Scottish Championship Match Day 21: Saints Storm Ahead

Scottish Championship

Dundee United went from shipping six to keeping a clean sheet, St Mirren won to go eight points clear at the top, Falkirk AND Inverness only went a won a bloody game, and in a less shocking turn of events, Brechin lost. It was a good fixture list this week with some twists and turns as always. We shall start this weekend’s round up with Queen of the South making the journey north to an Inverness full of confidence after a battering of Falkirk midweek.

Inverness 3-1 Queen of the South

Football is a 90 minute match, but my god it helps when you get a goal early on. That is exactly what Iain Vigurs did after three minutes on Saturday. He stooped to get his head to a cross to put Caley 1-0 up and set his side in the right direction. It was a day of frustration for Stephen Dobbie, fresh off the back of signing a contract extension, who squandered a glorious chance at 1-0 down. This miss was bad enough for Queens, but his manager Gary Naysmith watched on in horror as Inverness broke up the park and doubled their advantage, Joe Chalmers thundering his strike into the back of the net, half an hour in. Aaron Dorran put Inverness three up just shy of the hour mark to seal the win for the highlanders. Eighteen year old Owen Bell scored his first goal for Queen of the South, guiding his header beyond Mark Ridgers with five minutes to go, but it was a case of too little too late for the Doonhamers. It says a lot about the ambition of the two clubs, Queen of the South have enjoyed an excellent season by their standards, while Inverness have been fairly horrible, following their relegation to the Championship, yet both teams sit on 30 points, three off a playoff spot. The battle for the playoffs is as exciting as ever!

Morton 0-1 Falkirk

This was not a good game, nor was it an exciting scoreline really. It just merits second spot because a Falkirk win is a rarity these days. They may have smashed Dundee United for six last week, but a 4-1 defeat to Inverness last Tuesday dragged them back to reality. Their game against Morton was a must win, as Morton are one of the teams who have a chance at being dragged into a relegation playoff battle. A Louis Longridge corner bounced to Craig Sibbald at the edge of the box. The attacking midfielder put his laces through it, the ball taking a slight deflection to fizz past Derek Gaston and into the net. Falkirk very nearly doubled their lead, a Longridge shot taking a deflection and cannoning off the bar, bouncing wide, to the relief of the home side. Morton offered up very little throughout the game, giving Bairns ‘keeper Robbie Thompson a remarkably easy match. The weekends results see Falkirk level of points with Dumbarton.

Dumbarton 0-2 St Mirren

Once again for St Mirren, it was a case of job done. No fireworks, no thrills, just efficiency. Dumbarton managed to hold the league leaders to a draw at the half, their defence holding strong, but the half time interval did them no favours. St Mirren came out of the blocks at breakneck speed and took the lead just two minutes after the restart. Stellios Demetriou crossed from deep for Cammy Smith to put his head on the ball, six yards out, and guide it into the back of the net. Lewis Morgan, back on loan at St Mirren following his transfer to Celtic, was running the Dumbarton defence ragged, but the second goal came from captain fantastic, Stephen McGinn. McGinn struck his shot low into the bottom corner to cap off a spell of increased pressure from the Buddies. Dumbarton started to throw men forward, but it didn’t work out, too little too late was the morale of the story for them. The result sees the Saints go eight points clear at the top, while Dumbarton are only above the relegation playoff spot on goal difference.

Dunfermline 0-0 Dundee United

Dundee United were unbeaten in twelve matches against the Pars, dating back to 2012, the bulk of those being wins. This looked to be in jeopardy following their 6-1 mauling from Falkirk the week before. Fair play to Csaba Laszlo, however. After shipping six goals to the 2nd worst team in the league, managed by the largely incompetent Paul Hartley, he drilled his team hard and managed to help them cut out the stupid mistakes that cost them so dearly a week ago. It was a physical battle, Callum Morris and Emil Lyng clashing on many occasions throughout the game. Dunfermline had the better chances overall, and can count themselves very unlucky not to grab the three points late on. In stoppage time, Declan McManus shot from the edge of the box and saw his effort hit off the woodwork and out of play. Both sides had chances to win, but neither will be too disheartened by the point, as every point is cherished when the league is as tight as it is this season.

Brechin 0-2 Livingston

Another predictable result. Livingston are quite good, Brechin aren’t. Jackson Longridge was brought down in the box by Connor McLennan twelve minutes in, forcing the referee to blow for a penalty kick to the visitors. This was a nightmare start for the hosts, who, with relegation merely a matter of time, are surely a group of players trying to showcase themselves for other teams to sign them. Craig Halkett stepped up and converted his penalty to put Livi a goal up. Scott Robinson doubled the lead with twenty minutes to go with a calm finish into the bottom corner. Baring in mind the lack of quality which shrouds much of Scottish football, it is quite unbelievable that Brechin City have amassed only four points this campaign. Livingston’s win sees them leapfrog QOS into fourth place.

Downtown

Once again, the winter break in the top flight leaves this section of my round up somewhat blank!

Moving on up

Raith Rovers hosted Ayr United in the most exciting title battle in Europe. Both sides looked invincible at one stage of the season, and both have gone through a rough patch. The 1-1 draw which ensued was probably a fair result all round. Lawrence Shankland and Grieg Spence got the goals, Ayr grabbing the opener before the half and Raith equalising shortly after the break. Raith remain top spot in League 1, with two games in hand.

The League Roundup

After match day twenty one, the league table looks like this:

Team Played Won Drawn Lost For Against G.D Points
1 St Mirren 22 15 3 4 41 23 18 48
2 Dundee United 21 12 4 5 30 23 7 40
3 Dunfermline 21 9 6 6 37 24 13 33
4 Livingston 20 9 6 5 31 24 7 33
5 Queen of the South 21 8 6 7 34 30 4 30
6 Inverness 22 8 6 8 29 25 4 30
7 Morton 20 7 7 6 27 21 6 28
8 Dumbarton 21 4 8 9 15 28 -13 20
9 Falkirk 21 4 8 9 20 34 -14 20
10 Brechin 21 0 4 17 16 48 -32 4

And thus ends another week of football in the Scottish Championship. The gap at the top is getting larger, eight points currently separate St Mirren and Dundee United, although the Tayside team do have a game in hand over their Paisley rival. Falkirk have clawed their way back from near-certain relegation playoff, to now be only behind Dumbarton on goal difference. The battle for playoffs is as tense as ever, with five teams being separated by only three points, all pushing to fill the spaces behind Dundee United and St Mirren. The league will take a one week break this weekend due to the Scottish Cup taking place.