The weekend saw only one postponement with 13 games played on Saturday and the Dunfermline Athletic/Rangers tie on the Monday night. This time round the fixtures did not lead to whole scale change but it did lead to some clarity on where teams may be battling from the beginning of 2014.
My match of the day was a rather disappointing 0-0 draw between Falkirk and Alloa Athletic. Whilst they were battling to deadlock Dundee managed to go 2 points clear at the top as Peter MacDonald twice and Kevin McBride once got the 3 goals that sunk Dumbarton. Hamilton Academical kept on Dundee’s coat tails as Mikael Antoine-Currier got the only goal of the game that despatched Greenock Morton at New Douglas Park. Raith Rovers slipped into 4th as Livingston managed to beat them 3-0 thanks to a Jason Thomson own goal as well as Martin Scott and Stefan Scougall managing to add to the opener and make it a convincing scoreline. Queen of the South also managed a win as Paul Burns and Iain Russell got the goals at Cowdenbeath.
It means that Dundee (36) sit at the top clear from Hamilton Academical (34). It looks increasingly likely that the championship may be settled between this pair. As it stands the run that Dundee are travelling on would look far more sustainable than the sprint at the beginning of the year that the Accies made and are now finding difficulty in sustaining.
Underneath we have a battle for 2 play off spots between 3 teams. Falkirk (29) managed to leap frog Raith Rovers (29) on Saturday but have Alloa Athletic (28) showing that they are real contenders. It certainly also looks like these 3 will be the favourites to take the other 2 play off spots.
We then have another 3 teams that are hovering far above relegation by 6 points but behind the play off race by 3 points. Livingston (25) should be happy where they are considering how they looked a few short months ago. Queen of the South (22) and Dumbarton (21) were possibly some people’s favourites to drop into League One but will try keeping up and out of the way.
Finally it looks very bleak for Cowdenbeath (15) and Greenock Morton (9). Both have new managers at the helm but both are still waiting for that new manager bounce. We are close to halfway through the year and last year 8th place safety was courtesy of 36 points – Cowdenbeath should know – they were the ones who were 8th! It means that the Blue Brazil need 21 points out of a possible 54; Morton need 27! In short can Morton manage to win 50% of their remaining games?
SPFL LEAGUE ONE
My match of the weekend saw Rangers back to their old winning ways at East End Park where Fraser Auld, Nicky Clark, Nicky Law and Robbie Crawford got Rangers the win against Dunfermline Athletic. With the Stranraer/Forfar Athletic game postponed it allowed Ayr United to set up a fantastic tie on the 2nd January at Stair Park as they beat east Fife 2-0 thanks to a Michael Moffat double. Stenhousemuir managed, thanks to Bryan Hodge, a single goal win against Brechin City whilst the battle of the basement saw Airdrieonians deliver Gary Bollan’s first win. Bradley Donaldson had put Arbroath ahead only for Gregor Buchanan and trialist Keoghan Parker to get Airdrie’s goals that puts them closer to the Red Lichties.
It all means that rangers (49) are well out in front and whilst being chased by Dunfermline Athletic (35) nobody seriously thinks the Pars will catch the Ibrox side. With a 5 point gap between them and 3rd place it is also unlikely that they shall fall out of the play off zone before May.
The other two play off spots are likely to be settled between Stranraer (30), Ayr United (29) and Stenhousemuir (25). With 6 points between them and the chasing pack 2014 looks a lot brighter for each of them though one will have to miss out in May.
With Forfar Athletic (19), Brechin City (19) and East Fife (17) hovering between top and bottom there are a lot of fans who look at the investment that has been made in their teams and wonder where it all went wrong. Certainly for Brechin City who would have thought we would have been looking at them close to the bottom at the end of 2013.
Relegation seems to be between Arbroath (14) and Airdrieonians (12) and after the weekend when Airdrie got back on track means it will be a very interesting run in. Paul Sheerin may well be the next manager with pressure heaped upon him.
SPFL LEAGUE TWO
My match of the day saw second placed Clyde stumble as they drew 1-1 with Stirling Albion; John Sweeney and Graham Weir got the goals. Peterhead took advantage and stretched ahead as a Rory McAlister double and one from Dean Cowie saw off Berwick Rangers though Steven Notman got one back for the Borderers. Annan Athletic had to come from behind to see off Elgin City. Scott Davidson got their equaliser from the penalty spot after Ray Jellema was sent off with Kenny McKay getting the winner after Shane Sutherland had put the Highlanders ahead. Albion Rovers beat managerless Queen’s Park 2-1 as Liam Cusack and Scott Chaplain scored for the wee Rovers and Mick Dunlop was generous enough to supply an own goal for the Spiders. Callum Gallagher and Iain Thomson got 2 goals for East Stirlingshire whilst Garry Wood and Graham Webster scored for Montrose to ensure the draw.
It all means that Peterhead (33) are now out in front whilst Clyde (31) are hanging in there. There is a huge chasing pack with Annan Athletic (28), Albion Rovers (26), East Stirlingshire (26), Stirling Albion (25), Montrose (23), Berwick Rangers (22) and Elgin City (20) within touching distance of the play offs. This is turning out to be the most fascinating of leagues and if there are no teams likely to stretch a lead into the championship the play offs could include any of the 9 teams listed above.
Only Queen’s Park (7) are out of it. The Spiders have advertised for a new Head Coach and whoever takes up the reigns will have a season to experiment because there will be no pyramid play off this year and bottom spot is more than expected so it’s hardly a lose, lose situation at all.