With the SPL season underway and the annual merry go round as to which side of Glasgow gets to celebrate the title this year has begun, down in the lower divisions we can settle into some genuine competition called promotion and relegation. Here’s the first look ahead of the weekends to come.
SFL Division One
Ayr v Hamilton
This is newly promoted versus newly relegated. Ayr United has strengthened over the summer and the two cup games saw as many as five new faces in their line up. Ayr has progressed in both cups and will be up for this game. Hamilton has held onto most of their squad from last year and having beaten Queens Park in the Ramsdens Cup they could have enough strength to start well in their quest to get back to the SPL. This should be an away win.
Livingston v Queen of South
They’re back! Two seasons after being demoted down into the Third Livvi are back where they believe they belong. If they wanted to make an impression 11 goals in two cup games certainly does it. Tony Bullock is out long term whilst ex Livvi keeper Roddy McKenzie may well keep his place in the Doonhammers’ nets. Kyle Jacobs is also out for Livvi whilst Queen’s Stephen McKenna will miss out through suspension. Gus MacPherson has had a mixed start to his tenure whilst Gary Bollan knows his squad and will fancy his chances with this one.
Partick Thistle v Dundee
Jackie McNamara will be looking to bounce back from the shock of losing last week to Berwick Rangers. In his first full season in charge Barry Smith, just like McNamara, will be looking for a decent start. McNamara has added to the squad and it may take a while for the new to blend with the existing. Smith has got his charges through the heat of a 25 point penalty. Ana way victory looks most likely here and hopefully the Thistle Board have enough patience for the season ahead.
Raith Rovers v Falkirk
We all know how quickly Raith start their campaigns and this year may be third year lucky for John McGlynn. For Falkirk, their nickname may have never been more apt as Steven Pressley continues his revolution with the young guns of Falkirk. The news this week that Steven Kingsley has been called up to the Scotland Under 19 set up helps his cause. A derby to start the season can always be difficult to call and the first few weeks are more likely to be indicators of the future season than one game. Possible draw?
Ross County v Morton
Derek Adams knows his team and surprisingly to me at least there are some who have tipped the Staggies for the title. The size of the task facing Adams to keep his side up should have been obvious to him after two difficult ties. Allan Moore has reshaped the squad but not the style and after 11 goals in 2 games his woes of last year are gone up front. If he keeps it tight at the back he should come away with the 3 points.
SFL Division Two
Airdrie Utd v Dumbarton
Jimmy Boyle may have more of his squad to choose from this weekend and after a 5-0 drubbing then a 5-0 recovery victory being a Diamonds fan looks like being a roller coaster for the year. Having finished very strongly last season Boyle has added to the squad and news of Alan Adamson’s problems for this tie should be music to his ears. Adamson loses Prunty and McBride are suspended whilst Creaney is injured though would have been suspended. Doubtful are Borris, McNiff and Walker and in any SFL squad 5 missing members are significant. Probable home win.
Arbroath v Albion Rovers
Paul Sheerin starts his Second Division campaign at home and against a team that followed them up a division. Whilst Arbroath took Dundee to extra time and then conceded 6 against Livingston, Albion Rovers had a less high scoring cup run against Annan and Falkirk but both clubs are now out of both cups. Like Albion Rovers’ cup game against Annan Athletic this is an interesting tie. The result will determine little but bragging rights however I think Arbroath may edge it.
Brechin v Stenhousemuir
Jim Weir is determined to get beyond the bridesmaid tag and there are few who have not mentioned Brechin City when discussing the destination of this year’s title. Irons will want to build on their defeats of Cowdenbeath and Stirling Albion midweek in the Stirlingshire Cup. Stenny are on a bit of a run just now and could shade it.
Forfar v Cowdenbeath
The Loons have negotiated through both Cups whilst the Blue Brazil got over their Communities Cup exit with an 11–0 thumping of near neighbours, Burntisland Shipyard. Colin Cameron will want to start well in his campaign whilst Dick Campbell knows that a good start will help his team get a good hold on survival. Let us not forget that Forfar only came up from Division Three a season ago. Another intriguing tie and either side winning would not be a surprise.
Stirling v East Fife
John Robertson versus Jocky Scott. Robbo has had an impressive run as the new boss at east Fife whilst Jocky Scott couldn’t stop the rot last year and some of the off field antics at Stirling may get in the way of his attempt to emulate Allan Moore and win promotion from the Second for the Binos. Stirling couldn’t have picked a harder game than East Fife because Robbo has them ready for a promotion push this year. Stirling will probably struggle this year and I wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t start here.
SFL Division Three
Annan Athletic v Queen’s Park
Annan will be looking to their squad of new arrivals and familiar faces to make it through the season. Gardner Speirs will have Jamie Longworth back though will be without Sean Burns, Alan Urquhart, Tony Quinn, Michael O’Hara, Richard Sinclair, Steve Bailiie and Paul Stewart. His team selection will likely be the same as it was at Dingwall but with different opposition will be hoping for a different result. With that many missing Annan should take full advantage.
Clyde v Peterhead
For some the signing or Rory McAllister means Peterhead will stroll this division. Will they nothing… Under achievers, Clyde have doubts over Craig Tully. The Blue Toon will want to prove the odds being quoted for them to win the title are realistic. Jim Duffy knows it will be a tough fixture but John Sheran’s bringing in McAllister alongside Martin Bavidge will probably mean they are in the mix at the end of the season.
East Stirling v Montrose
For East Stirling the news hasn’t got any better for months. Losing their big backer at East Stirling and Montrose losing 11 goals in two games means that this fixture is already the battle of the basement boys. John Coughlin is struggling for game time for his squad and Ryan Frances is suspended for the game. Montrose has lost ten goals in two games so this does look like an opportunity for East Stirling. It’s not an easy one to predict and I aint going to even try…
Elgin City v Berwick Rangers
This is a cracker. Elgin City put out Ross County in the shock of the Ramsdens Cup whilst Berwick put out Partick Thistle last weekend. The two shock cup troops square up against each other up north and Berwick Rangers will be without Lee Currie who is suspended. Another one very difficult to call so let’s keep to the trend I aint going to call it!
Stranraer v Alloa Athletic
Alloa shall be without suspended Craig Campbell and long term injury victim Ross Philp. Stranraer are, like Alloa out of both Cups but suffered the biggest defeat of either weekend when Morton came visiting and thumped them 8-0. All is not rosy in Paul Hartley’s garden after a very impressive pre season so the pressure is on them to produce. They should have enough to make it through the game and come out smiling.