The 10 best Scottish lower league players this week

March 21, 2017

clyde goal

1. Alan Martin (Dumbarton)

It was another poor home result for Hibernian, who have managed just one league win at Easter Road in 2017. That they failed to make it two was almost solely down to Sons ‘keeper Alan Martin, who made three outstanding stops in open play, as well as saving James Keatings penalty in a 2-2 draw that saw Neil Lennon’s men retain their seven point gap at the top, albeit Morton have a game in hand. The draw was tough to take for Steve Aitken’s men, who led until late on. And while the point was a welcome one, the unexpected wins for all three teams below them saw them sink a place to eighth. With five teams now stuck in the relegation tractor beam, it’s almost impossible to say who’s the likelier to go down.

2. Jean Yves M’Voto (Raith United)

Ripley’s Believe It Or Not was a 1980’s US television series fronted by Jack Palance which, each week, would look at some of the more unusual and out-there aspects of humanity and the world in general. The show was briefly brought back in the 2000’s under the watchful gaze of rubbish Superman Dean Cain, and while it no longer graces our screens, if it were to return in the near future they’d maybe want to take a look at how Ray McKinnon has managed to take over one of the worst Dundee United teams in history and make it even guffer. They were atrocious against Raith Rovers, with every cross and laborious punt forward¬†headed away by Jean Yves M’Voto, who has now made more Top-Ten appearances than squashed fox impersonator Ed Sheeran. Raith’s 2-1 win moved them up to seventh, while United continue to cling to fourth.

3. Matt Flynn (Clyde)

Clyde put some space between themselves and Gary Locke’s playoff bound Cowdenbeath side thanks to this 3-1 win over Edinburgh City. The result was thanks in no small part to an excellent performance from Matt Flynn, so fair play to former boss Barry Ferguson for not playing him for the majority of the campaign. Trailing 1-0 at the interval, it seemed the narrative was all set for another amusing Clyde rollover, but Flynn’s volleyed opener was followed up by a brace from Peter Macdonald as Edinburgh slither down to ninth, albeit still seven points clear of Cowden. With the Blue Brazil facing the Bully Wee in midweek, a win for the Cumbernaulders will surely see them safe.

4. Lewis Morgan (St Mirren)

St. Mirren closed the gap between themselves and fifth placed Queen of the South, although oddly, they failed to close the gap to the teams directly above them, with Ayr and Raith also winning against tough opposition. The Buddies have given themselves a fighting chance in recent weeks, due to a combination of excellent performances and results, but this 2-0 win only really featured the latter, with the Doonhamers guilty of squandering several chances before Jack Ross’ men cashed in on their profligacy. Scott Mercer won’t look back on the afternoon fondly, with the former East Fife man given a torrid afternoon by winger Lewis Morgan as Gary Naysmith’s men made it just just three wins in 22. “Mair like Gary Nayhope,” splutters yer faither, as he gazes inappropriately at Scarlett Moffatt on Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway.

5. Michael Rose (Ayr United)

Slavering Pars boss Allan Johnston was still claiming pre-match that Dunfermline could mount a promotion challenge this term. Quite the claim considering they’ve won the same amount of games as Dumbarton, and fewer than Raith Rovers, a team which everyone generally points and laughs at. Their 1-0 loss to Ayr on Saturday puts paid to any notion of going up, and drags them into a relegation tussle with the other waifs and strays at the fag end of the table. It was a much-needed top up for Ian McCall’s Honest Men, which kept them just above St. Mirren, with Michael Rose a stand out in the middle. After a timid start, converted full-back Rose eventually got to grips with previously on-form Nathaniel Wedderburn to help Ayr notch their first league win over a side with an honest-to-goodness goalkeeper since October.

6. Bryan Hodge (Arbroath)

The Red Lichties extended their exceptional away record with a 2-0 win over a poor looking Berwick side and, in doing so, closed the gap to Forfar to a single point as the arse continues to completely fall out of the Loons’ season. This was as comfortable as Dick Campbell’s team have looked in their seven game unbeaten run, with a perfunctory victory in which the Wee Rangers never looked likely to upset the odds. Bryan Hodge may be a central-midfielder by trade, but he was excellent in the left-back position as Big Dick’s men kept their third clean sheet in succession. The top two meet on April 9th in what could be an Angus title decider.

7. Aiden Nesbitt (Morton)

They couldn’t, could they? With Hibs proving to be entirely Hibs-like earlier in the afternoon, the stage was set for either Falkirk or Morton to turn up the pressure in the evening kick-off. The fact it was Jim Duffy’s side which achieved it still felt like something of a surprise, which shows that Morton are still flying under the radar despite their high fallutin’ campaign. The seven-point gap between themselves and Hibernian is still an almighty challenge, but if Neil Lennon’s team continue to misfire then the pair’s coming together at the end of March could be huge. Morton’s 1-0 win was far from a classic, but they defended well against a disappointing Falkirk team, while Aiden Nesbitt supplied the quality required with an assist for the goal. As ever, defeat made Peter Houston extremely red, with his Chevy Chase roughly the same colour as cheap sangria.

8. Craig Halkett (Livingston)

It’s been a week or two since a Livingston player got up to anything untoward, so it was almost reassuring to see Shaun Byrne given a ban for betting rule breaches over the weekend. However, as Shaun cooled his heels, his colleagues got on with the task of winning the league, which now seems assured after their late 1-0 win over Stranraer. There was little between the sides for the majority of this one, a game which was hardly overflowing with goalmouth incident. Although, that could partly be attributed to another fine display from 21-year-old Craig Halkett in the heart of the Amber Machine’s defence. Sitting nine points clear with eight to play, Livi’s title party can only be a matter of weeks away.

9. Matty Allan (Montrose)

Cowdenbeath boss Gary Locke said he was surprised at how his time at Raith Rovers ended, as all managers go on “bad wee runs”. Well this 2-0 defeat to Montrose means that Locke has now went 16 games without a win as boss, so goodness knows what he’d categorise as a really bad sequence. The defeat means the Blue Brazil will need to pull off an unlikely set of wins to avoid the playoff spot, while for Montrose the win settled things down after an indifferent spell. On-loan Dundee defender Matty Allan was restored to the middle of the defence, and his performance helped to stymie a Cowdenbeath strikeforce which had looked more impressive in recent weeks. Mo’ boss Stewart Petrie can now start plotting for next term. But for Cowden, the end of the season looks far more fraught.

10. Kyle Hutton (Airdrieonians)

It says much about this game that arguably the highlight was David March receiving his marching orders for kicking Iain Russell right up the bahookie. The Warriors defender may not be quite as prolific in the red card stakes as Berwick’s mad, mental Michael McKenna, but with three to his name this term he’s certainly catching up. With Stenhousemuir propping up the table and hamstrung with a wafer thin squad, the last thing they need is unnecessary suspensions. Although, in Marsh’s defence, you’d imagine kicking Russell square in the bumhole felt somewhat satisfying. Violence aside, such was the Diamonds dominance, it was curious that this game only ended 1-0, with Kyle Hutton picking up man-of-the-match for his performance in a win which lifted Airdrie level with East Fife and Brechin on 42 points.

Written by Shaughan McGuigan


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