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SPL Team of the Week - January 17

GOALKEEPER

GRAEME SMITH (Hibs): Despite his heroics, John Hughes' men slipped to a 1-0 defeat at Tannadice, but their keeper certainly couldn't be faulted for the outcome, producing a string of excellent saves to resist his opponents, including parrying away David Goodwillie's penalty and preventing the defeat from being much heavier.

DEFENDER

MARK McLAUGHLIN (Hamilton): His manager, Billy Reid, couldn't fathom how the Accies didn't register at least a point against Rangers and McLaughlin, who was immaculate throughout the encounter, while keeping the Ibrox men tightly shackled, had most reason to feel aggrieved. His endeavours deserved a better fate.

DEFENDER

MARC TWADDLE (Falkirk): For much of the Bairns' visit to Parkhead, it seemed that they would once again earn plaudits without gaining any tangible reward. However, with Twaddle putting in an enormous shift for his team, especially during a frantic climax when Celtic searched for a winner, the visitors emerged with a significant 1-1 draw.

DEFENDER

TOM HATELEY (Motherwell): He can dazzle in midfield and exhibited his versatility by turning out at right-back in his club's 3-0 trouncing of Kilmarnock. The youngster always has plenty of time on the ball - a sure sign that he possesses the talent to rise above the general mediocrity of the league in which he is participating.

MIDFIELDER

SASA PAPAC (Rangers): One of the unsung heroes at Ibrox, he keeps serving up solid performances for Walter Smith and maintained his purpose and assurance on Saturday, which was just as well, because Rangers were otherwise horribly unconvincing for the most part before beating Hamilton 1-0 to move nine points clear in the SPL race.

MIDFIELDER

JIM O'BRIEN (Motherwell): The Fir Parkers have struggled after making a bright start to the season, but O'Brien was the pivotal figure in steering them to a comprehensive 3-0 away victory over lowly Kilmarnock. The youngster not only scored a brace of splendid goals, but was a bustling hive of industry as his team got back on the rails.

MIDFIELDER

MICHAEL STEWART (Hearts): Nobody could accuse the Tynecastle men of serving up champagne football, but week by week, they are accumulating victories and edging towards the top half of the SPL. Their captain, Stewart, is leading by example, and his first-half penalty was sufficient to seal a 1-0 success over St Mirren.

MIDFIELDER

MARC CROSAS (Celtic): With Aiden McGeady experiencing a rare off-day against Falkirk, it was left to Crosas to provide some incisiveness and vision in the Celtic midfield. He rose admirably to the challenge, which made Tony Mowbray' decision to substitute him all the more perplexing, especially for the Parkhead supporters.

STRIKER

NACHO NOVO (Rangers): The Spaniard became a father to a son, Javier, last weekend, and celebrated in appropriate fashion by securing the 78th-minute winner for his side at New Douglas Park. The league leaders were out of sorts, but, in the notable absence of Kris Boyd and Kenny Miller, Novo kept their title pursuit on course.

STRIKER

DAVID TEMPLETON (Hearts): Csaba Laszlo made wholesale changes for the weekend's meeting with St Mirren, following his side's meek exit from the Scottish Cup and Templeton duly demonstrated his prowess with a positive display, which helped unsettle his opponents and was instrumental in the Edinburgh club's 1-0 win.

STRIKER

GEORGIOS SAMARAS (Celtic): The jeers at the climax of Celtic's draw with Falkirk reflected the rising pressure on Tony Mowbray. The Greek notched his side's equaliser and could have added another couple. But the emphasis lies on the word "could". Despite being linked with a raft of transfer targets, what Celtic wouldn't give for the equivalent of a Miller or Boyd to convert the chances which are currently being wasted.

BAD WEEK

ALLAN McGREGOR (Rangers): Just when it seemed the appointment of Craig Levein as the new Scotland coach might draw a belated veil over "Boozegate", the Gers keeper found his name splashed all over the newspapers again, following allegations of sexual assault. He strenuously denies the charges, but this latest splurge of headlines has done little to erase the feeling that McGregor and bad publicity are intertwined.

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