The 10 best Scottish lower league players this week

February 22, 2017

Crighton1. Sam Stanton (Dumbarton)

What. A. Finish. If there was ever an example of why leaving a game early is for suckers and patsys, then this was it. In fairness, you probably couldn’t blame any Ayr United fan who decided to abscond before the end after watching their side put in a somewhat pitiful display for the vast majority of the game, bar the last two harum-sacrum minutes. Reduced to 10 men halfway through the first half after a brilliantly brainless challenge from Ross Docherty, their misery was compounded by Dumbarton sashaying into a two goal lead thanks to a brace from the once-again excellent Sam Stanton. However, a goal from Michael Rose in the 91st minute was then followed up with a Craig Moore penalty to create an unlikely comeback and some remarkable scenes in the away end. As unlikely as it seemed after 90 minutes it’s as you were towards the bottom of the Championship table.

2. Willie Gibson (Stranrear)

Stranraer failed to reduce the distance between themselves and eighth placed Peterhead, but it wasn’t for the want of trying in a match which was arguably Scotland’s best of a high-scoring weekend. Stephen Farrell has certainly added a dash of something since taking over the reigns at Stair Park, and while it’s stemming the flow of defeats they’re being replaced with draws rather than wins. Saturday’s fixture was a case-in-point with the Blues looking the better of the two sides. Willie Gibson was again in sparkling form with two great strikes but slackness at the back allowed Peterhead to take a point in a 3-3 draw. With games approaching against misfiring sides Brechin and Airdrie Stranraer’s wins may be fast approaching.

3. Ross Forbes (Morton)

Both Morton and Falkirk were looking to close the gap to second-placed Dundee United, and whilst the 2-2 draw meant they both did just that neither would have been too happy with the outcome. If anything the result simply outlined what we already knew, namely that the two sides are similarly matched although ‘Ton boss Jim Duffy could point to the fact he was missing a handful of first-choice picks. Most importantly though he was still able to call upon the talents of Ross “Forbinho” Forbes, who continued his incredible season with a goal and an assist as Morton initially took the lead before battling back to earn a draw. If these sides are to meet again in the playoffs expect an absolute slobber-knocker.

4. Jean-Yves M’Voto (Raith Rovers)

John Hughes may have a vocabulary which would make a Cro-Magnon man blush but he clearly knows his way around a football club. On Saturday his interview with Raith TV saw him describe Jean Yves M’Voto as having a head the same size as a Great Dane before describing the interviewer as ugly and putting him in a headlock. An unusual ending to question and answer session we agree but it was a lot more entertaining than the game. As was Neil Lennon’s post game rant after this 1-1 draw, which basically boiled down to him describing his team as completely pish, minus the swearword. Only for the final half-hour or so did they look like they may sneak a win, but they were unable to find a way past the mass of humanity that is Craig Barr and M’Voto in the centre of defence. A point gained for Raith, two squandered by Hibs.

5. Sean Crighton (Livingston)

Diamonds boss Mark Wilson insisted there wasn’t much between these sides which seems slightly disingenuous considering his Airdrie team had just lost 4-0 to Livingston. We can only assume that if the score-line had ended with a more representative result, say six or seven, then he may have admitted that Livi just about shaded it. With just two wins in nine Airdrie’s current form could see them slipping out of the playoff places altogether in the coming weeks. It’s a different story for their opponents who moved 12 points clear at the top, thanks to another clinical performance. Sean Crighton got the ball rolling with a 25-yard volley, which isn’t a sentence you necessarily expect to see when discussing the centre-half-turned full-back. Add in Ryan Conroy’s red-card for a rather pathetic looking slap in the final minute and it all adds up to another dismal day for Wilson’s woefuls.

6. Nicky Patterson (East Fife)

There aren’t too many more impressive records in Scottish football at the moment than East Fife’s nine match unbeaten spell in League One. The Fifers were actually in the relegation playoff position as recently as December but their hot streak, which contains six wins and five clean-sheets, now sees them sitting in the third and final promotion play-off spot after this 3-2 win over Brechin. It could be argued that Fife midfielder Nicky Patterson had a mixed day after being red-carded in the final minute, but he’d been the game’s stand out until that point. It was a fixture which threatened to boil over at times with Jim Weir’s Brechin team accused of being violent hammer-throwers by some. Not by us we hasten to add, we don’t want Jim’s daughter starting some Twitter beef with us.

7. Thomas Reilly (Elgin City)

Faced with the prospect of a lengthy journey up north at the weekend the Clyde players were given the luxury of being bussed up the night before and staying over on the Friday evening in the hope that it would aid their performance on the Saturday. It didn’t work though, with the Bully Wee putting in as lilly-livered a performance as we’ve seen in some time. The 4-1 defeat left them 11 (ELEVEN!) points away from the playoffs and are just Len Goodman’s favourite number (SEVEN!) away from Cowdenbeath at the bottom. As for Elgin, they produced another performance which showed that when they click they’re arguably the best team in the league, with midfielder Thomas Reilly probably the pick of those on show as they utterly bodied Barry Ferguson’s flops.

8. Graeme Holmes (Alloa Athletic)

With Livingston seemingly untouchable in League One the question of who’s the best of the rest is somewhat up in the air. However, Alloa Athletic look the likeliest lads on current form with Saturday’s 2-0 win over Queen’s Park lifting them to second in the table after a run of just one defeat in six. Greig Spence opened the scoring, grabbing the SPFL’s 8000th goal in the process, while Jordan Kirkpatrick sealed the points with the late second. However, in-between, it was Graeme Holmes who impressed more than anyone else in the middle of the park as Jim Goodwin’s team brought a halt to the Spiders excellent run of form as Gus McPherson’s men slid out of the play-off spots.

9. Darren Lavery (Berwick Rangers)

There was a lot going on at Shielfield on Saturday, a lot to unpack. There were five goals, the majority of which, somewhat surprisingly, were scored by Berwick Rangers, with the final, decisive strike coming in the final minute. There were two sendings off, the first for Forfar’s Danny Denholm with the Loons leading 2-1 – a dismissal which Denholm would later describe as a “ghost foul” on Twitter. After viewing the highlights it’s hard to disagree. With Forfar on top at that point the contentious moment certainly swung the game in Berwick’s favour, although they had earlier led thanks to a long distance strike from Darren Lavery; an attempt which Forfar ‘keeper Grant Adam appeared to cuddle into the net. Lavery’s form has resembled the club’s in some way, but with the midfielder starting to look like his own self again the Wee Rangers, with seven points from their last nine, have eased away from the fag-end of the table.

10. Chris Smith (Stirling Albion)

Arbroath failed to take full advantage of Forfar’s loss to Berwick Rangers, but it was through no want of trying against Stirling Albion. The home side peppered the visitors goal on Saturday, especially in the first period, where a combination of the woodwork, goal-line clearances and fine saves from Chris Smith prevented the Red Lichties from racing into an unassailable lead. How Dick Campbell’s men didn’t take all three points wasn’t the biggest poser of the afternoon though. A more pertinent question was what the deuce was going on with Blair Henderson’s hair – the Stirling forward keeping his locks in place with a giant rubber band. We’re not exactly immaculately coiffured ourselves but when you’re raking through stationery sets to fix your do something’s went seriously askew.

Written by Shaughan McGuigan (@ShaughanM)

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