The 10 best Scottish lower league players this week

March 29, 2017

ayr goal 3

1. Daniel Mullen (Livingston)

It seems a quite remarkable statistic that despite being a full-time team playing in a part-time league, Airdrieonians have conceded the most amount of goals across the four Scottish leagues. Yes that’s right, even more than Motherwell. Mind you, that fact could only be a surprise to someone who hasn’t actually watched their comedic capers at the back this term, with Saturday’s 4-2 loss to Livingston another one for the archives. Indeed, if you happened to watch the highlights you were probably left wondering how they’d only conceded 59 goals in 30 games, such was the ineptitude on show. Daniel Mullen was the main beneficiary on this occasion as he helped himself to two in the straightforward win. Livi move to within a couple of wins of securing the title and being promoted back to the Championship at the first attempt.

2. Darren Smith (Stirling Albion)

“Just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in.” It’s been a while since we watched Godfather III, and while we’re fairly certain Al Pacino wasn’t referring to Clyde’s relegation status whilst passionately uttering that line in a fetching red cardigan, it does seem apt. Two nil up at half-time, the Bully Wee appeared to be moving well clear of Cowdenbeath, but a second-half collapse, instigated by two goals from Darren Smith, saw Clyde lose out by the odd goal in five. It wouldn’t be hyperbolic to suggest that their upcoming match with the Blue Brazil is one of the biggest in both club’s histories. As for Stirling, the result was their sixth win in a row and whilst a play-off berth still looks unlikely, Dave McKay appears to be doing a lot of things right at a club which appeared haphazardly ramshackle before his arrival.

3. Dougie Gair (Edinburgh City)

Elgin City’s 3-0 defeat to Edinburgh City was described as one of their worst results of the season in some quarters, but we’d disagree. The fact they couldn’t score past Calum Antell surely makes it closer to one of their worst results ever. The defeat saw them switch places with Annan Athletic who moved from fourth to third, with Jim Weir’s team now more concerned with looking over their shoulder at Stirling Albion and Montrose. They won’t see a too-far-behind Edinburgh City, but the capital side’s fine performance, inspired by two-goal hero Dougie Gair, should be more than enough to ensure they remain in the fourth tier for a second consecutive season. Considering how they started this term, that’s a damn-fine achievement.

4. Ross Stewart (Albion Rovers)

There’s always a very slight air of disappointment when you notice Ross Stewart has scored for Albion Rovers, and you discover it’s their forward who’s done the business rather than their goalkeeper of the same name. While we were slightly perturbed at the identity of the scorer of two goals, the woeful Warriors were far more upset, as they crashed to a 3-0 home defeat in what had been billed as a relegation decider. It may not be of course, but with Stenny now five points behind Rovers and four off Peterhead, it’s looking likely that Brown Ferguson’s boys will be languishing in the bottom tier next time around. Stewart’s brace gave him 12 goals for the season, but with a difficult looking run-in he may need a few more if Darren Young’s team are to keep their beaks out of bother.

5. Paul McMullan (Dunfermline Athletic)

Dunfermline have tended to come unstuck any time they’ve played a side from the top five this season, except when it comes to Morton. The Greenock Galacticos are the only club in the top half of the Championship who the Pars have overcome this term, and they were at it again on Saturday with a 1-0 win which surely ended Morton’s title tilt. Paul McMullan was again excellent out wide for Allan Johnston’s team, which considering his travails with Morton must have left the ‘Ton faithful somewhat perplexed. The result apparently left Kudus Oyenuga having to buy Nathaniel Wedderburn his tea, which judging by the size of the midfielder powerhouse’s derrière, must have cost poor Kudus about a week’s wages.

6. Dylan McGeough (Hibernian)

Hibernian all but guaranteed their place at Scottish football’s top table next term with this 2-1 win over the Bairns of Falkirk. Relations between these two teams have been feisty over the last few seasons, so the lateness of James Keatings winner must have been particularly galling for purple-pussed Peter Houston and his cohorts. Dylan McGeough was arguably Hibernian’s star man, with a performance which illustrated exactly the type of player he could be, if only his bones were more durable than Quavers. Only a couple of improbably defeats to Morton could possibly scupper Hibs title ambitions.

7. Robbie Crawford (Ayr United)

It’s now two wins on the trot for Ayr United, whose fans are now suggesting this season has an air of The Great Escape about it. Considering virtually every escapee in the Steve McQueen fronted flick ends up killed or recaptured, we’d have suggested Escape To Victory as a more palatable comparison, but we get the gist. This 2-1 win over Dumbarton moved the Honest Men four points clear of St Mirren and level on points with the Sons after a thoroughly merited come-from-behind victory. Robbie Crawford had a rare old time of it in the middle of the park, bagging a braw winning goal in the process as Ayr clawed themselves to within two points of rubbish Raith Rovers.

8. Craig Barr (Raith Rovers)

Boombastic. Outstanding. Pulsating. Riveting. Four words which under no shape, way or form could be used to describe the spectacle that was Raith Rovers 1 Queen of the South 1. If you do need a few though, try tripe, godawful, honking or diabolical, and you’d be on far safer ground. This was bleaker than an Eastenders Christmas Special, with only a handful of goalmouth incidents, one of which saw Queen of the South awarded a goal for striking a post, which is presumably a new rule which snuck under our radar. Raith defender Craig Barr continued to impress since coming back from injury. But, if it’s okay with you, we’d like to never mention this abomination ever again.

9. Sean Brennan (Berwick Rangers)

You’ve got to hand it to Forfar Athletic, they are going above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to losing football matches in new and exciting circumstances each and every week. They were possibly a shade unfortunate to be trailing 3-1 to a Sean Brennan inspired Berwick side, with the 20-year-old ‘keeper in fine fettle, especially in a first period which Forfar dominated. A David Cox penalty with six minutes remaining gave the Loons hope, and that seemed entirely justified in the 93rd minute when they were awarded a second penalty, only for Brennan to dive to his left and stop Cox’s effort. With Forfar and Arbroath both slipping up, perhaps Annan Athletic suddenly fancy their chances?

10. Allan Fleming (Montrose)

In a day of madcap bampottery in League Two, no surprise was bigger than Arbroath’s defeat to Montrose. Although, with Forfar’s downward spiral continuing, this 1-0 loss may not be fatal to the Red Lichties’ hopes. It certainly wasn’t for the want of trying by Dick Campbell’s men, but in Allan Fleming, they come up against a ‘keeper who was in eye-catching form. Fleming was much-maligned during his spell at Arbroath last term, so his series of fine stops was presumably a welcome GIRUY to the more mealy mouthed critics in the Gayfield support. Stewart Petrie’s side still have an outside chance of making the playoffs, but after flirting with the bottom earlier in the campaign, a mid-table finish would be more than acceptable.


Written by Shaughan McGuigan

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