The Scottish Championship returned this week after a two week break, in which the Irn Bru Cup and Scottish Cup saw some of Scotland’s second string teams do battle. A couple of league matches did take place during this period, which means some teams have played 14 games, others having completed 13, which from a personal level is infuriating, as my lovely table now looks disjointed. This week’s action saw Dumbarton and Brechin gain credible draws against title pushers Dunfermline and Dundee United, while Morton, St Mirren and Livingston recorded big wins with clean sheets away from home. We will start this week’s action in Fife, where Dunfermline and Dumbarton fought for the points on a frosty Saturday afternoon.
Dunfermline 2-2 Dumbarton
Dunfermline have seen their standards slip somewhat over the past few weeks, their blistering early season form being hampered by their conceding of sloppy goals. They haven’t won in four league games, and sit in fourth, only two points above QOS. Tom Walsh opened the scoring for Dumbarton, shortly after the halftime break. He picked the ball up in midfield and drove it forward, firing low past Sean Murdoch to help fight Dumbarton’s relegation cause. Dunfermline rang the changes and this paid off, the team became more direct and just minutes after going a goal down, Callum Morris levelled, the big man performing a delicate turn before tucking his shot neatly away. With 20 minutes to go, Dimitrios Froxylias blasted a goal of the season contender left footed effort past Murdoch to reinstate the Sons lead. Dunfermline were playing the better football and this kept the crowd largely on their side as they pushed hard for an equaliser. Callum Smith saw his shot blocked, but he picked up the ball from the rebound and crossed into the six yard box, where former Rangers man Nicky Clark headed home from a few yards out to give the Pars an equaliser, the least that they deserved. Their football was impressive at time, but results are going to need to improve if they want to keep those title ambitions alive.
Queen of the South 0-3 Livingston
Livingston picked up a tremendous away performance to push them further into the playoffs. After a period of early
pressure, Livi scored half an hour in, Josh Mullin crossing the ball to James Penrice, who stabbed the ball home to give the away fans something to shout about. QOS should have equalised on the stroke of halftime, James McFadden crossed deep to Derek Lyle, who’s header was saved by Neil Alexander. Despite the Queens fight back, it was Livingston who scored the game’s second, Josh Mullin striking the ball sweetly into the net on 68 minutes. Frustration was evidently getting to the home side, and Kyle Jacobs saw his match end early, referee Colin Steven showing the player a second yellow card. Jake Byrne scored the third and final goal with ten minutes to go, hammering home from eight yards out to seal victory for Livingston, moving them up to 3rd place in the table.
Brechin 1-1 Dundee United
After Dundee United’s emphatic win over Falkirk last week, fans were excited to see what they would do against Brechin, a weaker side, on paper anyway. Brechin had other ideas, however. Credit goes to the home side for even allow the game to go on, with fans being asked to help cover the pitch the night before to help battle to frost which looked like causing a postponement of the match. Dundee United started the first half with the same rampant style which saw them blow Falkirk away, new manager Csaba Laszlo evidently having an impact on the squad. They got their rewards half an hour in, with Scott McDonald stabbing home from close range, converting a Billy King cross. United came out in the second half looking rather slack, perhaps overconfident over the ability of their opposition. As someone has spent over a decade watching Dundee United, only one thing has remained a constant; our ineptitude at set pieces. Darren Dods, one of United’s few dependable at this over the years, now managers Brechin, and took advantage of this weakness. Sean Crighton rose above the United defence to head home the Brechin equaliser, forcing United to fight harder against a dogged defence. Brechin almost won it late, Finn Graham seeing his effort denied by Harry Lewis in the United goal. Dundee United’s disappointing day went from bad to worse as Tam Scobbie was dismissed deep into stoppage time for a second yellow card. Brechin pulled off their third point of the season despite a lowly 28% possession stat.
Falkirk 0-3 Morton
The season started badly for Falkirk, with fans and neutrals alike thinking similarly. “Falkirk will need to get their act together soon if they still want this title.” “Falkirk will need to start picking up a few wins to get a playoff spot.”
“HOUSTON OUT!!” “Falkirk need a win or two to get us away from this relegation zone.” “Shit, Falkirk are actually awful, we might go down!” What is even more concerning for Falkirk is that both Raith and Ayr look more than confident of sending the Bairns down in a playoff match at the end of the season. Morton were awarded a penalty early on. Robbie Thompson saved the penalty from Big Fat Gary Harkins, but he was unable to deny the former Dundee man from slotting the rebound home. Robert Thompson headed beyond Robbie Thompson just two minutes before the halftime break to double Morton’s lead, and then scored once more with 25 minutes to go. Falkirk initially looked like being more solid at the back when Hartley took control, but after a decent chunk of time in charge, the team are still goal shy and have gone back to bad habits defensively. January will be a huge month for Hartley in the transfer market, however if results stay this way then he may not last that long…
Inverness 0-2 St Mirren
Inverness had put in a few decent displays of late to rise above the relegation zones, but a clinical St Mirren
performance, mixed with an ill-disciplined Caley showing led to a visitor victory. The first goal of the game came in the second half, as David Raven conceded a cheap penalty to Lewis Morgan. Ian McShane stepped up and converted the ball home, sending the away fans who had made the long journey into pandemonium. St Mirren were the more dominant side, although John Robertson’s team had plenty of shots on goal. St Mirren allowed the hosts to venture forward, content at their ability to counter fast on the opposition. Their day was made easier with twelve minutes to go as Iain Vigurs was shown a second yellow card. St Mirren capitalised in injury time as Gavin Reilly scored the second of the day, and his 50th league goal. St Mirren remain in second place by a point, though they have a game in hand over Dundee United.
Partick Thistle hold the accolade for this week’s downtown segment, although it is a tad harsh as they did not play a match this weekend on account of the BetFred Cup Final between Motherwell and Celtic. Dundee lifted themselves off the foot of the table after a 2-1 Friday night win against Newco Rangers at Dens Park. Mark O’Hara took advantage of a poorly defended free kick to give Dundee the lead on 68 minutes. Josh Windass, son of Dean Windass, equalised just two minutes later. Scott Allan twisted and turned the Rangers defence to find space before setting up O’Hara for his second of the game with ten minutes to go.
Moving on up
Ayr United continue their tremendous form to finish the week top of the table. The west coast side took their time in
finding a winner. Michael Moffat started their game off well, notching after only four minutes. It looked like an upset was on the cards as former Hibernian man Scott Taggart got an equaliser with fifteen minutes to go. With the game into injury time, Scott Moore fired his low shot into the net to grant Ayr their sixth straight win. Raith are three points behind but do have a game in hand over Ayr, although Ayr currently have a better goal difference by six.
The League Roundup
After match day thirteen, the league table looks like this:
|5||Queen of the South||13||6||3||4||21||17||4||21|
After updating the now uneven table, it would appear that much has unchanged from last time. The only thing that seems to alter is the ordering of the top four, and the ordering of 7th and 8th. Dumbarton and Inverness are both battling for a seventh spot, neither side appearing capable of finishing higher. The bottom two appear pretty nailed on, despite a good point for Brechin this weekend. Morton appear to be stranded in 6th spot, but are only a point of QOS in 5th, and only three off Dunfermline in 4th. With over twenty games to go there is scope for change in the table before the season is out.