SFL DIVISION ONE
GAME OF THE DAY ROSS COUNTY V DUNDEE
Last weekend the Dingwall team did what they had to do and won – Livingston 1 Ross County 3. County were 1 up at the break through Colin McMenamin. Livvi got one back through Rory Boulding before McMenamin got his 2nd and then turned provider for Iain Vigurs to make it 3-1. It meant that when Dundee didn’t win their midweek game Derek Adam’s team were champions at Somerset Park on Wednesday night. Ayr United 1 Ross County 3 was the final score that night with all the goals in the second half. Michael Gardyne put County one up, Alan Trouten equalised, Colin McMenamin and Sam Morrow both adding to County’s lead meaning that they have now gone 30 games without defeat. Today it’s Ross County v Dundee in a historic encounter that will see them celebrate the league flag and promotion to Scotland’s elite. Dundee’s preparations have included Dundee 3 Falkirk 1 last weekend that must have left the Dee faithful wondering what would have happened had the season been more consistent. It was my match of the day in the division and I think I called it right. Stephen O’Donnell put the Dark Blues ahead before Mark Millar equalised. Darren Dods then handled in the box allowing Ryan Conroy to put Dundee ahead from the spot and then Steven Milne in the 57th minute made it 3-1. Dundee then drew at home to Queen of the South on Tuesday with Dundee 1 Queen of the South 1. With Derek Adams in the stands Stephen O’Donnell put Dundee up only for the hammer blow of a John Potter equaliser with 8 minutes remaining the result they were not looking for. Stuart Kettlewell and David McNamee will sit this one out for County whilst Jamie McCluskey and Stevie Milne will miss it for Dundee. I expect undefeated number 31 as a sequence for Derek Adams at quarter to five.
Queen of the South v Falkirk has two teams with mixed fortunes this year up against each other. Last weekend Falkirk lost all ground in their promotion push whilst it was Greenock Morton 2 Queen of the South 2. Gus McPherson’s side, who had problems seeing out games earlier in the season managed to do so. Fouad Bachirou gave Morton the lead, Sam Parkin brought it back level. Then Peter MacDonald made it 2-1 before Danny Carmichael got the leveller. We know that Queen of the South went to Dundee and did themselves and County a favour by getting a draw. Falkirk meanwhile entertained in Falkirk 3 Hamilton Academical 0 as a Mark Millar double and Farid El Alagui sealed the points for the Bairns. Queens have problems with possible injuries that could keep out the experience of John Potter, Craig Reid and Stephen McKenna whilst Steven Pressley only has Stewart Murdoch missing. I think it may well be a draw or a home win as McPherson has Queens up for the run in. Speculation over a take over at Palmerston should not divert their attention away from the task in hand.
Livingston v Ayr United sees John Hughes hoping to halt the luck Ayr have had this season over his team. Last weekend it was Ayr United 1 Partick Thistle 3 with Ayr in deep, deep trouble; three defeats in a row; well beaten by the Jags; and reduced to 10 men. It all looked ominous then. Chris Erskine and Kris Doolan put Thistle 2 up before substitute Adam Dodd marked his short appearance with one goal and then got sent off for kicking out. Mark McGuigan then got the 3rd Partick goal in the 93rd minute. It got even worse for Ayr midweek as they slumped to the same margin against Ross County. Livingston meanwhile had the same margin of error against Ross County last weekend and then in midweek it was Raith Rovers 0 Livingston 3 courtesy of a Rory Boulding hat trick. Livingston have put together a nice wee run under Hughes and this weekend, whilst they are safely mid table, have coming third or even second firmly in their sights. I reckon a draw could be the result here as Ayr are struggling badly and look more like a doomed side than ever before this season. Iain Russell, Jason Talbot and Liam Fox will sit this one out for the Lions whilst Brian Reid’s side look likely to be without Martyn Campbell.
Hamilton Academical v Greenock Morton has two sides for whom the season is coming to a close and you can hear harsh assessments being made. Last weekend it was Raith Rovers 2 Hamilton Academical 1 with yet another Rovers fight back as John McGlynn’s team fight to stay out of the drop zone. Mark McLaughlin – the centre half with a head for goals – put the Accies one up before Damian Casalinuovo equalised. Alan Walker on the 61st kept all 3 points at Kirkcaldy. Hamilton then went to Falkirk and thanks to Mark Millar and Farid El Alagui saw another 3 go past them – points and goals! Morton meanwhile saw a draw with Queen of the South last weekend followed midweek by a home visit of Partick Thistle and it was Greenock Morton 1 Partick Thistle 0 courtesy of a Peter MacDonald 8 minute goal. Morton are on a mini run at the moment and that momentum may, along with the current form of Alan Combe see the West Coast side take all three points here. It’s also a tale of goalkeepers for Hamilton as on loan Ranger, Blair Currie takes the gloves and missing will probably be Ali Crawford and Lee Kilday. Only Michael Tidser is a doubt for Allan Moore.
Finally Partick Thistle v Raith Rovers has two sides who could do with a boost. Partick took all 3 points last weekend against Ayr then slumped at Morton. Rovers managed to beat Hamilton then slumped themselves at home to Livingston. David Rowson, Aaron Sinclair and Darren Cole look likely to be missing for Partick whilst for John McGlynn’s side Willie Dyer and Iain Davidson are doubtful. This all depends on what sides turn up and for me it looks like Raith are due the up turn in their rollercoaster ride. In the battle for relegation it means that at the end of the weekend the nerves should be jangling at Ayr whilst the Doonhamers and Rovers are beginning to feel they have a future in the First.
SFL DIVISION TWO
In the Division with more twists and turns than a melted Curly Wurly once again the top of the Division has begun to look like it may provide a different ending than the one written a few weeks ago. The weekend fixtures threw us a curve ball in Paul Sheerin’s side managing to beat Cowdenbeath, Airdrie United seeing off Stenhousemuir and East Fife continuing their fine form. It all looks mighty interesting!
GAME OF THE DAY – Dumbarton v Stenhousemuir
Davie Irons has not had an easy time of it and last weekend it was Stenhousemuir 0 Airdrie United 3. It saw Stenny’s slide continue and out the play off places they came. Sean Lynch in 7 minutes made it 1-0 before Willie McLaren could afford to miss a penalty and then make it 2-0 from open play at half time. Nathan Blockley got the 3rd in the 2nd half. Sean Lynch got sent off for the visitors in injury time for a 2nd bookable offence. Dumbarton managed at least to put some sort of brake on in Albion Rovers 1 Dumbarton 1. It still means though that Dumbarton’s attempt to stay in the play off spot is still under serious threat. Daniel Ferry put the Coatbridge side ahead only for Scott Agnew to equalise. The Sons had better chances in the 2nd half but it ended all square after 90 minutes. Mark Gilhaney will not be available and there are doubts over Mark Lamont and Ryan Finnie for Alan Adamson’s side. Iain Thomson and Sean Dickson are out for Stenhousemuir and a 4 game losing streak needs to find an end soon. I don’t think it will be today…
Stirling Albion v Cowdenbeath has the league leaders ready to get back in the saddle after Cowdenbeath 2 Arbroath 3. It was the Blue Brazil that took the lead in 5 minutes through Marc MacKenzie. Steven Doris then equalised before Keiran McAnespie made it 2-1 for the visitors. This was all in the first half hour. Marc MacKenzie got his 2nd from the spot to make it all square before Steven Doris got the Red Lichties 3rd and the 5th of the game. The end of the season has indeed never looked so good! However for the home side they managed Brechin City 1 Stirling Albion 2. It means that Jim Weir’s side are unlikely to be on the play offs again this year whilst the Binos have a fighting chance of getting out of relegation. Mark Ferry got the first for Stirling before Alan Cook missed a penalty and then scored to make it 2-0. A consolation for Brechin came through Scott Buist late on but it was all too little; too late. Shaun Fagan and Kevin Kelbie are back for the Binos whilst Gary Fisher and Kenny Adamson are out for the Blue Brazil. I have a funny feeling the promotion chase will be back on after this as Greig MacDonald’s side may take a point…
Arbroath v Forfar Athletic has two sides coming off different results last weekend. Arbroath are on a high after their victory whilst it was Forfar Athletic 1 East Fife 4. It meant that the Loons are falling closer to danger and the Fifers nearer to the Play offs! Two doubles – one for Scott Dalziel and one for Ryan Wallace gave the Fifers victory; Kevin Byars getting the Loons’ only goal. Colin Samuel, Jordan Elfverson and Keith Gibson are out for the Smokies whilst Forfar are at full strength. We were made to put the champagne back on ice last weekend for Colin Cameron as Paul Sheerin chases an unlikely double Championship opportunity. This is a feat that Gary Bollan and Rowan Alexander managed and it would be beyond remarkable considering they were at least expected to achieve it. With only 4 points between the 2 teams at the top now I think Arbroath will be rocking and if Stirling can do them a favour this could go all the way.
Airdrie United v Brechin City has Airdrie off the back of a fantastic victory against Stenhousemuir last weekend and Brechin smarting after losing to Stirling Albion. Sean Lynch is out for Airdrie though Paul Lovering is back for the Diamonds. Jim Weir’s side will be without David McClune and Derek Carcary whilst there’s a doubt over Paul McManus. I would go for Jimmy Boyle’s side to hang onto that play off spot with a home win.
East Fife v Albion Rovers could be an absolute cracker. The home side thumped Forfar last weekend whilst the wee Rovers managed a draw with Dumbarton. Current form should suggest Gordon Durie’s side make it another victory but Paul Martin’s team have shown fine battling qualities. This is a must win for both. Andy Cook and David White are out for the home side whilst Danny Ferry and Ciaran Donnelly are out for the visitors. High scoring draw? This truly could go anyway you want it to…
SFL DIVISION THREE
It was the game of the day and Alloa Athletic are the Champions. This was a remarkable scoreline and a remarkable feat in his first year as a manager. Paul Hartley’s mettle may well be more tested next year in the second division but the former Scottish Internationalist showed how it should be done with an amazing 8-1 victory over promotion chasing Elgin City last weekend. No stuttering loss to your nearest rivals or draws from other teams giving you the title, just an emphatic clarion call to the troops at home and a party!
GAME OF THE DAY – Elgin City v Annan Athletic
It will not be easy to wipe away Alloa Athletic 8 Elgin City 1 but league business dictates Elgin must. It was 4 from Stephen May, a Mark Nicholson own goal and then 1 apiece from Robbie Winters, Ryan McCord and Craig Campbell for Alloa that sealed the win and the Championship. Elgin’s only goal came from Paul Millar. Helping the Elgin cause should be the return Jamie Duff, Ross O’Donoghue and Stuart Leslie though Paul Kaczan is still out. For Annan it has ended up being close to a disappointing season and last weekend saw Annan Athletic 1 Berwick Rangers 1. An Aaron Muirhead penalty was pulled back with a goal from Jordan Foster. Annan failed to capitalise on the red card shown to the Borderer’s Chris Townsley with Berwick reportedly looking the better side it looks uncomfortable for Annan. Harry Cairney has Ben McKenna ruled out and doubts over Craig Summersgill, Steven Swinglehurst and Jack Steele. Annan need the win to stay in the hunt for a play off spot. Elgin need the win to retain the play off spot. It would be good for the run in if Annan could snatch it but that trip up north, Elgin hurting badly – points to a home win…
Berwick Rangers v Alloa Athletic has Alloa with a full squad from which to choose for Paul Hartley whilst Ian Little will be without Chris Townsley, Elliot Smith and Chris McLeod. Damon Gray is a doubt. Last weekend was party time for Alloa but they show no signs of a hangover and Berwick may well be in for an uncomfortable afternoon. Having said that it can always be good to get promoted teams after the pressure is off. I would hope for a home win but be unsurprised if Alloa take another 3 points.
There are problems aplenty for the home side in Stranraer v Peterhead. Keith Knox has no Martin Grehan, Steven Noble or David McGregor whilst Stephen Stirling is a major doubt. Last weekend saw Clyde 2 Stranraer 1 and a failure to capitalise on Michael Moore’s opener with Clyde managing to win courtesy of Kieran Brannan leveller followed by an own goal from French signing Zakaria Belkouche. Peterhead had a better day with Peterhead 2 Montrose 1 and a Rory McAllister double saw off a John Crawford equaliser. Peterhead have been marching slowly up the league and have an outside chance of making the play offs. It is another weekend when they would need others to do them a favour – namely Annan Athletic – but right now who would bet against them. Missing payers threaten the run in as Jim McInally has Raymond Jellema, Graham Sharp and David Ross unavailable and Paul Jarvie and Ryan Strachan major doubts. I really want an away win but think this light just be the weekend McInally has to start planning for next season.
Montrose v Queens Park sees a team in freefall against a team in free scoring form. Last weekend Montrose suffered at the hands of Peterhead whilst it was Queens Park 5 East Stirlingshire 1. Any thoughts of East Stirling managing a better end to the season than their beginning were dampened pretty sharpish within the 2nd half in this rout. Rhys Devlin being sent off for East Stirling didn’t help their cause towards the end but it was all over by then. Jamie Longworth opened the scoring then along came the following Spiders – Anthony Quinn with 2, Sean Burns and Martin McBride with 1 apiece – to finish the visitors off. Graeme Ramage got East Stirling’s consolation. Queens Park need a point and with only Jamie Brough missing and doubts over Darryl Meggat they may manage it. Montrose have had dire results in the recent past and with Dougie Cameron looking like the only absentee should give themselves a chance. This however has a draw written all over it.
Finally it is East Stirling v Clyde. The home side have a thrashing to get out their systems whilst the visitors managed to shock Stranraer at home last weekend. Rhys Devlin and Michael Hunter are suspended whilst Alex Lurinsky is out and Lewis Horner and Scott Maxwell are doubtful for East Stirling. Clyde won for the first time in 11 games last weekend and this should either be a dour battle of two misfiring teams or a surprising wee cracker… Out for Jim Duffy are Kris Irvine, Daniel Fitzpatrick, Jack Sloss and Brian McQueen with doubts over Jamie Pollok. I have no idea how this will go but a home win would be interesting.