SFL DIVISION ONE
The top of the table has a home game as Ross County v Greenock Morton has County without Jonny Flynn and Marc Fitzpatrick. County have not lost in 3 but have also not won in 3. The chasing pack have failed to take significant advantage of this so Derek Adams will be hoping for the opportunity to put a win on the board to create some distance from Dingwall. Allan Moore has not had his injury problems to seek and the news this week is even worse for him. Who knows what a fully fit squad would have done for the Greenock club this season. Stuart McCaffrey is now out for the rest of the campaign and Andy Jackson is out for a month due to a fractured jaw. With Ross Forsyth also on the sidelines Moore had already lost influence and experience and now an on form striker from his squad. This could be 17th game in a row for County without a loss as Morton might be stuffy enough for a draw. Raith Rovers v Falkirk sees second place Falkirk visiting a Raith side also struggling with injuries. Brian Graham, Scott McBride and Dougie Hill are on the sidelines and John McGlynn will want to build on last week’s draw against Morton last weekend as they need the points. Steven Pressley is without Ryan Miller but Jay Fulton is back and their draw last weekend against Ayr United where they slaughtered Ayr 0-0 could be a distant memory as their style of play and it being an East Coast derby should see them through.
Friday night experiments aside the Partick Thistle v Dundee game has Jackie MacNamara’s side back on a Saturday. They are looking to entertain Dundee at home without captain Alan Archibald or midfielder Iain Flannigan. Willie Kinniburgh has been tipped for a return. The last 2 games for Thistle have not been good as late winners have seen them lose both. Barry Smith’s side are only without influential Nicky Riley. Thistle will be hoping that after Dundee lost to Kilmarnock in the cup replay midweek that they are suffering and give in to the charms of the mighty Jags. It may be Thistle’s day or else it could be a turning point and they go on the slide. Down the coast Ayr United v Hamilton Academical sees two loanees welcomed at Ayr United from Blackpool as youngster Liam Tomsett joins along with Adam Dodd who is already there. Ayr United do have a big game next week and that could be significant with the semi final against Kilmarnock at Hamden next Saturday. With Ayr’s see saw form this season this could be good or bad for the club. Hamilton have lost Dougie Imrie who has now signed for St Mirren and Mark McLaughlin is starting a 2 game ban. They add into their squad loanees Danny Redmond and Jon McShane and the highly influential Alex Neil so should come back with another victory under their belt to go with last week’s late show against Partick Thistle.
Finally Livingston v Queen of the South features the other team that come up from the 2nd Division from last season and there was great hope for their participation in the first division. Livingston have hit indifferent form and will be missing Mark Fotheringham but should welcome back Jason Talbot. Queen’s have had a strange season thus far as they have see- sawed from great results to great defeats. Gus McPherson has been talking of seeing a turning of the corner but without strikers Marc McCusker and Kevin Smith their draw against Ross County last week should be a huge boost but their defence may be the heroes for them rather than the front men. Another draw methinks?
SFL DIVISION TWO
It’s an easy away game on paper but Forfar won’t like that as we have Forfar Athletic v Cowdenbeath and top versus bottom for Dick Campbell’s men. Bradley Coyne from St Mirren goes straight into Dick Campbell’s squad as they seek to build on last week’s win and get off the bottom at last. There are some doubts over David Mowat, Martyn Fotheringham and Iain Campbell for the home side whilst Colin Cameron has doubts over Kenny Adamson and Thomas O’Brien is an absentee. Greg Stewart should be back and David Cowan has signed an extension till the end of this campaign. Easy on paper? Harder on grass. But an away win for me nonetheless. Chasing second place Arbroath have an equally tricky tie in Arbroath v Albion Rovers. The home side are without Jordan Elfverson and need this victory after a very bad run. Paul Sheerin has been looking to add to his squad, the Cup tie versus Rangers surely giving him the cash to splash. The 2 teams who came up from the 3rd last year have been welcome additions to the 2nd division this year and Paul Martin will be looking to add new signing Sean Pierce as Barry Russell is out and spookily like Paul Sheerin Martin thinks he may have another new face on loan before the kick off. This is a really hard one to call and the easy prediction would be a home win….
Jim Weir’s side are looking to get back into the play offs and there is not a better time to do it than now with Brechin City v Stenhousemuir an opportunity to grab 3 points and peg back your rivals for a play off spot. Currently 4 points between them, Brechin are without Derek Carcary and Gerry McLachlan though there are hopes he will see Jim Lister and Bryan Hodge back. Davie Irons meanwhile has Gary Smith on loan from Motherwell whilst saying goodbye to Paul Quinn who was released. Andy Rodgers is back but doubts remain over Stevie Murray, Iain Thompson and Eric Paton. Might be the best time to catch Stenny – literally – for Jim Weir’s side. Another game with play off implications is at the Shyberry Excelsior as Airdrie United look to bounce back. Airdrie United v Dumbarton pits two teams that need the points to keep up the momentum towards play off places. Jimmy Boyle for Airdrie United is struggling to get new players in and Boyle has targeted a goalkeeper and a defender as priorities. Graeme Owens is the doubt for his team whilst Alan Adamson is without Kieran Brannan but welcomes back Martin McNiff and Kevin Nicoll. Dumbarton are hoping to sign a striker before the start of this game. This should be a very open game and who wins it is anyone’s guess… so will leave that up to you!
Finally Greig MacDonald has seen his side play for 90 minutes not once but twice and win both. This weekend Stirling Albion v East Fife sees him going for his 4th win on the trot. He will be without John Cawley and goalkeeper Sam Filler. East Fife will hopefully welcome back Darren Smith and David Muir. John Robertson knows that this is a tricky tie and will be well prepared to take 3 points away with them. I expect Stirling to go back to losing ways…
SFL DIVISION THREE
It is the clash of the day in the SFL as the top 2 meet with Stranraer v Alloa Athletic. Apart from an entertaining tie if Paul Hartley’s team win they will have beaten their two main rivals and cement their favourite tag. Stranraer are, however, no pushover and are only without Chris Aitken whilst Alloa have managed to secure Stephen May till the end of the season whilst Ben Gordon returns but Ross McCord is out. This should be a cracker and I expect Alloa to come away with the win or a high scoring draw. As the top two meet 3rd place plays 4th as Annan Athletic v Queen’s Park is just along the border from the Stranraer tie. John Macbeth is out for Annan which is a big blow as there will be fitness tests for Ian Harty, Sean O’Connor, Graeme Bell and Peter Watson. Queen’s Park had that 6-0 thrashing of Elgin last week and should be confident. They will start without David Murray, Jamie Brough and Paul Stewart. It is thought that the big waiting list of fit again players will find themselves short of match fitness for this one though Gardner Speirs should see Paul Gallagher and Sean Burns back. For me a home win and Annan get back on track…
Elgin City v Berwick Rangers sees 5th versus 6th and Elgin went home to lick their wounds last weekend after that 6-0 gubbing at Hamden. Blair Cameron and Bryan Cameron are back for Elgin though Paul Kaczan and Steven Edwards are both still out. Berwick will arrive up north without Elliot Smith, on loan Ross Gray and Chris McLeod. Berwick need the win but that trip north can take its toll. Could be an Elgin bounce back or a draw… Clyde v Peterhead has Clyde hoping to welcome Keiran Brannan on loan from Dumbarton to join John Sweeney’s return whilst Declan Gallacher and Gavin Brown remain out. Peterhead have finally hit some form and will want to make it their 3rd victory in a row. In come Dundee loanee Graham Webster, David Ross, Rory McAllister and Scott Ross. Looks like a likely away win for me and the march of the Blue Toon continues.
Finally we have East Stirlingshire v Montrose where the home side hope to have Graham Ramage on loan from Dumbarton as well as Lewis Horner from Hibs. Ryan Frances is out. It’s a numbers game for East Stirling boss John Coughlin as his squad has been that light it could appear on a weightwatchers’ diet. Montrose will be without Sean Pierce who has now joined Albion Rovers and David Milta who is injured. Paul Lunan and Alan Campbell look to be available as Ray Farningham looks to try to find the spark to climb the league. These games are quite hard to predict as they are by nature… unpredictable. There is little to be fought over apart from pride though I do think Montrose would be gutted not to come away with something. I think they will…