Scottish Championship Match Day 34: Saints March On To Title

Scottish Championship

After a couple of weeks off due to a trip to America, the By Far The Greatest Team rundown of the Scottish Championship is back. I do apologise, as in my absence, Brechin City were relegated. The team defied expectation in gaining promotion under the guidance of Darren Dods last season, while gained many plaudits for the professional outlook of their club this year, but none of that could make up for their winless season to date. At the other end of the table, a winner was announced. St Mirren, who have been top of the pack for much of the season, strolled ahead of the rest of the title chasers in recent weeks and in a top of the table clash against Livingston, they crushed out a tight 0-0 to earn them the trophy.

St Mirren 0-0 Livingston

This certainly wasn’t the game of the season, not by any means, but Jack Ross knew that a point was all it would take
against second placed Livi to clinch the title, and clinch the title they did. It was a nerve-free day for the Saints, they
have been on top spot for what feels like forever and knew that if they slipped up then they had plenty more days to get over the finish line. The best chance of the game fell to Lewis Morgan. He exchanged passes with club captain Stephen McGinn before rattling his shot off the goalpost, via the hands of Neil Alexander. Gary McKenzie and Declan Gallagher both had decent efforts for the visitors, but neither attempt could outfox Craig Samson. The second half was a highly cautious affair, with neither side wanting to let their point slip away. The Saints wanted the title while Livi did not want to give up any ground on their playoff rivals. A point was welcomed by both sides at full time, with each team looking steady to defy their pre-season expectations.

Inverness 5-1 Dumbarton

When you’re a side who is desperate to climb your way up the table and away from a relegation playoff, moral is important. Getting trounced 5-1 by a very hit and miss Inverness side was certainly not part of the plan for Stephen Aitken. To make matters feel almost worse, they took the lead! An Andrew Stirling cut back pass met Grant Gallacher to fire the Sons a goal ahead after thirteen minutes, though this elation was short lived as Aaron Doran fired a bullet shot from distance to settle the score just four minutes later. The star of the show was Nathan Austin, a former fan-favourite at Falkirk, who bagged himself a hat trick to help out both his current club and his former one. He scored his first five minutes before the break, with his second coming five minutes after the interval. His final goal was scored on minute 66, just three minutes after Iain Vigurs put Caley 4-1 up. John Robertson endured a torrid start to the season, but have found their swagger a bit as the season went on. They may prove to be a dark horse in the playoff chase next season.

Dunfermline 4-0 Brechin

This game was discussed in my sister-series, Betting Bad, and I predicted an easy win for the Pars. Well, they duly
delivered. They got off to the perfect start as former Kilmarnock defender Lee Ashcroft opened the scoring after only two minutes. The former Rangers winger Fraser Aird was next on the score sheet for Dunfermline, unleashing a sparkling lob to double the scoreline. Andy Ryan cannoned a header into the back of the new with twenty minutes to go to secure the points, and with three minutes to go, a penalty added a cherry on top of the cake. Willie Dyer brought down Danny Armstrong, allowing Kallum Higginbotham to tuck away his penalty. After a dodgy spell of form in the mid season, Dunfermline look like a side who are coming into formidable form as they enter the playoff crunch time. They currently sit 3rd, level on points with Dundee United, but with a significantly better goal difference.

Dundee United 1-0 Falkirk

Prior to this game, United boss Csaba Laszlo stated that this wasn’t a grudge match, that he had no aspirations of seeking revenge after Falkirk hammered the Arabs 6-1 back in January. This was a bizarre statement. As a fan, I wanted to beat Falkirk more than any other team after that humiliation. Whatever the motivation for the game, the only constant was the result, with United winning 1-0. After a turbulent period, they were finding some form of late, and were on a high after stopping Livingston’s title party earlier in the week. Similarly to the St Mirren match in the midweek, when United scored after two minutes courtesy of Billy King, they took the initiative early on against Falkirk this weekend. After only seven minutes, Thomas Mikkelsen, released and then resigned by Dundee United in January, put his side a goal ahead. Robbie Thomson botched a clearance, gifting possession to Willo Flood who fed in the big Danish forward to bury his effort into the Shed End. For all it was Thomson who gifted United the goal, it was also him who kept the score at 1-0 for the duration, ensuring that his attacking team mates had a fighting chance to equalise, a chance that they did not take. The game finished 1-0 to keep Dundee United in the playoff positions, five points ahead of 5th place Morton. The 6-1 defeat will still haunt members of the United team, but at least by winning today, the monkey is somewhat off their backs.

Morton 0-1 Queen of the South

This was a real missed opportunity for Morton, who lost ground on Dundee United and Dunfermline on the hunt for the final playoff spot. Bob McHugh, formerly of Falkirk, was highly involved for Morton, seeing shots shaved and blocked all over the place. Stephen Dobbie had an effort strike the post, while Gary Harkins came sickeningly close for Morton from a free kick. But it was out-of-form Queens who took the lead at Cappielow, 69 minutes into the match. Dom Thomas struck the ball against the post causing havoc in the box. Lyndon Dykes was first to react to the loose ball as he tapped the ball past Conor Brennan. Stephen Dobbie put the ball in the back of the net later in the match, though the referee ruled it out due to being offside. QOS have slipped down the table to the extent that they are relatively finished for the year. They are too far ahead of Dumbarton in 9th to be caught, but the playoffs would be a tough ask. At this stage their best bet is to put out a few youngsters and blood them for the coming season.

Downtown

There was only one fixture played this weekend due to the Scottish Cup semi finals and the break before the split. Hamilton faced Kilmarnock, with Killie winning late on. Partick Thistle sit at the foot of the table, a point behind Ross County, who occupy the relegation playoff spot.

Moving on up

With just two games to go in League One, Ayr United have a two point lead over Raith Rovers. Raith won 2-0 against Queens Park, while Ayr lost 1-2 at home to Stranraer. After going a goal down three minutes in, Ayr equalised through Jamie Adams. Their task was made tougher, however, when Lawrence Shankland was shown a red card for violent conduct after half an hour. Ayr held on for a long time, knowing that at this stage of the season even a point would be beneficial, but with five minutes to go, ill discipline cost them once more. They gave away a penalty, which Stranraer converted with ease. The final two games of the season are sure to be exciting!

The League Roundup

After match day thirty four, the league table looks like this.

Team Played Won Drawn Lost For Against G.D Points
1 St Mirren (C) 33 22 5 6 60 32 28 71
2 Livingston 33 16 11 6 53 34 19 59
3 Dunfermline 34 15 10 9 54 33 21 55
4 Dundee United 33 16 7 10 45 39 6 55
5 Morton 34 13 11 10 46 35 11 50
6 Inverness 32 13 8 11 46 35 11 47
7 Queen of the South 34 12 10 12 51 52 -1 46
8 Falkirk 33 9 11 13 37 46 -9 38
9 Dumbarton 33 7 9 17 25 53 -28 30
10 Brechin (R) 33 0 4 29 19 77 -58 4

So we have some final standings since last I wrote. Brechin are officially relegated, having been unofficially relegated
since about week five. Bigger news is that St Mirren are your Scottish Championship Champions 2017/18. They were in the mix from the very beginning, and where Dunfermline and Dundee United slipped into inconsistencies, having both held title aspirations throughout the season, the Saints kept marching on. There is still much to play for in the final few games of the season. Dumbarton have a lot of praying to do to avoid finishing in the relegation playoff. At the top end of the table, Livingston will look to stay 2nd to avoid playing an extra two playoff games, while Dunfermline and Dundee United will look to see off a late surge from Morton to steal a playoff spot.