Good morning/afternoon/evening (delete as appropriate) valued reader, and welcome to the new weekly Scottish Championship update. The premise is this: I review the five fixtures in Scotland’s second – and most competitive – division, as well as taking a look at the team in the division above and below who is in pole position to grace the Scottish Championship in the 2018/19 season. The games will be ranked in order of interest and excitement, much like Match of the Day. I will be open from day one, so that there are no rash allegations made against me. I am a Dundee United supporter. Dundee United are in this division. I will do my best to be fair, there are no teams in this division that I hold a significant grudge against, but naturally I may verge on the overzealous towards the Arabs. With the formalities out the way, let’s get stuck in!
Inverness Caledonian Thistle 0-1 Dundee United
WE’RE GOING TO WIN THE LEAGUE!!! Sorry, this is perhaps the overzealousness that I referred to before… It is early days, but this is a terrific statement for Dundee United. When facing a side who have spent a season in a higher division, the relegated team automatically become favourites for the league they have been demoted to. They came up against a Dundee United team who were determined to regain their Premier League status. It was a huge match (for this level) to begin the season with, and was one which Dundee United won, in unconventional fashion. Wide midfielder Scott Fraser saw his shot deflected into the path of new Celtic loanee Paul McMullan. Caley defender Joe Chalmers slid in lazily, upending McMullan and seeing the visitors awarded a penalty. McMullan endeared himself to the United faithful by coolly slotting home the penalty. The penalty was contested by new Inverness boss John Robertson, who was so adamant in his protests that he was sent to the stand by the referee. Inverness certainly enjoyed more possession, creating numerous chances and can count themselves unlucky to start the season with no points. Dundee United were a little underwhelming, but three points away to predicted league challengers Inverness is certainly a solid start to the season.
St. Mirren 3-1 Falkirk
Falkirk appeared to shake off the disappointment of last season’s playoff defeat when Nathan Austin headed home a rebound from a Rory Loy strike after only two minutes. St. Mirren spent the majority of last season flirting with relegation, only to go on a dream run to see them stay in the division. This good form carried over to the new season. Austin’s goal was cancelled out by a tremendous curling shot by Stelios Demetriou shortly after the half hour mark. The teams went into the break level, but within a minute of the second half starting, the Buddies had turned the game on its head, courtesy of a Cameron Smith. Smith pounced on a Falkirk goalkeeping error to tap his side into the lead. Things went from bad to worse for the Bairns as new signing Rory Loy was injured early on in the second half. Cameron Smith turned provider after an hour, feeding Gavin Reilly who fired the ball into the net. Aaron Muirhead of Falkirk was sent off for an elbow with just over ten minutes to go, much to the amusement of the home fans, who were in a jubilant mood after a year of battling relegation. It was a feisty game and the red card had been a long time coming. It was a tough opening fixture for Falkirk, but after taking the lead after only two minutes, the turgid football on display by Peter Houston’s men was a disappointment for the hardy travelling fans.
Queen of the South 4-1 Brechin City
Brechin City were back in the big time, if being in the Scottish Championship can be considered the big time, and it was a snap back to reality for the Angus based side. Veteran striker Derek Lyle, one of Scottish footballs greatest journeymen, scored a first half brace to put the game out of site. His first, on 28 minutes, was notched in from a corner. The second was a close range strike towards the end of the first half. Scotland’s N’golo Kante, John Rankin, grabbed the third goal of the game, putting to bed any chance of a Brechin City revival. He pounced on the rebound of a Derek Lyle strike to score from close range. A tremendous bit of football from Brechin caught the Doonhamers off guard. Chris O’Neil blasted the ball into the net following some flowing football from Brechin. A defencive error just four minutes later saw QOS restore their three goal advantage. Lyndon Dykes latched on to a weak header back to the goal before lobbing the ‘keeper to score. It was a magnificent win for Queens, who look on track to push for a playoff spot if they can perform to this standard over the course of the season.
Livingston 1-1 Dunfermline
Two teams who were predicted to finish in mid-table played out a predictable draw. A short corner from Livi caught out the Pars defence. The ball was passed to Scott Pitman, with the young American/Scot driving into the box and firing his shot beyond Sean Murdoch in the Dunfermline goals. The game was scrappy and there were fouls aplenty. Dunfermline midfielder Joe Cardle did his best Tom Daley impression, performing an outrageous dive that somehow conned the referee into pointing to the spot. Kallum Higginbotham dispatched the penalty to draw Dunfermline ever. The scandalous dive proved decisive as the game finished one goal apiece. Dunfermline got lucky, but Livingston will certainly be the happier of the teams if they can keep that standard of play up throughout the season.
Dumbarton 0-0 Morton.
Drab. This was a drab, drab match. Few people expected Dumbarton v Morton to be a thriller, but this was not a good game. The best of the action occurred late on in the game, with Ross Forbes and new signing Bob McHugh forcing the Dumbarton ‘keeper into a spectacular double save. Morton had more shots and more possession away from home, but just couldn’t find that crucial winner. They will win games playing the direct nature that they showed today. Dumbarton will be in danger if they don’t push the boat out a little more. Brechin City may be perceived as passengers in the league this year, but the playoffs could see the Sons engaged in a relegation battle.
Okay, this section seems laughable at this stage of the season, but it might be quite interesting come winter. But
consistency and all that dictates that I should write it anyway…
Hearts. Okay, this section is ridiculous right now. Hearts WILL NOT go down. They are in a mini-crisis currently, with head coach Ian Cathro finding his contract terminated this week. This, coupled with a tricky away trip to Celtic saw the Edinburgh side lose 4-1. They have a good squad and will not go down, but find themselves in the Downtown section on goal difference.
Moving on Up
No, M People are not getting promoted to the Scottish Championship! Instead, this section will highlight the side who top the Scottish League One. Ayr United take that honour this week. Again, it is hard to call on match day one, but Ayr’s emphatic 5-1 win over Albion Rovers see’s the West Coast side top their division with an impressive goal difference.
The League Roundup
After match day one, the league table looks like this.
It was an intriguing opening weekend in the Scottish Championship. Dundee United and St. Mirren grabbed impressive wins, Brechin City faced the stark reality that they may be on a hiding to nothing this season after a mauling in Dumfries, and Joe Cardle proved himself to be, to use the technical Scottish expression, a cheating, diving bastard. Thanks for the read, folks. ‘Til next week, goodbye!