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SFL Weekend Preview – Saturday 17th March 2012

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After a week in which the Dens Park electric meter failed to light the floodlights, Morton managed a miraculous comeback that pulled them further away from relegation, Ross County notified the SPL they are considering ground share with Inverness and there was some shenanigans in Govan we return to an almost full card in all 3 SFL divisions. The Friday night experiment was due for its next instalment last night but a water logged pitch meant that Livingston v Hamilton might be held today instead…. But what of the rest?

SFL DIVISION ONE

Peter Weatherston’s last gasp penalty for Greenock Morton midweek against Ross County managed to complete a terrific comeback for the West Coast side up in Dingwall. It was the 2nd goal in the final 3 minutes and demonstrated once again how tight the league is and the quality of the product on offer. County must pick themselves up quickly as they have another home game on the horizon with Ross County v Falkirk. Ian Vigurs is suspended, Marc Fitzpatrick returns but David McNamee is injured for Derek Adams whilst the Irn Bru Manager of the Month, Steven Pressley is missing Darren Dods and Kieran Duffie. This is the game of the day without a shadow of a doubt in the 1st and for those of us wanting a more competitive end to the season we shall be Bairns for the day. 1st v 2nd at any time can be special and here’s hoping the away side snatch it. Greenock Morton v Dundee has Allan Moore’s side wanting to capitalise on their midweek draw whilst entertaining 3rd place Dundee. Alan Combe has signed on for the Ton in what must be one of the only clubs in Scotland for whom he has not already played. Stuart McCaffrey, like a stuck record, is missing whilst there are doubts over Paul Di Giacomo and Derek Young. Moore may have Iain Flannigan in as a trialist again. Dundee welcome back Jake Hyde though Steven Milne is struggling and Nicky Riley remains out for the Dark Blues. Dundee won last time out at Cappielow and I would expect them to do so again.

Queen of the South v Partick Thistle has Gus McPherson’s side hoping to show that last week’s victory against Raith was no fluke. They won that big game and must hope they can take this one in equal style. They will have to do so without Marc McCusker and possibly Kevin Smith but I have always said that the Doonhamers will rise thanks to the quality of the coaching staff and here they may surprise once again. Conrad Balatoni, Kai Naismith and now Ryan Fox look like they will be absent whilst Willie Kinniburgh looks likely to return. Home win on the cards for me or a dour draw. Finally the game at the bottom worth watching is Raith Rovers v Ayr United. John McGlynn is only waiting on the fitness of the goalkeeper David McGurn. He has the rest of his squad from which to choose and Raith need this win like no other. United are without Andy Geggan, Martyn Campbell, Sean Higgins and Alan Trouten. Mark Roberts should return whilst John Robertson might return so Brian Reid has more than his share of woes at his door and does not need to seek any more. Ayr also need the victory so a draw seems likely here…

SFL DIVISION TWO

Yet another top of the table class sees Cowdenbeath v Stenhousemuir as 1st play 4thin the 2nd. Cowdenbeath have continued their great form of late and will be odds on favourites for this to continue as Stenny have faltered, stuttered and are in danger of falling before the final hurdle. David Cowan is a doubt for Cowdenbeath and could join Dean Brett on the sidelines if he doesn’t make it. Davie Iron’s side look likely to be without Eric Paton and Michael Devlin as well as Brown Ferguson and Sean Dickson. If it feels like a home win and looks like a home win it can only be… Stirling Albion v Arbroath has two side whose stories this year have been fascinating. The Binos are Scotland’s experiment in fan ownership whilst Arbroath are the winners of the 3rd Division making life look comfortable in the 2nd with a rookie manager. Shaun Fagan is back for Stirling whilst Shaun Dillon, Brian Allison, Alan Cook, Joshua Flood, Andy Hunter and Craig McLeish look likely to miss out. Craig Wedderburn looks like he is back for Arbroath but Jordan Elfverson is still out. Arbroath need the win to maintain the pressure on Cowdenbeath whilst Stirling are desperate to get away from relegation so this ought to be a cracker… It’s my game of the day so is odds on to be a dour affair… but I think by an odd goal, it will be an away win.

Dumbarton v East Fife has 3rd placed Dumbarton hoping to maintain their play off status without breaking sweat. East Fife need the win to keep up their hopes of a play off spot and will hope that Cowdenbeath help them out by beating Stenhousemuir. Alan Adamson awaits international clearance for Arlan Mptata as he looks round a very depleted squad with no fewer than 4 players unlikely to be available. The Fifers have Paul McQuade and John Ovenstone back but are without Craig Johnstone and Stevie Campbell. Stevie Hislop and David Muir are doubts so this could be the equivalent of a hospital game! I think East Fife have the desire but the Sons may just have the personnel so will go with a slim home win. Brechin City v Albion Rovers is an intriguing tie as Paul McManus may join David McClune and Derek Carcary on the sidelines for Jim Weir’s side. Gerry McLauchlan is due to return. City need to win to keep up any hopes of promotion whilst Rovers need this to get away from the bottom.  Rovers have an appalling away record in the league so a home victory is the most likely scenario.

Finally Airdrie United v Forfar Athletic sees Ryan Donnelly back and only Graeme Owens missing for Airdrie so they should be in very decent shape. Forfar meanwhile are without Chris Templeman, Joe Shaughnessy, Iain Campbell, Jamie Bishop and Chris Hegarty. These have been high scoring affairs this year but the tightness of the league now suggests it might be more sedate. Home advantage should see Airdrie continue their unbeaten run.

SFL DIVISION THREE

In form teams clashing usually mean a cracking tie or a dour disappointment. Peterhead v Alloa Athletic should hopefully be the former as the Blue Toon look continue a decent run of form and Paul Hartley’s side gallop towards the title. Peterhead have Callum MacDonald back but they will be without Scott Ross, David Ross, Graham Webster and Ross Smith. Alloa have no such concerns. Fully fit they demonstrate what can be done with a squad free of injury and suspension. This looks like an away win but I would not like to bet against Jim McInally’s side. Without much to play for they are making real headway and in my 3rd Division game of the day could surprise us all.

A Peterhead win would make life interesting for 2nd placed Stranraer as they are involved in Stranraer v Montrose. This should be a straightforward victory for the home side as they are only without Grant Gallagher. Montrose have really struggled this weather and are without Paul Lunan whilst Alan Campbell is back. Home win for me. Berwick Rangers v Queens Park sees Youssef Bejaoui on loan from Cowdenbeath as cover in nets for Berwick and Darren Gribben back. Chris McLeod is out. Queens Park are without Paul McGinn and Neil Parry so in come Jamie Brough and Adam Strain. Craig Smith and David Murray are also out. This is a hard one to call as the Spiders should have the edge but the Borderers have been in decent form of late so will go for a home win… or a draw… or maybe an away win…

East Stirlingshire v Elgin City has Lewis Horner, Scott Maxwell and Jamie Glasgow in the squad for the home side whilst Alex Lurinsky appears to be injured. Elgin should welcome Alex Cooper in on loan from Ross County whilst Paul Kaczan, Stuart Leslie and Ross O’Donoghue are missing and Brian Cameron is a doubt. An away win is needed to make the play off sprint interesting whilst a home win might upset the bookies. I cannot see past an away win though. Finally Clyde v Annan Athletic has John O’Neill and Jason Marr facing fitness tests for Clyde as they are already without Kieran Brannan, Kris Irvine, Daniel Fitzpatrick and Gavin Brown. Annan are awaiting news on Sean O’Connor whilst Graeme Bell may also join Bryan Gilfillan and Jordan McKechnie out of the squad. Annan have hit a dismal run of form and will be desperate to get out that rut before their play off hopes are dashed. Clyde just want away from the bottom. For me it looks like an away win but the Bully Wee could take something from the game so possibly a draw.

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About Author

A lifelong supporter, since seeing Alex Ferguson play for them, of Ayr United he now contributes here, at KickTalk and Ringside Reports for things sporty. He is also a theatrical type and an educationalist. As an Ayr fan he clearly can explain the inexplicable, place fanatical faith in the most fantastic of dreams and deal with dark periods of depression and disappointment. Perfect as a teacher..

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