The 10 best Scottish lower league players this week

April 4, 2017

arbroath goal

10. Gerry McLaughlin (Cowdenbeath)

Somewhere in the west coast of Scotland. Saturday 1st April 2017. Approximately 6pm.

The front door is slammed shut with a ferocity which leaves Audrey in no doubt that her Saturday evening is about to be ruined. Sandy supports Clyde, and although Audrey doesn’t really know the precise details of how they’re doing at the moment she knows it’s fairly poorly. She tries to keep up though, out of a dutiful sense of loyalty to her husband. And love. She’s even made Sandy his favourite tea – steak pie. And not just with pastry over the top, which is essentially just beef and pastry and shouldn’t be called a pie, but the fully-encased-in-shortcrust-real-deal. She wants him to enjoy and appreciate it, but from the growling, otherworldly noises emanating from the hall she knows things haven’t went well in Cowdenbeath. Or was it Kirkcaldy? She knows it was somewhere in Fife, but can’t quite recall the specifics.

“They were fuckin’ shite again, Audrey, I’ll no be back,” roared Sandy, whose six pints had worn off, and a hangover was already kicking in. “They couldny get past that big boy at the back that used to play for Ayr, the wan wi nae hair. The bastard stewards even spoke to me tae. Aw a was daen wis climbin’ a fence and callin them a bunch ae spineless cunts, I couldny believe it.”

Audrey sighs with the weary realisation that her mother’s unfavourable first impressions of Sandy, which were entirely based on the fact he was clutching 12 tins of McEwans Lager and a bottle of Kiwi MD 20/20 when she first met him, had been correct.

9. Steven Bell (Stranraer)

Stranraer versus Stenhousemuir may not be remembered in the annals of time as a grade A classic, but it did give us another reason to love Scottish football, namely one of the mascots, who was a grown man leading the teams out dressed as a cheerleader. And no, we don’t know the reason either, and to be honest we’re not sure we even want it clarified. This 3-0 win for the Blues leaves them three points clear of the relegation play-offs, and just six shy of the promotion variant with Steven Bell orchestrating things from the middle of the park. As for Stenny, man alive were they bad, with the three-goal defeat doing a disservice to the gulf between the sides. With four of the top six still to play, it’s difficult to see a way back for Brown Ferguson’s troops.

8. David Smith (Dumbarton)

Did Jim Duffy sustain some mild concussion during the recent Easter Road battle-royale? That seems the only explanation for his decision to start Ross Forbes and Aidan Nesbitt on the bench, a choice which contributed to Morton’s 1-0 defeat to Dumbarton. Squad rotation is all well and good, but when finishing second brings the bonus of skipping a play-off round, purposely weakening your own side seems an exercise in self-defeat. Admittedly they had hard lines against an obdurate Sons team, with right-back convert David Smith in fine fettle as Steve Aitken’s team pulled off another out-of-the-blue win which shifts them further clear of trouble. Morton, on the other hand, slipped down to third ahead of¬†this weekend’s all-in wrestling tussle with Hibs.

7. Jason Talbot (Dunfermline Athletic)

Neil Lennon’s done a lot of crazy things over the last week. He’s wrestled with folk on a football park, thrown a journalist out of a press conference, and went absolutely radge in a frankly astonishing interview. However, in terms of stone-cold lunacy, none of that compares to starting Brian Graham in a game of football. Possibly as a consequence, Dunfermline more than deserved a point from this 1-1 draw, which even featured those rarest of things, a successful Pars penalty. We haven’t been keeping count, but that must be approximately 48 they’ve had awarded to them now, of which they’ve scored about three. It was another famed loon, Jason Talbot, who was the Pars main performer, and with three points seemingly inevitable against Rovers on Saturday, safety looks to be within touching distance.

6. Craig Sibbald (Falkirk)

The poem The Boy In The Train was written by Mary Campbell Smith in the early part of the 20th century and includes a line about the queer-like-smell which lingered over Kirkcaldy due to the linoleum making process at Nairns, which the town was formerly famous for. Like most heavy industries, that employer, and stench, is long gone from the Lang Toun, although their football team continues to stink the place out. Raith managed four goals on their last visit to Falkirk in October. They’ve managed two in all their away league games since. Dreadful. They almost made it three during this 1-0 loss to Falkirk, but the defeat was thoroughly merited with Fraser Aird and Craig Sibbald running the show as the Bairns moved into second place in the table. They may not have caught the eye for the majority of the campaign, but Peter Houston’s side are gaining momentum at just the right time.

5. Paul Watson (Montrose)

We’re unsure if Calum Antell is particularly into wrestling, but if he is, and he stayed up to watch the Undertaker grapple with Roman Reigns on Sunday night/Monday morning, then his weekend was a total washout. It’s bad enough conceding a 55-yard goal to Paul Watson, but to then sit though a candyass event like Wrestlemania 33, well that doesn’t bear thinking about. Fair play to the Mighty Mo though, who were excellent for large swathes of this 3-0 win over Edinburgh, a result which took them to within four points of Elgin in fourth place. Every goal was special in its own way, and while Antell may have invited Watson to shoot by bizarrely being positioned just outside the centre-circle, the captain’s finish was sublime. As a misogynistic former Sky employee would probably say, take a bow son.

4. Liam Buchanan (Livingston)

Livingston have completed the final straight and are ready to dip for the line. Thirteen points clear with 15 to play for, the title could be wrapped on Saturday¬†after this comprehensive 2-0 win over Brechin City. The Amber Machine were far too good for Darren Dods’ team, who meekly run up the white flag for the fourth time against Livi this term. Liam Buchanan was the man-of-the-match with a two goal whammy which took his tally for the season to 25, breaking Iain Russell’s record for most amount of Livi goals in a season. David Hopkin’s team have been head and shoulders above all other League One opponents this term. Whether that can equate to being comfortable in next season’s Championship will be an interesting subplot to next season’s second-tier.

3. Steve Mallan (St. Mirren)

St Mirren conceding two goals to that Ayr United side on Saturday will probably go down as their most embarrassing defensive performance of the campaign to date, but at least they scored six in reply to soften the blow. It’s now just one defeat in eight for the blistering Buddies, and despite being bottom of the table it appears that no-one now believes they’ll go down. Changed days indeed. Their excellent form sees them just three points behind eighth place Raith, a spot they could reside in by Saturday evening depending on how the twists and turns pan out in the afternoon. The team is now underpinned by an excellent midfield, which on Saturday was led by the excellent Stevie Mallan, who scored the opening goal in this utter drubbing.

2. Stephen Dobbie (Queen of the South)

Is Dundee United boss Ray McKinnon’s position in jeopardy? You’ve got to imagine it is. Not before the playoffs are completed, which was presumably an acceptable fallback position in the event of not winning the league, but it’s hard to see United achieving promotion via that method in this form. It’s now just one win in seven league games for the terrible Terrors after this 4-2 loss to Queen of the South, and, with each passing week, United look more and more like a jumbled, bog-standard second tier side. They certainly had no-one in their side who could come close to matching Stephen Dobbie’s performance, who made it 21 for the season with his strike in a win which surely allays any fears about a Doonhamers relegation.

1. Steven Doris (Arbroath)

Logic dictates that with three goals to his name, Steven Doris would be the Red Lichtie to choose after their 5-2 victory over Annan Athletic. We were tempted to go for Bryan Prunty, though, as any goal celebration which involves six players, 25 fans, an inflatable flamingo and ends with a booking for a striker for stealing a baseball cap emblazoned with the slogan, “I LOVE DICK” warrants some kind of acknowledgement. Annan were always going to be up against it in this one after referee Craig Charleton dismissed Steven Swinglehurst after just 90 seconds, and whilst it was close for a half or so, Dick Campbell’s men swaggered clear in the second. The distance between Arbroath and Forfar remains at a point, with the two Angus behemoths meeting in a blood-and-snotters slugfest this weekend.


Written by Shaughan McGuigan

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