The weekend starts to see teams settling into the top middle and bottom of their respective leagues with the tightness between the teams in abilities being matched by their positions in the league. It all makes for a great weekend of entertainment. With teams regularly putting five or six in their opponents net genuine contests, decent young players and entertaining football is all outside the SPL.
SFL DIVISION ONE
Hamilton Academicals v Livingston
Top of the table Hamilton entertain Livingston at New Douglas Park having secured Greig Spence of Celtic’s signature on a year-long loan. The 19-year-old striker will almost certainly be handed his debut. Billy Reid will be hoping that the loss to Ross County during the week can be wiped out by winning against Livingston. Livingston were put out the cup by SPL opposition so will be looking to build on their 4-2 win against Dundee last week back in the league. Gary Bollan has now injury or suspension worries so this ought to be an entertaining game. Both are capable of goals so let’s hope they provide a few this Saturday!
Ayr United v Raith Rovers
This is John McGlynn’s opportunity to avenge their meek defeat to Ayr United in the Ramsdens Cup a week or so ago. Just to add to Raith’s cup woes they have come off a defeat to Airdrie United in the Scottish Communities Cup. John McGlynn has injury issues too with Iain Davidson looking out the frame and Iain Williamson looking hopeful rather than certain. Somerset park is beginning to look like the place you do not want to be as Inverness Caledonian Thistle can testify after losing 1-0 there during the week. Ayr may be without Alan Trouten but will definitely be without Martyn Campbell who is suspended. This looks like a home win.
Dundee v Greenock Morton
Nobody saw the 4-2 defeat that Dundee suffered at the hands of Livingston last week and some pride was restored in their 1-0 defeat by Aberdeen during the week. The sprit that was so prevalent last year needs a lift and they get Allan Moore’s team on the back of their own defeat to SPL opposition during the week. It was the second time this year Morton had lost to St Mirren and with 13 goals between them over 2 fixtures they have entertained the paying public well. Dundee manager, Barry Smith had hoped to bring in a new face before this game but has failed whilst Allan Moore gave Kevin McCann a deal before the St Mirren game. Also added to the Morton squad will be former Hamilton defender Andy graham but miss out on Sean Fitzharris and Foaud Bachirou. This could go either way but I fancy that Morton’s good start to the season is ready to continue.
Falkirk v Ross County
They may have the same point totals at the moment but their fans expected better from both teams at the beginning of the season. Steven Pressley has fielded an inexperienced squad that suits their nickname The Bairns whilst Derek Adams has found life up north less fruitful than the last time he was up there. Falkirk had a 4 goal cracker at Somerset last week and put out near neighbours Stenhousemuir in the cup midweek. Ross County can claim to be on a mini run after a 2-0 defeat of Queen of the South last weekend and a midweek despatching of fellow First Division team – Hamilton Academicals – in the cup. Striker David Weatherston, Stephen Kingsley and Blair Alston will all face fitness tests for Falkirk. County have their own significant issues with Darren McCormick out unwell, Stuart Kettlewell banned and Iain Vigurs, Sam Morrow and Garry Wood all struggling. This is a hard one to call and a home win looks most likely as the County bandwagon may lose momentum at Falkirk.
Partick Thistle v Queen of the South
The bottom 2 clash at Firhill and both have hopes their seasons could improve. Partick managed a 1-1 draw with Hamilton last week and without cup duty during the week may be the fresher of the two teams. Gus McPherson’s team lost 2-0 last week but avenged that by putting Forfar Athletic pout the cup midweek. Partick should have Christie Elliot playing some part whilst Scott Robertson and Tommy Stewart may play through the pain barrier for their team. Willie Kinniburgh is out injured. Queen of the South welcome back Kevin Smith meaning that only Marc McCusker will be out. Another fascinating tie that could go either way but there may be a bus or two heading south with three points near 5pm Saturday!
SFL DIVISION TWO
Stenhousemuir v Cowdenbeath
It would be hard for Colin Cameron’s team to better last weekend where they demolished Airdrie United at the Shyberry Excelsior. Because of that they sit atop the Second Division. Without a cup game midweek they will travel to a Stenhousemuir who were put out the cup by local neighbours Falkirk. Last weekend Stenny managed to ease a win out Forfar after a 5 goal thriller so hopes are high that there will be goals here. Stenny will be without Grant Plenderleith whilst Cowdenbeath are without Danny McKay, Dene Droudge, Mark Ramsay and Thomas O’Brien but John Armstrong should return. I fully expect Cowdenbeath to still be top at 5pm.
Arbroath v Stirling Albion
Paul Sheerin’s side have started well in the division and they will not fear the visit of Jocky Scott’s men. Unfortunately Kieran McAnespie, Jordan Elfverson and Stuart Malcolm are absent and Mark Baxter is doubtful. The Binos will still be missing Greig MacDonald and he will be joined on the sidelines by Daly McSorley. Arbroath managed a 3-0 win ;last week whilst the Binos were held to a 2-2 draw. It should be a home win and probably will be.
Albion Rovers v Brechin City
Albion Rovers managed a 2-2 draw last week whilst Brechin also drew 3-3 with Dumbarton. Paul Martin’s side nearly had John Gemmell back – he served his time but is out injured! Derek Gaston is back tarning and is in the squad but Michael O’Byrne, Allan Dempsie and Joseph Acquah are all out. Brechin include new signings David Crawford and Scott Smith – both on loan from Hibernian – whilst Jim Lister is still out and Graeme Weir is struggling. Jim Weir will be confident he can rally the troops but Paul Martin is pretty good at that too. May continue their record of decent score draws…
East Fife v Dumbarton
The biggest upset of the week was East Fife dumping SPL Dunfermline out the cup. John Robertson will relish the next round but not be unaware that this tie is equally if not more important. He can welcome back into the squad David Muir and a decision will be taken on Andy Cook. Still out are David White, Mark Ridgers and Scott Dalziel are out, Stevie Campbell, Ryan Wallace and Robert Ogleby are rated doubtful. Dumbarton meanwhile add Alan Lithgow to the sidelined Ryan Borris. It may be the right time to visit Bayview for3 points!
Forfar Athletic v Airdrie United
Airdrie blew away the cobwebs of being thumped by Cowdenbeath by going out and beating Raith Rovers 2-0 in the Cup. Forfar lost at ho me to Stenhousemuir by the odd goal in 5 last week then lost 3-0 to Queen of the South in the cup. They will be without Iain Campbell but could welcome back Martyn Fotheringham. Airdrie United could welcome back Fraser Keast despite being on a stretcher on Tuesday night in the cup! Ally Woodburn, Graham Goodall and John Boyle remain injured. Yet another intriguing tie where I expect an away win.
Annan Athletic v Clyde
Top of the table Annan Athletic set out to preserve their 100% start to the season against 2nd placed Clyde. A top of the table clash is always good this early in the season and Annan report mixed preparations for the tie. Scott Gibson is suspended, Sean O’Connor a doubt and Bryan Gilfillan is back. Similarly Clyde have doubts over Stephen McDonald after he was stretchered off in their defeat by Motherwell in the cup, John Sweeney is a doubt, Pat Scullion is out as will Paul McMillan but Felip Mentel is back. I expect it to be 4 out of 4 at the end of the day.
Elgin City v East Stirlingshire
Both teams were involved in 2-0 games last week though Elgin won theirs East Stirling lost theirs. Elgin wlll be without Brian Cameron who sits it out alongside Steven Edwards and Zander Jack. East Stirling are missing Nico Gibson and Steven Jackson. It’s a home win for me.
Alloa Athletic v Peterhead
Paul Hartley will not be fooled by where his side are sitting. He needs to get some points on the board as soon as possible and will fancy a home game to achieve them now. Last weekend they fell to Annan whilst Peterhead got their first win of the league season under John Sheran away to East Stirling. Neither team reports injury concerns and I expect a home win.
Montrose v Stranraer
Stranraer’s win against Berwick Rangers last weekend will boost them after a very shaky start to the season whilst Montrose lost 1-0 to Clyde. Montrose will be without Paul Lunan – suspended – whilst Jamie Winter is struggling. Stranraer have Michael Moore and Steven Noble back whilst trialist David McGregor will be back in the Blues’ defence. Ray Farningham has always had his work cut out and I expect this weekend will make it harder and not easier.
Queens Park v Berwick Rangers
Both teams lost last weekend and neither an afford to keep that going in a league where no fewer than 6 teams are on 3 points. Queens will welcome back Tony Quinn, Alan Urquhart and David Anderson which will be a boost. What is not so great is the absence of Craig Smith and Giuseppe Capuano alongside Michael O’Hara and Steven Baillie. Berwick will welcome back Kevin McDonald with only Ian McAldon absent from the squad. Berwick will fancy their chances and so do I!