The big freeze hitting Scotland this week did for two matches this weekend. Livingston missed their second game in a row as their visit to Dumbarton was called off with a frozen pitch. The same fate befell Falkirk, who had their trip to Inverness cancelled for the same reason. Inverness aim to have the game played on Tuesday night, whereas Dumbarton have no immediate plans to get the game rescheduled. In the games that were played, Queen of the South found form with an emphatic 5-2 victory away to Dunfermline. Dundee United continued their revival with a solid win in Greenock against Morton, whilst St Mirren survived a scare against Brechin to continue their own push for top spot. My inner Dundee United fan wants to analyse that game first, but it is only fair to give that accolade to the five-star QOS.
Dunfermline 2-5 Queen of the South
Goals galore at East End Park, and to the dismay of the home fans, only two of the seven goals scored on Saturday were to the home side. Chris Kane opened the scoring less than ten minutes in, Andy Stirling teeing up the on loan St Johnstone forward for the games opening goal. Stephen Dobbie was running the Pars defence riot, making the most of an error by Ryan Williamson to cut the ball back to the edge of the six yard box to Chris Kane, who duly grabbed his second, 27 minutes in. Dunfermline trudged into the changing room at the break to a chorus of boos, but these jeers turned to cheers just three minutes into the second half. Nicky Clark hammered in a half volley beyond Alan Martin in the queens goal. Dunfermline were encouraged by their fight back, and were going about their business in the hopes of pulling an equalising goal. Alas, they went two goals behind with fifteen minutes left to play. Dean Shiels managed to gift QOS a chance after messing up a free kick in his own half. The ball fell back to goalkeeper Sean Murdoch, who’ s botched clearance was capitalised on by Stephen Dobbie. Gary Naismith’s day got even better as his side were awarded a penalty with ten minutes to go. Lyndon Dykes was chopped down in the penalty area and up stepped former Swansea striker Stephen Dobbie to tuck away the attempt from twelve yards. Dunfermline pulled a consolation back in the 85h minute through a Declan McManus header, but it was Dobbie who had the final word, playing a neat one-two with Dykes to find space in the box to complete his hat trick and finish off the Queen of the South route. With Livingston two games behind the rest and Dunfermline or bad form – they are four games without a win – QOS have leapt into the playoff spots.
Morton 0-2 Dundee United
Dundee United continued their upswing in form with an excellent 2-0 win over a tough-to-beat Morton side. Jim Duffy’s side gave the Arabs a close game at Tannadice earlier in the season, and showed signs of doing the same at Cappielow on Saturday. Dundee United look a much more formidable opponent under Csaba Laszlo than they did under Ray McKinnon, and can count themselves unlucky to have gone into the break level. Derek Gaston pulled out some top notch saves to deny Fraser Fyvie and Scott McDonald before the break. It was Billy King who stole the show for United. He fired the first goal an hour into the match, striking the ball ferociously to send the away fans into raptures. Morton looked somewhat lacklustre after this, the goal appearing to have knocked the stuffing out of them. They threw players forward towards the end, and were hit on the counter attack. Fraser Fyvie set up Billy King to seal the three points four minutes into stoppage time to ensure the Tayside team finished the week atop the table. This win not only helped put points on the board, but also went some way to clawing back the goal difference that may well come into play in such a tight season.
Brechin 1-2 St Mirren
On paper, this match should have been cut and dry. While St Mirren got their win in the end, they took their time going about it. The game looked like it was going as predictably as one might expect when Gavin Reilly put the Buddies a goal up after twenty minutes. Brechin evidently didn’t read the script however, as Isaac Hayden should grit and tenacity to outrun the defence and slot the ball beyond Craig Samson to equalise for The City. St Mirren were throwing their all at Brechin and were holding a serious amount of possession. Cammy Smith was felled in the box with 25 minutes to go, and was tasked with taking the consequent penalty. He completed the task with ease, converting the penalty to regain St Mirren’s lead. With a goal advantage, St Mirren were able to frustrate the hosts by holding on to the ball and refusing to let it go. They were able to withstand the infrequent waves of Brechin’s attack to grab the win which ensured they stayed hot on the heels of their Tayside title rivals.
Partick Thistle dug themselves into an even bigger hole in their relegation battle with a stunningly bad 5-1 loss to Kilmarnock. Professional shite-talker Kris Boyd opened the scoring for Steve Clarke’s men. Former Dundee United nobody Chris Erskine pulled a goal back for the Jags, but Eamonn Brophy restored the lead on minute twenty. Brophy scored again on minute 65, sandwiched between a Niall Keown own goal and a Kris Boyd penalty to give Kilmarnock a rare five star performance. Clarke handed a debut to former West Brom ball winning midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu. The Congolese midfielder was influential with his ball retention and looks like a shrewd signing by Killie. This defeat leaves Partick four points adrift, though they do have a game in hand.
Moving on up
Ayr United left it late to see off bottom side Queens Park in a thriller at Somerset Park. Craig Moore opened the scoring from the penalty spot 24 minutes in. Queens Park equalised then took the lead through Conor McVey and then a Craig Reid own goal minutes before and after half time. It looked like Ayr were going to slip to a shock defeat until young Declan McDaid equalised with ten minutes to go. Alan Forest nabbed the winner in the 88th minute to put the league leaders back ahead and in doing so condemning Queens Park to a cruel defeat.
The League Roundup
After match day sixteen, the league table looks like this:
|3||Queen of the South||16||7||5||4||28||21||7||26|
It was unfortunate for all that the cold winter weather is disrupting the football, as teams like Livingston are losing momentum, while Falkirk are finding themselves being cast adrift. As Jose Mourinho said many years ago, he would much rather be setting the pace than chasing the pack, and in both the case of Livi and Falkirk, both teams would rather be involved week by week rather than having to play catch up. Because of Livingson’s postponements, a gap has developed between the top two and the chasing pack. Queen of the South finally clawed themselves into the playoff spots, courtesy of Dunfermline’s abysmal recent form. Brechin are now sixteen points adrift of clear safety, and given their -25 point goal difference, it may as well be seventeen. Inverness hope that the weather will break to allow their game against the Bairns to go ahead on Tuesday night, this is a must win game for Falkirk, and for the good of the league, it would be good to see Falkirk win.