SPFL: Cosgrove and Ikpeazu wrestle for a place in the striker spotlight

Ciaran Vance looks beyond the top two in the Scottish Premier League, to highlight the unsung attacking heroes at Aberdeen and Hearts.

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The Scottish Premiership title race looks set to be the closest it has been in years, with Celtic and Rangers currently level on points having already swapped places at the top of the table. Since both teams have strikers in great goal-scoring form, the inevitable debate over who’s best is already reaching boiling point.

Look at Twitter, and you’ll find Celtic fans adamant Odsonne Édouard is the better striker, while Rangers fans argue in favour of Alfredo Morelos. If you look hard enough, you may find fans from either side who will admit — albeit quietly — that both players have admirable characteristics. Édouard is technically superior on the ball, while Morelos is a nightmare to play against: the kind of player you would love to have on your team.

Over the weekend, two other strikers proved they are also worth keeping an eye on. Sam Cosgrove scored yet again as Aberdeen dismantled Motherwell 3-0, while Uche Ikpeazu proved to be more than a handful for the Rangers defence as they drew away at Hearts.

Cosgrove took a through ball in his stride as he sped away from the last defender and went one-on-one with Motherwell’s Mark Gillespie. As the keeper came rushing out, Cosgrove looked set to blast the ball before deftly lifting it the ball over Gillespie, taking his goal tally to 15 for the season and five in five games.

Cosgrove signed for Aberdeen in 2018 for around £25,000, and averages slightly better than a goal every two games, with 33 in 62 appearances. His tally of 17 goals last season was only one fewer than Morelos, who finished as the league’s top scorer.

Meanwhile, Ikpeazu proved there is more to being a striker than just goals, as he grappled with the Rangers backline all day. Rangers went into the game a point behind Celtic, but knew a win would lift them back to first place. From the first whistle, Hearts came out and bullied Rangers, winning second balls and giving the midfielders no time to affect the game.

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Nobody in the home side epitomised this work-ethic more than Ikpeazu. Standing at 6”4, the Englishman is similar to Morelos: he’s a downright nuisance to defenders. Rangers manager Steven Gerrard claimed Ikpeazu was ‘unplayable’, and although he didn’t end up on the scoresheet, his influence on the match was clear. With just 10 goals in 38 appearances, finding the net is something he will have to work on. But when he causes defenders such a headache it is hard to argue with his on-pitch influence.

As the title race marches on, the spotlight will certainly stay on Édouard and Morelos. Édouard scored two on Saturday, whilst it was Morelos’ goal which won Rangers a point. However, there is more to Scottish football than just Celtic and Rangers.

Aberdeen will be hoping to seal a European play-off place and there is still plenty of time for Hearts to salvage this season. Both teams will need their strikers playing at their best. Cosgrove and Ikpeazu have certainly proved they are more than capable of leading the line for their teams.

Follow Ciaran on Twitter at @ciaranmvance

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