the tanner ba'

What’s Going On In Scotland’s Lower Leagues?

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With the football season in Scotland entering it’s final third it seems appropriate to take a look at what is going on below the Scottish Premier League- this is, after all, the first season in decades in which there will be true relegation and promotion from top to bottom in Scottish senior football and there is even a chance that the last place club in League Two could find itself out of “league football” all together.  More about that possibility below.  We’ll begin at the bottom and work our way up the leagues.

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The Highland Football League

For most of the 2014-2015 season it looked like defending champions Ross County 2 F.C. Brora Rangers F.C. were going to coast right into the promotion playoffs and, quite possibly, into League Two for the 2015-2016 season.  They were ahead on points despite having played fewer matches (in some cases three or four) than the clubs in pursuit of them.  But a funny thing happened, Turriff United F.C. decided that they just weren’t going to lose any more matches!  Their last loss was in a Scottish Cup match at the beginning of October and their only “non-win” since then was a draw against Inverurie Locos at the end of October.  So, as you can see from the table above, despite losing three points for fielding an ineligible player, they’re in a neck-and-neck race for the title- and possible promotion- with Brora.

Before we move on, please also note the position of Fort William F.C. in the Highland League table.  13th place might not seem noteworthy, but this is a club who have only finished better than second worse three times in the last twenty years and prior to this year have finished dead and distant last each of the last four seasons.  “The Fort” have been so bad for so long that they are often held up as being the “Worst Club Team in Europe.”  In the past a goal differential of -100 or worse has not been out of the question, so -25 at this stage of the season is a positive triumph!

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The Lowland Football League

How nice is it to have a Lowland league to compliment the Highland League?  As a relatively new league (this is it’s second season) things are still shaking out for the clubs from the former East of Scotland and South of Scotland leagues and the result is that this league is not yet as competitive as its ancient Highland counterpart.  Edinburgh City F.C. are eight points ahead of Gretna 200 F.C., and more importantly they hold three matches in hand over Gretna.  So, it will be Edinburgh City v. Brora Rangers/Turriff United to see who has the right to play the last place club in…

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Scottish League Two

Things are not as bleak as they look for East Stirlingshire F.C. at first glance.  Yes, they trail Montrose F.C. by four points, but note that they hold three matches in hand over them.  I suppose Clyde F.C. could be drawn into the relegation battle, but I think it’s going to be between East Stirlingshire and Montrose and that it will probably be Montrose who have to face the winner of the Highland/Lowland playoffs.

More importantly, Albion Rovers F.C. are still in the thick of things (along with amateur side Queen’s Park F.C.) at the top of the League Two table and should have a lot to play for when I see them take on Elgin City F.C. at Cliftonhill on March 28!

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Scottish League One

There’s not much drama at the bottom of League One- Stirling Albion F.C. are pretty much dead and buried at this point- but look at the top of the table!  Only two points separating the top three sides, no club holding matches in hand over another- oh wait, except for fourth place Brechin City that is!  Two wins from the City and they will be on 41 points with Greenock Morton F.C. and in the middle of a four horse race as the season winds to a close.  I might have to check my travel itinerary and see if I can get to see one of these clubs in action!

Okay, I guess there’s one other thing to mention down at the bottom of the table.  With Stenhousemuir F.C. fighting to remain above Ayr United and out of the relegation playoffs I’d like to point out that 10 of Stenny’s 26 goals have been scored by none other than former County player Colin McMenamin!  In fact, he’s having his best season since his 19 league goals led County to promotion to the Premiership!

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The Scottish Championship

Clearly it’s Alloa, Cowdenbeath, and Livington are in an all out battle to avoid relegation and it is highly unlikely that any other club in the table needs to worry about being drawn into the mire with these three Wooden Spoon hopefuls.

First off, the title race is over.  Hearts, who were relegated for off-field problems rather than on-field failures, have logically run away with the league and with a 17 point lead(!) and a match in hand over their closest rivals (in more ways than one) they can confidently put the champagne on ice.  Rangers do have three matches in hand over Hibernian, but judging from today’s result- Hibs 2 Gers 0- it’s unlikely that the Edinburgh side have much to worry about from a club that is beginning to look as shambolic on the pitch as it does in the boardroom.

Which brings us to this:  how happy would I be if Ross County were able to able to get into a position where they played Rangers in the relegation/promotion playoffs and were able to beat them?  County would forever be the club that ended Rangers.  And believe me, if Rangers fail to win promotion back to the Premiership at the end of this season, it’s over.  On the field and off the field.

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