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SPFL WEEKEND REVIEW – SATURDAY 22ND FEBRUARY 2014

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It was the weekend in which Paul Hartley lost as Dundee boss for the first time, Barry Smith won as Alloa boss for the first time, Rangers drew for the second time this year against Scott Booth who made his debut as Stenhousemuir boss, Elgin City’s new boss Barry Wilson saw them throw away a 2 goal lead and Colin Cameron witnessed his first draw as Berwick Rangers boss!

SPFL CHAMPIONSHIP

My match of the day saw the Blue Brazil turn it on and make both the top and the bottom of the league far more interesting. Rory McKeown and Greg Stewart sealed Paul Hartley’s first defeat as Dundee’s new boss as Cowdenbeath grabbed a vital 3 points. A last minute penalty by Mark Millar sent Falkirk closer to the top of the league as they edged out Queen of the South. A Ryan McCord first half goal and Dougie Imrie being sent off meant Greenock Morton suffered when Alloa Athletic came calling. Finally Dumbarton got into the play off spots after an enthralling 3-3 draw at home to Raith Rovers. Colin Nish, Chris Kane and Scott Agnew netted for the Sons whilst Gordon Smith got 2 and John Baird got 1 for the men from Kirkcaldy.

It means that Dundee (46) have been pegged back as Hamilton Academical (45) and Falkirk (43) are lurking again. I still think Dundee will last the pace but both Falkirk and Hamilton will be dangerous for any Premiership team that land in that Premiership play off spot.

The fight for the last play off spot means there could be Dumbarton (36), Queen of the South (35), Livingston(32), Alloa Athletic (32) and Raith Rovers (31) in the mix.  Midweek Raith Rovers entertain Alloa Athletic and that will help either side gain some momentum. Raith were excellent against Dumbarton at the weekend and coming off their desperately bad performances against Hamilton the week before means it looks like a great contest – especially since Barry Smith won for the first time as Alloa boss at the weekend.

Raith really need that win as they are just 3 points above Cowdenbeath (28). Jimmy Nichol has been working well to get the team up for the fight and with less downs since he came into the season’s rollercoaster ride they are serious contenders to get out of the relegation play offs. As for Greenock Morton (16) it may well be all over bar the shouting after they lost to Alloa at home. The next 5 games could seal it for Morton and they are against Dundee, Raith Rovers, Dumbarton, Hamilton and Cowdenbeath. Not one of them is an easy game.

SPFL LEAGUE ONE

My match of the day had 3 goals in it as Dunfermline Athletic showed Ayr United why avoiding them in the play offs would be a good idea; a Lawrence Shankland double and Ross Forbes did the damage. It closed the gap on a Rangers side that struggled to draw at home with Stenhousemuir. Sean Dickson, and 2 from Sean Higgins was countered by Nicky Law, Jon Daly and an own goal from Ross McMillan. Stranraer put some distance between themselves and 5th placed Brechin City by beating them 3-1. Martin Grehan got a hat trick whilst Andy Jackson pulled one back for the Hedgemen; Paul McLean was sent off. East Fife and Airdrieonians shared the points in a goalless draw which was bad news for Arbroath. They went 3 behind to Forfar Athletic’s Gavin Swankie double and 1 from Dale Hilson before Alan Cook and Leighton McIntosh gave editors the too little too late headline.

It means that Rangers (71) are still on course for the title but they shall have to wait a little while longer as Dunfermline Athletic (50) made their play off spot closer as well as the gap between them and Rangers. Stranraer (39) have 2 games in hand over those around them and they are now sitting very comfortably in 3rd place. It would take a seismic shift for them to be moved. Ayr United (36) don’t seem capable of such a shift but do look the most likely to stay in 4th.

On Tuesday night Dunfermline Athletic have Arbroath at home whilst Stranraer entertain Rangers. The Pars do have tendency to make things difficult for themselves but Arbroath are on such a poor run of form at the minute it could be a straightforward home win. As for Stranraer, they will fulfil one of their games in hand but will take anything other than a slender scoreline as a bonus.

Brechin City (31), Forfar Athletic (29) and Stenhousemuir (29) do not have time on their side if they want to climb into 4th spot. As for relegation, East Fife (25), Airdrieonians (21) and Arbroath (18) have the look of being the Titanic deckchairs and whichever one of three is sitting in 8th when the season stops shall be celebrating. With 2 games midweek that affect the bottom of the table – Dunfermline Athletic v Arbroath and Airdrieonians v Stenhousemuir the Gods above need to be really shining for the 2 in trouble to get anything from those games. I reckon Arbroath will not achieve much at East End Park but Gary Bollan may get something at home against the Warriors.

SPFL LEAGUE TWO

My match of the day was honours even at Ochilview as Lee Currie for Berwick Rangers and Paul Quinn from the spot for East Stirlingshire made it 1-1 between them. Peterhead dropped points at Coatbridge in their 0-0 draw with Albion Rovers as Annan Athletic closed the gap thanks to Kenny McKay scoring against Queen’s Park. Clyde also drew – 1-1 with Montrose – as Stefan McCluskey had them ahead before Scott Johnston equalised. Finally Stirling Albion fought back to beat Elgin City 3-2 up in Elgin. Sean Creighton and Dennis Wyness had Elgin 2 up with 13 minutes left but a Jordan White double and one from Kieran McAnespie got the Binos their win.

It means that Peterhead (49) have only got an 8 point gap with Annan Athletic (41), Stirling Albion (39), Clyde (39) and East Stirlingshire (38) still the chasing pack. Midweek we have Annan Athletic v Queen’s Park and Albion Rovers v Clyde which could see some movement. I reckon 2 home wins there which would help Annan but dent Clyde’s chances.

It would help the Wee Rovers as we have Berwick Rangers (34), Albion Rovers (32) and Montrose (32) desperately trying to get back into that play off chase. The Coatbridge side managed to shut up shop v the league leaders so another good performance against 4th top Clyde should not be beyond them. Elgin City (27) is out of it whilst Queen’s Park (14) continue to lose by one goal but they continue to lose…

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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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