We are closer and closer to crowning three champions with some requiring a minimum of three wins in remaining fixtures to achieve their crowns. Others require slightly longer and it is a chase for each to beat Celtic to a title. Ross County have had their ground share plans for next year approved by the SPL so there is no doubt where they may end up after promotion. Cowdenbeath with the slimmest margin of the top three clubs are closer to making a return to the First Division and may be the last to be crowned. Alloa get closer week by week to their straight return to the second.
RAMSDENS CUP FINAL
It may be April Fool’s Day for the rest of us but for Steven Pressley and Billy Reid it is the opportunity for both to bag the next silverware of the season. The final is in Livingston, at the Almondvale Stadium and Falkirk v Hamilton Academical is an opportunity for both sides to make this season worthwhile. Both have failed to gain a real foothold on promotion though Falkirk have made the better fist of it all. With the final being broadcast live on BBC ALBA you can catch the whole thing on TV. Falkirk have won the trophy on three occasions whilst Accies only twice. Prediction? Accies’ third triumph.
SFL DIVISION ONE
Midweek Dundee boosted their slim promotion chances with a 4-1 demolition of Ayr United. The last time these 2 had been due to meet the floodlights had failed. This time out nothing failed for the Dees as they were clinical towards the end of the game. The scoreline certainly flattered them but there was no doubt who deserved to win. It means this weekend could see Ross County come within one victory of the title. At the bottom intrigue and calculators abound as all three bottom of the table clubs have games to be played, each desperately needing the win.
GAME OF THE DAY – Queen of the South v Ayr United
For me the one game where there is genuine edge and competition has the two south west rivals in a game that could see Queens drifting and Ayr climbing closer to safety. Of course it could end up with the whole thing squashing back up again. Gus McPherson will see out the game without Marc McCusker and Kevin Smith whilst Ayr’s list of missing players includes Eddie Malone, Liam Tomsett, Martyn Campbell, Michael McGowan and Jamie McKernon. Many games where you think they are going to be full on battles can turn out damp squibs but the spoils for each are huge and should lead to an entertaining tie if not a lot of goals. Queens have shipped eight in the last two games whilst Ayr lost four midweek so as long as their strikers can hit the target we should have excitement in Dumfries!
Ross County v Raith Rovers has an equal amount of intrigue as the top team battles against the second bottom club. David McNamee and Colin McMenamin are out for County whilst Raith, significantly, will be without Brain Graham and John Baird. Missing two key players could not come at a worst time for John McGlynn and with Derek Adam’s side riding high this should be a home win in Dingwall. Finally Partick Thistle v Livingston is a game where pride and next year is possibly the sole incentive for each team. That having been said both John Hughes and Jackie McNamara will not allow either squad to become complacent or put on less than professional performances. Livi, after their 5-2 win against Falkirk last week are looking for consistency but will have to find it without Jason Talbot. They have added to the squad with Kevin McCann, Craig Barr and Paul Watson. Thistle will be missing Aaron Sinclair, Conrad Balatoni and Darren Cole. They have added Mark McGuigan and John Robertson. This should be an entertaining game with both teams capable of the highest quality but both have league positions that suggest inconsistency has plagued them. It makes this difficult to call so let’s hope for a high scoring and dramatic draw.
SFL DIVISION TWO
Cowdenbeath have a 7 point gap at the top whilst Arbroath could secure their play off spot this weekend. Dumbarton may struggle to achieve the play offs following their recent slide and one of three clubs below them could challenge Stenhousemuir for their coveted place. Down the bottom there are problems at both the Albions and this weekend could make them worse as there are no easy ties in the Second Division.
GAME OF THE DAY – East Fife v Stenhousemuir
There are simply five goals between these two sides as they are equal on points and separated on goal difference. Stenny are in the driving seat but East Fife’s new manager Gordon Durie has had a decent record thus far and guiding them into the play off spot would be some achievement. East Fife have a full squad from which to pick whilst Davie Irons has dipped into the loan market to help his sliding side. Grant Anderson and Kieran Miller from Hamilton are joined by Nicky Devlin from Motherwell. Brown Ferguson, Eric Paton, Michael Devlin and Sean Dickson are all doubts for him and this could be a crucial test of nerve for the team. A home win would make life in the second that much more interesting…
Albion Rovers v Cowdenbeath has away win written all over it as top plays second bottom. Todd Lumsden could be back for Paul Martin’s side though he should be without Ciaran Donnelly. Colin Cameron meanwhile hopefully has Jon Robertson back but may be without David Cowan. The Blue Brazil are on fine form but the wee Rovers have excellent battling qualities that could make for a tight game. I still fancy an away win though a home win would make the season much more interesting. Arbroath v Brechin City sees the second placed Red Lichties host a team desperate to make the play offs and in real need of a morale boosting three points. Charlie King may be joining David McClune and Derek Carcary on the sidelines whilst Kieran McAnespie and Jordan Elfverson are out for Arbroath. Paul Sheerin may think that as long as it is mathematically achievable to catch Cowdenbeath it is still possible but the rest of us have our doubts. For me therefore this could be an away win as there are more realistic chances of Brechin closing their four point gap to the play offs than Arbroath catching Cowdenbeath.
Dumbarton v Forfar Athletic is another intriguing tie as the Sons are struggling to shake off a really bad run of form. As they have had a challenging fixture list recently Alan Adamson refuses to push the panic button but they must take a home win today. They hope on loan youngster from St Mirren Mark Lamont is fit whilst back from Scotland duty, Stephen Finnie, goes straight into the squad. Forfar have Paul McKane, Ross Hegarty, Chris Ross and Ross Campbell all back so it could be a tough tie for Dumbarton. Still think it will be a home win. Finally Stirling Albion v Airdrie United has the Diamonds decimated. Scott Morton, Scott Sally, Paul Lovering, Graeme Owens and Nathan Blockley will all be missing. The Binos will be without Andy Hunter and Shaun Fagan whilst they attempt once again to get off the foot of the table. Jimmy Boyle’s side have decent promotion hopes and need the win to keep them going. The number of injuries Airdrie have could cost them dearly and a Stirling win would be good for the season end. Think Airdrie will have enough about them to take all 3 points though.
SFL DIVISION THREE
With a nine-point gap between the play offs and the pack the biggest danger for those in pole positions is complacency. We have a fairly settled top four but at least two of them could be toppled by those below as games this weekend tend to be between clubs chasing each other so the opportunity to consolidate rather than be caught is there for each one. If we find new clubs in the play offs at the end of the season that would be a story worth telling…
GAME OF THE DAY – Elgin City v Stranraer
This is the only game this weekend in the third with anything resembling nerves riding on it. If Annan lose and Stranraer win they are in the play offs. If Elgin win and Peterhead don’t then mathematically Peterhead can’t make the play offs. Simples. Jamie Duff and David Niven are back for Elgin as Ross O’Donoghue, Paul Kaczan and Mark Durnan are sidelined. For the Blues, Grant Gallagher and Steven Noble miss out whilst Keith Knox has gone all Gallic by signing French defender Zakaria Belkouche as cover. An away win makes life more interesting and keeps things alive in the bottom division for a week or so at least but I have a sneaking suspicion that Elgin may sneak this one by an odd goal.
League leaders Alloa are away in the Montrose v Alloa Athletic tie that should be an easy win for them as Montrose are chasing a second win in a row for the first time this season. Only Steven Masterton is missing for Alloa as Montrose welcome back David Di Milta and Terry Masson whilst Jonathon Smart will sit this one out. Can’t see past Paul Hartley’s side. Queens Park v Peterhead sees the third placed team hoping to see off the team who mathematically could still steal a play off spot. Back are Giuseppe Capuano and Darryl Meggat for the Spiders whilst David Anderson and Jamie Brough are missing. David Ross and Ross Smith will be missing for the Blue Toon whilst back comes winger Bryan Deasley. An away win is achievable and for the sake of keeping things interesting I hope it is.
East Stirlingshire v Annan Athletic has fifth placed Annan hoping they can keep up the pressure on Elgin City though the nine-point gap is daunting. Mind you a wee trip to the bottom club should be a shoe in for three points surely? Ryan Frances joins youngsters Jamie Glasgow and Kyle Gillespie for East Stirling as they are without Graeme Ramage, Alex Lurinsky and Jamie Benton. Annan make the trip without David Cox and major doubts over Steven Swinglehurst, Ben McKenna, Sean O’Connor, Steven Sloan, David Winters and Graeme Bell. It looks a tall order but lose this one and the play offs are gone for Annan so I am going for an away win. Finally Berwick Rangers v Clyde has even fainter promotion hopes for the home team fading fast. They won last weekend but have today to do without Jordan Foster, Fraser McLean and Chris McLeod though they should be able to count on Andy McLean. Clyde have added Kieran Daw, Jack Sloss and Grant Dickie whilst out are Daniel Fitzpatrick, Kris Irvine, Paul Hay and Kieran Brannan. One win in seventeen for the Bully Wee is far from good and this is a game where pride is certainly the only tangible thing at stake. Home win would help make the season last in terms of interest but Clyde’s bad run has to end soon. I think it might well be today…