If you’re a long-time reader of the Tanner Ba’ you know that one of the motivations for creating the site was to shine a light on the lower leagues in Scotland. Little did I know back in 2011 that my club, Ross County F.C., would be on the verge of securing a fifth consecutive season in the Scottish top flight! The result, unfortunately, as been that over the years the site has- understandably- drifted away from coverage of the lower leagues to focus on County’s exploits at the top of the Scottish heap. Knowing that this has happened I like to pause occasionally and review the goings on in the Championship. League One, League Two, and even in the Highland and Lowland Leagues, always being sure to point out those with connections to Ross County. Here we go!
The bad news in the Championship is that Rangers are currently in first place and should they hold onto that spot they will return to the Premiership next seasons after four seasons of self-inflicted exile. There is still a chance that the Ibrox side could be bumped back down into the promotion/relegation playoffs as Hibernian trail them by a manageable three points. Falkirk are also hanging around the top of the table, trailing Rangers by seven points, but having played one more match.
At the bottom of the table things are a bit more cut-and-dry. Alloa Athletic, with only 11 points from 21 matches and a -31 goal differential are surely sunk. Battling to avoid dropping into League One via the playoffs are Dumbarton, St. Mirren, and Livingston. Of that group I hope that St. Mirren will survive if only so that former Staggie Rocco Quinn (above) will not have seen his career path take him from the Premiership to League One in only a few short months.
In the League One all of the stories- and there are a lot of them!- involve the first four clubs in the table. Dunfermline Athletic- Jim McIntyre’s former club- were in the top flight as recently as 2011-2012, but then successive relegations and financial problems threatened the club’s very existence. This year, however, they are on the verge of returning the to Championship next season as they lead League One by seven points, thanks in no small part to the play of form County man Joe Cardle, who has 10 goals thus far in the campaign. Just below Dunfermline are Ayr United, looking to continue their almost 40 year long odyssey of bouncing back and forth between the 2nd and 3rd levels of Scottish football. In third place, and very munch in the promotion playoff hunt are, believe it or not, Peterhead F.C.. That’s right, another former Highland League club (like County, but not like Caley) are working their way up the Scottish football ladder! Among the players hoping to help the Blue Toon to their second promotion in only three seasons are former County youth player Scott Ferries and mystery American player Kevin Dzierzawski. Rounding out the playoff clubs are Albion Rovers, looking to gain promotion for the second season running. Notable on the roster at Albion is our old friend Andrew Barrowman. Say what you will about his career elsewhere, but he scored 34 goals in 65 career matches while at County and a few more in the cups as well!
At the bottom of League One it appears that, barring a collapse on the part of Cowdenbeath or Stranraer, it will be Forfar Athletic and Brechin City trying to avoid relegation to the bottom of league football at the end of the season.
This may be the most tightly packed table in Scottish football. While twenty points separate first place from last place, some clubs have played as few as 19 matches and others as many as 22. As a result, while first place Elgin City (hello there, Kyle McLeod! And Daniel Moore! And former County youth players Archie MacPhee, Marc Nicolson, and Darryl McHardy!) will probably win the division, literally every other club could still make a run at the promotion playoffs. Here are a two examples: if 5th place Clyde could win the three matches in hand they have over 3rd place East Fife they could actual move into 2nd place! Similarly, if last place East Stirlingshire were to do the same thing they would move from 10th to 6th place and be only three points shy of a playoff spot. Crazy!
One final note about League Two… Striker Craig Gunn as been at Elgin City since being released by County in the summer of 2009. Since that time he has scored 104 times in 226 league matches and 21 times in 40 cup matches. I guess he “found his level!” In case you were wondering, he has 16 goals in 21 matches this season!
The Highland League
Here we go again?! As usual the Highland League table is a mess, with some clubs having played as few as 20 matches and others as many as 26- how does that even happen?! Anyway, also as usual, Brora Rangers (Ross County “Lite”*) top the table with Cove Rangers and Formartine United more or less potentially even with them as the each have three matches in hand on the league leaders. The real question is, what is the winner going to do? Last year Brora made it clear that they had, at best, mixed feeling about moving into league football, and then promptly went out and made sure it didn’t happen by losing to Montrose F.C.. I’m not suggesting that they “tanked” those playoff matches, but I am suggesting that their hearts may not have been in it. What happens if they win this year under new manager/County legend Richard Brittain? Will they go all-out to join league football? What will happen if it’s Formartine United or Cove Rangers who win and are, it must be said, better positioned geographically, to take part in league football?
*Brittain, Malin, Munro, Kettlewell, Porritt…
The Lowland League
As is the case with the Highland League, the Lowland League table is also a mess- some clubs have played 14 times, others 20. That said, for the second season in a row, nobody is going to catch Edinburgh City. Second place Stirling University have five matches in hand over the league leaders and even if they won all of them they still come up short. And that’s all I really know. For me the Lowland League seems to exist in some sort of footballing parallel universe.