SFL Preview 28/1/11

Martin Kelly gives us his preview on the weekend’s SFL card….

Last week was a bad one for aspiring champions in all three divisions with Raith Rovers, Ayr United, Arbroath and Stranraer all slipping up. Is the pressure now becoming too much for some as we reach the midway stage of the season?

 

First Division

Game of the day: Raith Rovers v Falkirk

With Dunfermline’s match postponed, Raith Rovers missed their chance to reaffirm their position at the top of the first division by failing to defeat Morton at Starks Park. With Gordon Brown looking on, things looked to be going so well for John McGlynn’s side as they went into the interval two goals ahead. But Morton showed resilience and eventually equalised on 89 minutes through Peter Weatherson.

Tomorrow, Raith have the chance to hold on to their slender lead at the top but only if they defeat Falkirk at home. Steven Pressley has come under increasing pressure and the Bairns have only won once this year – against basement side Stirling Albion. Their chances for the championship look to have now slipped away. This looks like a certain three points for Raith Rovers.

In what is essentially a relegation battle, another game of high interest in the first division comes with Cowdenbeath playing host to Dundee. Dundee have not lost in the league since their last defeat at Central Park – some 12 games ago. Cowden on the other hand are desperate for points; they have lost their last five.  Sean Higgins returns for the Dees and he’ll be needed more than ever now that top scorer Leigh Griffiths has completed his £150,000 move to Wolves.

Elsewhere Morton play Willie McStay’s Ross County who have failed to score in their last four games and are teetering over the relegation zone.  Stirling Albion are now only one point clear of Dundee and face Queen of the South at Forthbank. The championship is probably out of reach for Kenny Brannigan’s team but a win will put them in a strong position.

Finally Dunfermline, now only two points behind Fife rivals Raith, travel to Partick Thistle. This is actually a tough one to call – the Firhill side have not lost in eight which somewhat belies their mediocre position of 5th.  Liam Buchanan will likely make his Pars debut against his old side.

 

Second Division

 

Game of the day:  Livingston v East Fife

As with the first division, only two games survived in this league last weekend and as tentatively predicted Ayr United suffered a cup upset hangover against Peterhead – drawing 2-2 at Somerset.  And just like Raith Rovers, they blew a two-goal lead.  Their opponents tomorrow, Stenhousemuir ground out a result at home against Airdrie United.

Livingston play East Fife at Almondvale, both fresh from a free weekend. These two sides met less than a fortnight ago with Livvy winning 4-2 at New Bayview. Kenny Deuchar scored a hat-trick against his old side and with fire power like that, it’s difficult to see beyond another Livingston victory.

If results go their way (unlikely defeat for both Ayr and Livingston), Brechin could go top tomorrow if they beat Dumbarton. Jim Weir’s side are very much the dark horses– quietly picking up points and, importantly, remaining undefeated. They haven’t lost in the league since September and a victory tomorrow against a Dumbarton side that will no doubt be drained from midweek exertions is likely.

Forfar entertain Airdrie United and the home side are the other promotion contenders and with five games in hand over 4th place Alloa, they have plenty of margin of error to at least assert themselves as play-off certainties.  If there’s one quality Dick Campbell’s team has it’s fight and they showed that resilience in beating Dumbarton on Tuesday night after going a goal behind.

Peterhead play an Alloa side that are desperate for wins.

Overall, not the best of weekends for the second division but it will be interesting to see if Forfar and Brechin win their games to put some pressure on the obvious title contenders.

 

Third Division

 

Game of the day: Stranraer v Arbroath

If the second division doesn’t look too great on paper, the basement is where the action looks to be this weekend with both the top, middle and bottom all involved in important games.

Albion Rovers play their fourth consecutive home game tomorrow against Elgin City who defeated Stranraer last weekend.  Rovers are four games without a win but the fact that they still have one game in hand over Stranraer and Arbroath will give Paul Martin reason to believe that they can still be considered title challengers. However, the lack of depth in their squad looks to have scuppered their chances again. Simply, Rovers are not prolific enough in front of goal – a problem which Elgin certainly don’t have. Rovers need to win tomorrow to stop the rot. If Elgin claim the three points, they could make it into a three-horse race at the top.

Queen’s Park travel to Annan tomorrow off the back of two straight victories – a meagre feat which hasn’t been achieved for close to a year. If there’s one thing that can be said for Harry Cairney’s Annan side it’s that they are hard to beat, having only lost two games all season. Queen’s, on the other hand, have little consistency to point at, but last week’s double header success over Albion Rovers and Berwick Rangers was a good starting point to recovery.

East Stirling, flying high from their unbelievable 5-3 win at Arbroath on Tuesday, face Berwick Rangers at Ochilview. Berwick still appear to be in a real slump and the incredible sight of top scorer Darren Gribben’s first half substitution at Hampden last Saturday could mean that the Wee Rangers will be without him for this one. The moody forward was said to have taunted manager Jimmy Crease to substitute him and Crease did exactly that. It certainly livened up what was a poor game but it’s a sad tale for journeyman Gribben whose petulance has now seen him fall out with the loyal Crease.

East Stirling, meanwhile, had only scored 10 goals prior to their demolition of the Lichties.

Montrose are at home to sorry Clyde and for the Bully Wee to harbour any hopes of lifting themselves off the bottom of the table, they must win soon and they must starting collecting points against teams in the lower half of the table. They last lost to a ten-man East Stirling side and they have still only won once this season. If anything goes in their favour, it’s that they have only played 13 games.

The match of the day, however, is the meeting of Stranraer and Arbroath at Stair Park. There is an argument for saying that this is the most intriguing game in the country tomorrow. Both sides go into this match having lost. The aforementioned defeat for Arbroath was the biggest shock of the season so far in the third division. To lose five goals in one game saw them return to their Autumnal defensive frailties and it came following four successive shut-outs. Will Paul Sheerin make major changes to his side in response to this shaming? Stranraer meanwhile lost to Elgin in what was another surprise but for what they lack in depth, they make up for in experience. And this is what will matter in crunch games like these. Arbroath may be, ultimately, able to shrug off the lesser teams but against Stranraer holding their nerve will be a huge test. It’s a tough one to call but I’ll be bold and call a win for Keith Knox’s Blues.

 

Find Martin’s blog at www.martinckelly.wordpress.com

Last week was a bad one for aspiring champions in all three divisions with Raith Rovers, Ayr United, Arbroath and Stranraer all slipping up. Is the pressure now becoming too much for some as we reach the midway stage of the season?

First Division

Game of the day: Raith Rovers v Falkirk

With Dunfermline’s match postponed, Raith Rovers missed their chance to reaffirm their position at the top of the first division by failing to defeat Morton at Starks Park. With Gordon Brown looking on, things looked to be going so well for John McGlynn’s side as they went into the interval two goals ahead. But Morton showed resilience and eventually equalised on 89 minutes through Peter Weatherson.

Tomorrow, Raith have the chance to hold on to their slender lead at the top but only if they defeat Falkirk at home. Steven Pressley has come under increasing pressure and the Bairns have only won once this year – against basement side Stirling Albion. Their chances for the championship look to have now slipped away. This looks like a certain three points for Raith Rovers.

In what is essentially a relegation battle, another game of high interest in the first division comes with Cowdenbeath playing host to Dundee. Dundee have not lost in the league since their last defeat at Central Park – some 12 games ago. Cowden on the other hand are desperate for points; they have lost their last five.  Sean Higgins returns for the Dees and he’ll be needed more than ever now that top scorer Leigh Griffiths has completed his £150,000 move to Wolves.

Elsewhere Morton play Willie McStay’s Ross County who have failed to score in their last four games and are teetering over the relegation zone.  Stirling Albion are now only one point clear of Dundee and face Queen of the South at Forthbank. The championship is probably out of reach for Kenny Brannigan’s team but a win will put them in a strong position.

Finally Dunfermline, now only two points behind Fife rivals Raith, travel to Firhill. This is actually a tough one to call – Thistle have not lost in eight which somewhat belies their mediocre position of 5th.  Liam Buchanan will likely make his Pars debut against his old side.

Second Division

Game of the day:  Livingston v East Fife

As with the first division, only two games survived in this league last weekend and as tentatively predicted Ayr United suffered a cup upset hangover against Peterhead – drawing 2-2 at Somerset.  And just like Raith Rovers, they blew a two-goal lead.  Their opponents tomorrow, Stenhousemuir ground out a result at home against Airdrie United.

Livingston play East Fife at Almondvale, both fresh from a free weekend. These two sides met less than a fortnight ago with Livvy winning 4-2 at New Bayview. Kenny Deuchar scored a hat-trick against his old side and with fire power like that, it’s difficult to see beyond another Livingston victory.

If results go their way (unlikely defeat for both Ayr and Livingston), Brechin could go top tomorrow if they beat Dumbarton. Jim Weir’s side are very much the dark horses– quietly picking up points and, importantly, remaining undefeated. They haven’t lost in the league since September and a victory tomorrow against a Dumbarton side that will no doubt be drained from midweek exertions is likely.

Forfar are the other potential contenders and with five games in hand over 3rd place Alloa, they have plenty of margin of error to at least assert themselves as play-off certainties.  If there’s one quality Dick Campbell’s team has it’s fight and they showed that resilience in beating Dumbarton on Tuesday night after going a goal behind.

Peterhead play an Alloa side that are desperate for wins.

Overall, not the best of weekends for the second division but it will be interesting to see if Forfar and Brechin win their games to put some pressure on the obvious title contenders.

Third Division

Game of the day: Stranraer v Arbroath

If the second division doesn’t look too great on paper, the basement is where the action looks to be this weekend with both the top, middle and bottom all involved in important games.

Albion Rovers play their fourth consecutive home game tomorrow against Elgin City who defeated Stranraer last weekend.  Rovers are four games without a win but the fact that they still have one game in hand over Stranraer and Arbroath will give Paul Martin reason to believe that they can still be considered title challengers. However, the lack of depth in their squad looks to have scuppered their chances again. Simply, Rovers are not prolific enough in front of goal – a problem which Elgin certainly don’t have. Rovers need to win tomorrow to stop the rot. If Elgin claim the three points, they could make it into a three-horse race at the top.

Queen’s Park travel to Annan tomorrow off the back of two straight victories – a meagre feat which hasn’t been achieved for close to a year. If there’s one thing that can be said for Harry Cairney’s Annan side it’s that they are hard to beat, having only lost two games all season. Queen’s, on the other hand, have little consistency to point at, but last week’s double header success over Albion Rovers and Berwick Rangers was a good starting point to recovery.

East Stirling, flying high from their unbelievable 5-3 win at Arbroath on Tuesday, face Berwick Rangers at Ochilview. Berwick still appear to be in a real slump and the incredible sight of top scorer Darren Gribben’s first half substitution at Hampden last Saturday could mean that the Wee Rangers will be without him for this one. The moody forward was said to have taunted manager Jimmy Crease to substitute him and Crease did exactly that. Gribben’s response was to throw his jersey away and stomp up the tunnel. He was swiftly followed by the manager. It certainly livened up what was a poor game but it’s a sad tale for journeyman Gribben whose petulance has now seen him fall out with the loyal Crease.

East Stirling, meanwhile, had only scored 10 goals prior to their demolition of the Lichties. There aren’t many things which would get me up to Gayfield on a winter night but this game sounded like an absolute cracker.

Montrose are at home to sorry Clyde and for the Bully Wee to harbour any hopes of lifting themselves off the bottom of the table, they must win soon and they must starting collecting points against teams in the lower half of the table. They last lost to a ten-man East Stirling side and they have still only won once this season. If anything goes in their favour, it’s that they have only played 13 games.

The match of the day, however, is the meeting of Stranraer and Arbroath at Stair Park. There is an argument for saying that this is the most intriguing game in the country tomorrow. Both sides go into this match having lost. The aforementioned defeat for Arbroath was the biggest shock of the season so far in the third division. To lose five goals in one game saw them return to their Autumnal defensive frailties and it came following four successive shut-outs. Will Paul Sheerin make major changes to his side in response to this shaming? Stranraer meanwhile lost to Elgin in what was another surprise but for what they lack in depth, they make up for in experience. And this is what will matter in crunch games like these. Arbroath may be, ultimately, able to shrug off the lesser teams but against Stranraer holding their nerve will be a huge test. It’s a tough one to call but I’ll be bold and call a win for Keith Knox’s Blues.

One Response to SFL Preview 28/1/11

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