It was an interesting week in the managerial merry go round as one boss went, another came back in, another took charge for the first time whilst another two were in charge for the first time…
The weekend games saw only 2 clubs victorious and no change at the top as Falkirk retained top spot after Mark Millar got an equaliser to a late first half goal from Morton’s Dougie Imrie; Rory Loy missed a penalty for the Bairns. Dundee were also held to a draw at home to Alloa Athletic. Ryan Conroy and Ben Gordon got the goals in what was to be John Brown’s last game in charge. It was played against the man (Barry Smith) he replaced who was in charge of a team for the first time after the man (Paul Hartley) who replaced Brown at Dundee but had left the team Smith was now in charge of the week before; are you following this? Hamilton Academical also drew but did entertain with a 6 goal thriller. James Keatings with 2 and Jason Scotland on his debut got the Accies’ goals whilst Dumbarton replied through Jordan Kirkpatrick, a Stephen Hendrie own goal and one from Chris Kane. Queen of the South managed to get into 4th as Mark Durnan and Derek Lyle cancelled out Marc McNulty’s first half strike for Livingston. The final game of the weekend saw Kane Hemmings single handedly getting Cowdenbeath a win against Raith Rovers.
During the week Livingston visited the Bet Butler and came away with a draw as Keoghan Jacobs put them ahead before Colin Nish equalised. They then went ahead through Andy Barrowman before Chris Kane got a late leveller. Garry Fleming was sent off for the Sons early in the 2nd half.
It means that Falkirk (40) under Gary Holt are leading Dundee (40) under Paul Hartley on goal difference. Hamilton Academical (39) under Alex Neil are still in there with a very real chance. The key here is how the more experienced Hartley will respond to working with a full time set up. It is what he left Alloa for – the full time set up and not Dundee – but actions and all that. I reckon it may be the master stroke for Dundee this title race needed.
The battle for the play offs underneath had Queen of the South (32) sneak in to 4th and Dumbarton’s (32) inability to beat Livingston midweek means they hang on in there on goal difference. Raith Rovers (30), Livingston (29) and Alloa Athletic (29) all have realistic chances but I reckon by the end of the season Raith will have done enough.
At the foot of the table, although Greenock Morton (15) didn’t lose, Cowdenbeath (24) winning meant the gap got wider. It may however be Morton’s tortoise that eventually beats the Hare from the Blue Brazil…
SPFL LEAGUE ONE
Rangers remain on target to go throughout the season unbeaten as Dean Shiels and Jon Daly scored, Bilel Mohsni got sent off and Steven Robb got one back for Brechin City at Ibrox in their 2-1 win over the Hedgemen. Dunfermline Athletic also won against East Fife with an emphatic 3-1 victory. For the Pars Ross Forbes, Danny Grainger and Ryan Wallace got the goals whilst Paul Willis got East Fife’s consolation. Ayr United bagged 3rd spot with Mickey Donald and a Michael Moffat double setting them nicely up against Arbroath though Bobby Linn and Leighton McIntosh ensured a nervous end to the game for the Ayrshire visitors. Stranraer slipped to 4th place after a 1-1 draw with Stenhousemuir. Andy Stirling and Eddie Malone chipped in with the goals, both in the final 3 minutes! Finally Omar Kader had put Forfar Athletic ahead before Jim Lister got the equaliser for Airdrieonians.
It means that Rangers (67) have their lead now sitting at 23 points and the abacuses will soon be being put away – I reckon by late February – when they are confirmed champions.
The play off spot for Dunfermline Athletic (44) seems assured as they have 16 points between them and 5th place. The question here is who do you want in the play off semi final? At present Ayr United (36) hold that spot but Stranraer (35) have 2 games in hand. With 7 points between Stranraer and 5th spot it seems unlikely – unless any of these two have a complete collapse – that we shall see anyone else in those semi finals.
5th spot has Brechin City (28) with Stenhousemuir (27) and Forfar Athletic (26) vying for the bridesmaid’s prize. As they seem to keep taking points off each other this needs a single team to begin their ascendancy based upon beating all around them. If none of them can go on such a run then they seem doomed to safety.
East Fife (23) may be 6 points ahead of relegation and 3 beneath the safe teams above them but cannot claim they are out of the relegation mix until they stop losing their odd games. Gary Naismith has settled the ship but it needs set upon a better course. Arbroath (17) have had a very tough season and Paul Sheerin will be suffering the doubts that come with such spectacular slumps. Airdrieonians (17) have made up that gap on the Red Lichties and who is to say they won’t be sitting 8th under Gary Bollan due to the steady progress he has been making…
SPFL LEAGUE TWO
With league leaders Peterhead’s game down at Annan abandoned due to the weather there were opportunities aplenty for the rest to make up some ground… Fortunately for the Blue Toon, none of them managed that and of 4 games played there were 4 draws! Michael Dunlop, Josh Morris and Paul Currie had Berwick Rangers in cruise control but Clyde’s Michael Daly, Scott Ferguson and Brian McQueen diverted them into a 3-3 cul de sac. Jamie Duff for Elgin City and a penalty from Scott Chaplain for Albion Rovers made up their 1-1 draw whilst Montrose v Stirling Albion and Queen’s Park v East Stirlingshire provided absolutely no goals.
The top of the table for me is still all about three teams – Peterhead (42), Clyde (38) and Annan Athletic (35). Annan and Peterhead have games in hand over Clyde but one of them is obviously the one abandoned between them at the weekend so there is a little advantage but not much.
Both Clyde and Annan are the most likely to be pulled into the play off battles as they have Stirling Albion (33) in 4th followed by Albion Rovers (31), East Stirlingshire (31), Berwick Rangers (28) and Montrose (28) sitting just behind. Considering how they started the season if East Stirlingshire don’t get a play off spot it will be deemed a failure but any one of these teams could do it.
Elgin City (24) are just above Queen’s Park (14) and could be caught if the steady progress and the difficult to beat style of Gus McPherson becomes embedded at Queen’s Park.