Since then they have taken 32 points from 14 games, one more than Manchester United and Tottenham, one fewer than Liverpool, who played 15 games.

Last season Chelsea won 13 games in a row. Afterwards they took 44 points from 19 games, six fewer than Tottenham, who played one game more.

A team have to be first-rate to win a large number of games in a row, but each season there are several teams who are first-rate and have that potential. Before and after all they need to do is keep pace with their rivals and they will become champions.

And none of them knows if, when or for how long everything will click perfectly for them.

Phrases such as purple patch do not explain it, but we might as well use them because we will wait in vain for a satisfactory explanation.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has said: “Excellence is like a bubble. You can look for it as much as you like, but it only appears from time to time.”

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Excellence is like a bubble. You can look for it as much as you like, but it only appears from time to time
E.W. Terms
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