The 10 best Scottish lower league players this week

March 15, 2017

thomson goal

1. Robert Thomson (Dumbarton)

Raith Rovers like to play Status Quo every time they win a home match, but Ric Parfitt was still strumming his guitar the last time they won away from Stark’s Park. In fact, judging by Saturday’s abysmal 4-0 defeat to Dumbarton, the three members of Hanson will all have died of old age before they take all the points back up the road with them again. Rovers were utterly ramshackle as a clinical Sons team swept them aside with Morton-bound Robert Thomson a talismanic figure for Steve Aitken’s men, scoring two excellent goals and having a hand in the others. Dumbarton can now only be a win or two away from safety. AsĀ for John Hughes, the honeymoon period has been a washout.

2. Iain Russell (Airdrieonians)

It was a Monklands derby to remember on Saturday. Seven goals, two of which came in the last minute, and enough talking points and bampottery to keep both sets of fans blethering about it well into the night. Airdrie fans haven’t enjoyed the best of seasons, and while no-one has been spared their ire this term, Iain Russell has taken more than his fair share of it. That may be down to the fact his performances haven’t matched the expectation that met his arrival, but he was excellent in this one, with two assists and an exceptional volleyed effort which may just have top-trumped Robert Thomson’s as goal of the weekend. The result kept the Diamonds noses in front of Queen’s Park in fourth, while Albion Rovers poor run shows no sign of abating.

3. Efe Ambrose (Hibernian)

Hibs and Dundee United took another step closer to finishing in their current positions, and while Neil Lennon’s men will be quite happy at that scenario, Ray McKinnon’s mediocrities will be less enthused. It was difficult to know what the highlight of Hibernian’s 1-0 win was. The roaring CRESCENDO protest that was drowned out by Hibs fans laughter, Lewis Toshney’s apparent desperation to be dismissed, or Jason Cummings’ red card for a deliberate handball that was so blatantly obvious even Maradona would have turned beetroot. Standing above all of it though was the affable Efe Ambrose who proved once and for all that he’s actually quite good.*
*As long as he isn’t in the top-tier

4. Nathan Austin (Falkirk)

After his two goal haul at the weekend, you do wonder where Falkirk may have been in the table had the former East Fife forward not been afflicted by injury this term. Admittedly, Falkirk haven’t had an issue scoring goals, they’re the divisions top scorers, but considering they’re just six points behind Hibs after an indifferent first half of the season, he could very well have made a difference. He certainly had an impact on Saturday as Falkirk ruthlessly exposed Ayr United’s flaws, which are many and varied, in a 4-1 win. Ayr’s ineptitude could very well save St Mirren and Raith from the drop, although if it’s tight, the last day shoot-out with Rovers could be a doozy.

5. Kris Renton (Cowdenbeath)

Even X-Men leader, Charles Xavier, must be astonished at Gary Locke’s powers of persuasion. Just weeks after finishing his latest demolition job on a football club, Locke finds himself back in gainful employment at Cowdenbeath, who were seemingly cut adrift under the tutelage of the recently departed Liam Fox. Locke may only have been in the stand on Saturday, but he must have been heartened by a performance which suggests keeping Cowdenbeath up will be more a case of mission very difficult rather than mission impossible. Kris Renton’s 8th goal of the season put the game beyond Berwick in the 3-1 win, and closes the gap to Clyde. It may be no laughing matter for one set of fans when the two meet on April Fools’ Day.

6. Lewis Allan (Edinburgh City)

You’ve got to hand it to Edinburgh City for pairing together Craig Beattie and Derek Riordan on Saturday. For a few fleeting moments, it almost felt like 2006 again. If only they’d played I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker by Sandi Thom, or From Paris To Berlin by Infernal at half-time, and the transformation would have been complete. The duo may be a bit longer in the tooth these days, but they combined effectively enough to see off a Forfar side who are dropping points left right and centre. While Riordinho grabbed the equaliser, it was the scorer of the second, Lewis Allan, who grabbed the man-of-the-match award, seeing as he also set up the former East Fife man for his effort. As for their opponents, from being 11 points clear and seemingly home and hosed last month, Forfar are now just three points ahead of a menacing looking Arbroath team.

7. Mark Hurst (East Fife)

It’s probably a good thing for Livingston that Saturday was the last time they’ll face East Fife this season, as the Fifers appear to have their number. The 1-0 win was the fourth time in five meetings that the Methil magnificents have come out on top against Gary Hopkin’s team, and with Alloa winning late on against Stenhousemuir, it was a defeat The Amber Machine could have done without. Admittedly there was a touch of good fortune about the win, but only in that Mark Hurst was far and away the busier of the two goalkeepers, with the on-loan St Johnstone custodian having a beezer of a game, as East Fife made it an incredible 12 games without defeat. Anyone fancy an all Fife playoff final?

8. Aidan Nesbitt (Morton)

After clinging on to Dundee United’s coat-tails for the majority of the season, Morton ripped it clean off their back at the weekend. Their 1-0 win, coupled with The Terrors being absolutely desperate, means the Greenock side now sit third in the table, eyeing up second place suggestively as they plot a bye to the semi-finals of the playoffs. As seems more often than not, BBC Alba picked a match which turned out to be far from aesthetically pleasing, as Queens gave it some huff and puff but were unfortunately guff. Morton toiled to a degree too, but had enough about them to grind out a win, with attacking-midfielder Aidan Nesbitt edging out the rest to stand out from the crowd. The top-four are now surely finalised. Although in what order they finish will be a fascinating tussle.

9. Gary Mackenzie (St Mirren)

Dunfermline manager, Allan Johnston described this 0-0 draw with The Paisley Buddies as a good game for the neutrals, which was presumably a view that wasn’t shared by the four and a half thousand crowd, since it was mince. Admittedly it wasn’t all bad from a St. Mirren point of view. Not only did they restore some pride after the ultimate indignity of losing to Raith Rovers, they also closed the gap slightly to Ayr United, which now sits at an extremely bridgeable looking four points. Dunfermline couldn’t muster a way past defender Gary Mackenzie and chums, but they appear to have just enough points to stay out of mischief, and with an added player or three, could make a concerted attempt at the playoffs next time round.

10. Finn Graham (Brechin City)

Peterhead fans may not have expected to reproduce the exact same form as last season, but by the same token, they surely couldn’t have anticipated this level of wretchedness. Remember, this was a side which went on a 19 game unbeaten run in the league last term, but since that sequence ended 12 months ago, they’ve won just eight in 33 since, and are only two points above bottom club Stenhousemuir. Saturday’s 1-0 home defeat to Brechin was another hammer blow to Jim McInally’s men who have now gone six games without a win, and next weekend’s clash with Albion Rovers now takes on even greater significance. Brechin are hardly in great form themselves, but with Finn Graham starring in a more advanced position, the win lifted them five points away from ninth. In an unpredictable division, only the top four seem safe in League One.

Written by Shaughan McGuigan

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