In Division One there are only thee games to be played and the chasing pack of Dundee and Falkirk will look on as Ross County will seek to make one of their games in hand count. At the other end Ayr’s semi final appearance means that both Raith and Queen of the South could capitalise and leave Ayr holding up the rest of the table albeit with many games in hand.
In Division Two Cowdenbeath are looking to bounce back from their 1-0 defeat to Forfar Athletic last week. With 5 points of a cushion already the Blue Brazil will want to get further ahead. The top two – Cowdenbeath and Arbroath – are far enough ahead that the real contest is below them as no fewer than seven clubs have realistic chances of making the play off places.
In Division Three Alloa and Annan Athletic – the two early front-runners – are now separated by 8 points as Harry Cairney’s side’s slump has seen them fall behind. So there are plenty of opportunities for the other teams around them to take advantage. The slump does not make his side a bad side but confidence must return or else the likes of Elgin and Berwick will take advantage. An intriguing contest…
SFL DIVISION ONE
The league leaders will entertain a team that this time last year was chasing- ultimately successfully – their second promotion in two years in Ross County v Livingston. County do not have midfielder Paul Lawson or defenders Jonathon Flynn nor Marc Fitzpatrick. Livi have Mark Fotheringham back but it will be a tall order for Livingston to take the Dingwall men’s record of not losing at home this year so a home win is expected. New Douglas Park welcomes a relegation threatened team as Billy Reid hopes home advantage continues their revival as Hamilton Academical v Raith Rovers would see a Hamilton win put them in the top 4. For any other team to win this division apart from Ross County would take a collapse at Dingwall and more consistency than has been shown by Hamilton and the rest but this is the type of game Hamilton should win. Mark McLaughlin is in line to return to the centre of defence and with Alex Neil and Thomas Cerny also back in the line up they look far more solid than they had at the beginning of the season. Raith will be missing Scott McBride up front, defender Dougie Hill and Brian Graham. Looks like another home win to me.
Finally in the First Division, Queen of the South v Greenock Morton sees a repeat of the fixture that earlier in the season saw top being thumped by the bottom 4-1. Sam Parkin is expected to make his debut for Queens as Marc McCusker and Kevin Smith are both out. Also unavailable are Stephen McKenna and Craig Reid. For Morton there will be no Thomas O’Ware joining Stuart McCaffrey and Ross Forsyth already out. It is hoped that Grant Evans will come through a late fitness test to make it for the Greenock men. Hard one to call as both will desperately be seeking the win so may end up being a draw.
SFL DIVISION TWO
The Division Two league leaders head into Cowdenbeath v Albion Rovers after their defeat last week away to Forfar Athletic hoping to make amends and give themselves a bigger cushion at the top. There are hopes they will sign SPL youngster Gary Fisher on loan from KIllie for this game whilst Colin Cameron is out as well as defender Thomas O’Brien. Paul Martin’s side lost during the week making it 5 defeats in a row. They await news on Goalkeeper Derek Galston and defender Alan Reid whilst the injury list is long and concerning. Rovers need to stop the rot before it becomes more serious and this could be a cracker of a tie. Unfortunately for Albion it may be memorable for all the wrong reasons.
Second place Arbroath travel across the country to battle Jim Weir’s side in an attempt to gain some ground on Cowdenbeath in Brechin City v Arbroath. Graham Weir is an absentee for the home side and Rory McKenzie is another Killie youngster looking to go out on loan – this time at Glebe Park. Also out for Brechin are Gerry McLachlan and Derek Carcary as Brechin look to try to get back into the play off spots. Arbroath won 6-1 last weekend so hopes will be high that they can maintain that level of form and performance. Injuries keep out goalkeeper Michael White and Jordan Elfverson but Paul Sheerin will manage to put up a fight at Glebe that should see them through with another 3 points, putting more pressure on Cowdenbeath. Third positioned Stenhousemuir have a difficult home game in Stenhousemuir v East Fife with Eric Paton, Stevie Murray and Iain Thomson back along with Motherwell loanee Gary Smith likely to make his debut. That would have made them confident until the news that experienced defender Martyn Corrigan is out. East Fife are missing Darren McCormack and Ryan Wallace. This is a vital clash for both teams though the dismal recent form of Stenhousemuir should end soon… shouldn’t it?
With Forfar Athletic v Dumbarton late fitness tests are being given to David Mowat, Martyn Fotheringham and Iain Campbell. Forfar’s week has mirrored their season as they beat the league leaders last weekend then lost a 2 goal lead against Stirling midweek to draw. Dumbarton are awaiting news of the fitness of influential midfielder Scott Agnew with doubts also over striker Pat Walker and Ryan Finnie. Dumbarton have been dogged this season with a tough season that may end up with them in a play off place by the skin of their teeth or sit outside it dependant upon whether they can find a bit of form. A tough ask for both to win today but I do think Dumbarton could be returning with a win in hand. Finally Airdrie United v Stirling Albion has one of those conundrums that ends up on trivia games. Cameron MacDonald was sent off last week for Airdrie United but will not serve his ban because he wasn’t signed! So he plays today as a trialist. On loan goalkeeper Grant Adam is also in the squad but Jimmy Boyle will be without Kevin Green and Kieron Stallard. The Binos have signed Graham Weir on loan from Brechin to help their bid to stay in the division. Sam Filler is the only player unavailable to Greig McDonald as he attempts to continue his impressive starts as the Binos’ boss. Jimmy Boyle may just have enough though to make this a home win.
SFL DIVISION THREE
League leaders, Alloa Athletic are at home today against a misfiring side that needs the win. Alloa Athletic v Montrose will see Ross McKinnon – on loan from Motherwell – in for a debut whilst Kevin McHattie has returned to Hearts. Both Ross and Ryan McCord are injured and beating Stranraer 4-0 last week must be a boost rather than allowing Paul Hartley’s side to relax. Montrose are without David Di Milta for this clash and Ray Farningham is looking for better application from his team. It’s a difficult rather than impossible tie for the Division Three leaders and I think it could be an interesting result… For second Place Stranraer they are also at home as Stranraer v Elgin City sees the return of Chris Aitken to the south west side. The game passed a 7am inspection so Elgin travel with Paul Millar a doubt, Paul Kaczan, Blair Lawrie and Steven Edwards out. Stranraer should therefore recover from their 4-0 mauling last weekend.
Up north Peterhead v Queens Park has Scott Ross suspended for the home side but Jim McInally has moved Paul Watson, Alan Rattray and Aaron Conway out to the Juniors. Both teams are in form and a good contest is expected. Queens Park are without Paul Stewart, Jamie Brough and David Murray and are wary of this long trek. I think it may be a fruitless task and Peterhead will continue their revival. Annan Athletic v East Stirlingshire has Harry Cairney hoping to have a familiar trialist in David Winters for the last time but there has been interest from elsewhere for the experienced player. Sean O’Connor and Aaron Muirhead will face late fitness tests whilst Graeme Bell and John MacBeth are out. Annan are faltering and need the win. East Stirling are looking for their first away win of the season and John Coughlin has not got problems to seek. Home win anyone?
Finally Clyde v Berwick Rangers sees the home side without defenders Gavin Brown and Declan Gallacher though Iain Gray is available. Berwick are missing striker Daniel Lavery and midfielder Kevin McDonald whilst defender Chris McLeod and midfielder Ross Gray are back. Both are desperate for a win so it may end up a draw…