With about a quarter of the season played in Scotland it’s time again to take a look at what is going on below the Premiership level. As always, I preface an update of this kind by saying that I am fully aware just how lucky I am to be a Ross County F.C. supporter. By any account a club the “size” of County should be languishing in League One or Two- if not vying to win the Highland League on a yearly basis. Shrewd ownership, management, and the ambitions of the club’s players and supporters have made the situation otherwise and I am thankful for that.
Despite the many animal sacrifices I have made to prevent it, it appears that Rangers will indeed win the league and complete their return from ignominy by competing in the Premiership in the 2016-2017. It was bound to happen sooner or later. Rangers are undefeated, undrawn, and have already built up a goal differential of +26. They have the two leading scorers in the league in Martyn Waghorn and James Tavernier, and- hey, wait just a second! Seven of Waghorn’s league leading eleven goals came from penalty kicks?! Seven penalties awarded in nine matches? I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’…
Below Rangers it looks like Raith, Hibernian, and Falkirk have already begun to separate themselves from the rest of the pack and to position themselves to be part of the promotion playoffs come the end of the season. While Raith and Falkirk will certainly be eager to return to the Scottish top flight, it seems imperative for Hibernian to secure promotion at the end of the season- this is the first time Hibernian have been on of the top flight for more than a single season since the 1931-1932 and 1932-1933 season. Becoming mired in the Championship is surely not in the Easter Road club’s plans.
Whichever clubs make the promotion playoffs they will likely face Patrick Thistle F.C. or Dundee United in the for the chance to join the Premiership next season.
At the bottom of the Championship Alloa Athletic and Livingston seem destined for either automatic relegation or the relegation playoffs. However, perhaps the more worrying story centers around St. Mirren. Relegated from the Premiership last season they are only two points above the danger zone and the possibility of being relegated to League One at the end of the season. If this were to happen it would be the first time in 40 years the the club had played in the third tier of Scottish Football.
The story in League One is the battle for first place between Ayr United and Dunfermline Athletic, who are currently separated by only a single point. It remains to be seen who will win the league and automatic promotion, but Dunfermline have the two top scorers in the league (including former Stage Joe Cardle!) and more importantly, have a +22 goal differential after nine matches compared with Ayr’s +10 and that gap may prove to be a crucial one.
Brechin City and Cowdenbeath are currently propping up the league and have to be likely bets for relegation or the relegation playoffs, but above them- and below Ayr and Dunfermline- there’s going to be a real dog fight with no less than six clubs separated by only three points! Included in this group are newly promoted Albion Rovers (featuring former Staggie Andrew Barrowman!) and two clubs- Peterhead and Stranraer- who only a few seasons ago were in danger of being relegated from league football all together.
The League Two table is the tightest one in all of the lower divisions with only three points separating the top seven(!) places. Montrose appear to have taken last year’s great escape to heart and rather than being in danger of a relegation in battle and dropping out of the league they are in fourth place. At present it appear the Gable Endies will be replaced by one of the Stirlingshire clubs. My money would be on East Stirlingshire F.C., who, after winning two of their first three matches have lost six in a row and scored only two goals in a match only once during this stretch. They’ve also given up seven more goals than any other League 2 club thus far and their leading scorer is defender Nathan Shepherd. These are not good omens.
Finally, it case you were wondering what fate may await East Stirlingshire it is most likely they will meet one of the two following clubs: Edinburgh City F.C., who won the Lowland League last season and are starting to pull away from the pack again this season, or Highland League side Cove Rangers F.C.. Cove are in a battle with Formartine United, Turriff United, and Brora Rangers, but are in first place by two points and hold a match in hand over all three clubs.