SFL DIVISION ONE
Friday night football came once again to the SFL and Hamilton 1 Partick Thistle 0 will keep the Reid household happy today. Nearly 2,500 were at New Douglas Park to see a late Greig Spence goal see off the Jags in what must be a welcome relief for Accies. Alan Archibald got sent off in the dying minutes for a challenge on Dundee United target Dougie Imrie.
League leaders Ross County head furthest south in division one as they are in Dumfries for Queen of the South v Ross County. Gus McPherson has problems up front as Marc McCusker and Kevin Smith are injured. At the other end Roddy MacKenzie left Queens this week so he will have a youngster in nets for the visit of County – not ideal preparation at all. Ross County have different concerns up front as Michael Gardyne signed a pre contract agreement with Dundee united this week but will be in the squad. Marc Fitzpatrick and Jonny Flynn in defence remain out though. Second place Falkirk are at home in the Falkirk v Ayr United clash. Jordan White has been added to Stephen Pressley’s side as well as Jay Fulton and the Bairns seem to be at full strength. Ayr United will have Alan Trouten out along with long tem casualties, Dean Keenan and Martyn Campbell. They have been in the market this week and hope to have loan signing Adam Dodds from Blackpool in the squad. Looks like a tough one for the visitors and though it is a pre run of the next round of the Scottish Cup I expect a home victory!
Dundee v Livingston sees the team that held SPL Kilmarnock play the team that lost to Ayr United last week in the Cup. On the basis of the form we should see a home win, however Livingston have shown much more resilience than that this season. Dundee have only got one worry – the fitness of Nicky Riley so should be in fine spirits. Kenny Deucher and Maurice Ross are back but it looks like they will have to do without Jason Talbot and Jonny Brown. Cammy MacDonald has left the club. I would still think the Dark Blues are the stronger side here. From a pre run to a rerun as Greenock Morton v Raith Rovers sees the two clubs who faced each other at Kirkcaldy last weekend face each other, this time at Greenock. Allan Moore continues without Ross Forsyth and Stuart McCaffrey at the back whilst Grant Evans is also now a doubt. John McGlynn has his own absentees in Scott McBride, Dougie Hill and Brian Graham. Could be a repeat of last week and the away team take the game!
SFL DIVISION TWO
In the cup last weekend Hibernian were introduced to the hard working and well organised team that are leading the Second Division. Unfortunately for Colin Cameron’s men it was not to be a giant killing weekend for them and returning to league duty for Cowdenbeath v Airdrie United sees them add Derek Lyle and Liam Cusack to their squad. Jon Robertson, Mark Ramsay and Greg Stewart are out whilst there are major doubts over Joe Mbu, Marc McKenzie, Scott Linton and Lewis Coult so Cowdenbeath have got some serious issues there! Airdrie have only got Graeme Owens out whilst goalkeeper Paul McKane has been released. This could be the hangover after the party and I think Jimmy Boyle’s side – after their 6-2 thrashing from Dundee United – might prove a stern test for the Blue Brazil. East Fife v Arbroath will also prove a stern test for the top of the league team as John Robertson could have Scott Dalziel back though may be without Darren Smith and David Muir who both face late fitness tests. Paul Sheerin has the same squad as faced Rangers last weekend but East Fife know that they have no cup exploits to entertain this season now and it is all about the league. It may be a tough ask but they targeted the play offs, many thought them well capable and their cup runs and occasional flurry in the league have made us feel we weren’t nuts to think so. I expect this to be a home win and upset the Arbroath apple cart…
Stenhousemuir v Forfar Athletic has Stenny without the suspended Andy Rodgers and possibly Eric Paton and David Murray. Davie Irons will want to make Ochilview a hard place to come to in the run up to the end of the season. Forfar look less of a prospect than they certainly did last season and they have 3 loanees back in the squad today in Marc McCallum, Nicky Low and Joe Shaugnessy. Forfar may be fed up at the bottom of the league but it is hard to see them climbing from today… Dumbarton v Brechin City has Jim Weir’s side hoping to continue their climb back up the league with an away win. Dumbarton have added Ryan Finnie to their squad who is on loan from Hamilton whilst they are without Kevin McNiff and Kevin Nicol. Brechin are without Derek Carcary and await news on David McClune, Sandy Hodge, Scott Buist and Jim Lister. Tough call and could be a fairly evenly matched contest leaving a draw the most likely possibility.
Finally Albion Rovers v Stirling Albion has Paul Martin’s side determined to get back into the play off places once again and climb back up the table. Shaun Dillon and Sam Filler are still out for Stirling and after the 3-1 win against Stenhousemuir on 2nd January I do expect this to be far tougher. For me a home win.
SFL DIVISION THREE
Table toppers Stranraer travel along and across the border to take on Berwick in Berwick Rangers v Stranraer. Right now Stranraer are on fire up front and apart from long term injury victim Chris Aitken they are fully fit. Berwick are without winger Ross Gray, Elliot Smith and Chris McLeod. It should be a very open game and expect some goals. (Famous last words…) I think an away win. The game of the day has to be the two teams that have jousted at the top for most of the season so far. Whilst it could never be called a six pointer, this could define who is likely to be at the top and who will be in the play offs at the end of the season. No disrespect to Stranraer but both these teams have shown a willingness and desire to compete at the top and I fully expect one of them to be Champions. Alloa Athletic v Annan Athletic has all the elements of a very decent drama. Alloa are without Ben Gordon and Ross McCord as well as Fraser Forrest who retired from football this week de to a back injury. Alloa have never beaten Annan so this adds spice to the whole encounter too! Anna hope to add in loanee – from Carlisle United – Ben McKenna whilst being without John MacBeth and awaiting news of Sean O’Connor, Bryan Gilfillan, Gary Wild and Graeme Bell. This ought to be the game of the day in the SFL and I suspect that Paul Hartley’s men have the beating of Harry Cairney’s
Queens Park v Elgin City sees the fourth placed Spiders entertain an Elgin side who have pretensions for the play off spot. Queen’s may well be without Craig Smith and there is no place for long term absentees including Tony Quinn, Michael O’Hara, Guiseppe Capouano and Steven Baillie. Elgin add in Mark Durnan, Zander Clark, but are missing Steven Edwards, Paul Kaczan and Blair Lawrie. It may be too much for the Elgin squad to overturn home advantage so will plump for the easy option of a home win. Montrose v Clyde has mid table, mid season blues written all over it. Montrose have Garry Wood in alongside Stephen McNally back after injury but no Paul Lunan or Alan Campbell. Clyde have problems up front after both Liam Cusack and Jordan White have transferred out. There is doubt over Jason Marr whilst John Sweeney is suspended but they have loanee Dale Fulton in from Falkirk. This should see them through and I expect an away win
Finally the bottom of the SFL clash – Peterhead v East Stirlingshire has Jim McInally’s side without Rory McAllister and other striker David Ross out through injury. This is critical to the Blue Toon’s season as they could get off the foot of the table. East Stirling are without Ryan Frances and Bradley Coyne is back at St Mirren after his loan deal so will find it tough up north. I expect East Stirling to end up the strongest in the SFL at the end of the day – holding everyone else up…