The 10 best Scottish lower league players this week

May 3, 2017

Oli Shaw10. Rhys McCabe (Dunfermline)

“It was a great ball from Higgy, you couldn’t really miss from four or five yards. That’s the ones you like, the easy ones.”

That’s a quote from Michael Moffat there, a man who appears to have no self-awareness, considering he’d have a goal tally of around 55 this season if he’d capitalised on every chance presented to him from that range. He’s on four. Interesting quotes aside, Morton continued their atrocious run into the playoffs with this 3-1 Pars victory making it eight league games without a win for Duffy’s dismals. For Dunfermline, there’s definitely something to work with for next term with Rhys McCabe suggesting he may be worth signing up for next term. The midfielder’s fine strike from distance sealed a thoroughly deserved victory. We won’t be staking too much cash on Morton to emerge victorious from the playoffs.

9. Gregor Buchanan (Dumbarton)

Dumbarton took points from Dundee United for the third time this season, with the latest, a 2-2 draw, all but securing their Championship inclusion next season. That result didn’t look too likely in the opening phases of the match as United swarmed over their part-time adversaries, but a combination of poor finishing and dogged resilience kept The Sons in the game, before a second period turnaround almost saw them take all three points. No one was more resiliently dogged than Gregor Buchahan, although we have to give an honorary mention to Andy Stirling, who elected to be interviewed on live BBC Alba whilst wearing comedy, oversized sunglasses. Some boy.

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8. Raffael De Vita (Livingston)

Goodness, gracious. Pound-for-pound, has there been a more pitiful performance than Peterhead this season? They’ve a squad which is ram-jammed with players who’ve performed reasonably well at a higher level than the third tier, and yet they’ve turned into no-marks, wastrels and never-will-be-agains for the entirety of this term. As they have been since last season’s Challenge Cup final defeat, they were rancid on Saturday as Livingston romped to a 4-1 win on the day they were presented with the League One title. Raffael De Vita hasn’t always shone this term, but he was excellent on Saturday, with more tricks up his sleeve than Harpo Marx. The Blue Toon now need at least a point against Alloa and require Stenny lose to Brechin, or it’s fourth tier football for them once again.

7. Nathan Flanagan (Annan Athletic)

Annan’s PA system was belting out a rendition of James Brown’s I Feel Good as they went 4-0 up after just 18 minutes on Saturday – although judging by the reaction of the Montrose fans who were stood behind the netting, we’re not sure they were in agreement. You can’t really blame them, though, as they headed down to Annan in fine fettle only to watch their side completely crumble as they were sworded by the Galabankies in an extraordinary opening period, which eventually ended in a 5-1 result. Nathan Flanagan was again in fantastic form, with the on-loan left midfielder involved in four of the five strikes as Jim Chapman’s team confirmed their place in the play-off spots.

6. Stephen Dobbie (Queen of the South)

Just where would Queen of the South be without Stephen Dobbie? Well, probably a lot closer to the bottom of the Championship is the fairly easy answer, although we were just being rhetorical. His brace in the 2-2 draw with Falkirk takes his tally to the season to 26 as he continues his personal duel with Cumdog Millionaire over the Championship’s top-scorer award. This match was certainly a quieter affair for Falkirk than last week’s ding-dong dust-up with Dunfermline, but the dropped points didn’t prove to be disastrous with Dundee United doing something similar against The Sons. A win next week against Steve Aitken’s men will secure second place for the second season running for Peter Houston’s Bairns.

5. Jason Cummings (Hibernian)

Ayr United were desperate to take something from their outing against Hibernian to give themselves a fighting chance of staying in the division – which makes their feckless performance even more infuriating. Hibs’ 4-0 win was every bit the stroll it sounds, with Jason Cummings proving he’s as adept at scoring goals as he is at pinning Insane Championship Wrestling world champions. The defeat leaves Ayr needing snookers against Raith next weekend, as they require a five goal win over the Kirkcaldy side to finish ninth. That said, considering how Rovers’ 2016/17 campaign has panned out no potential climax to their season should be discounted.

4. Oli Shaw (Stenhousemuir)

St. Mirren aren’t the only lower-league side embarking on a grand bid to avoid relegation: Stenhousemur have been positioned in one of the bottom two spots in League One since the end of August, with the bulk of those months spent way back at the rear. However, with one game left, they now sit ninth with the possibility of staying up via the playoffs. Their latest step forward came courtesy of a 2-0 win at Hampden against Queen’s Park thanks to a bright-as-a-button performance from Oli Shaw, who bagged two fine goals in the unexpected victory. His second was good enough, but his first, an exquisite dink over goalkeeper Willie Muir, was one of the best you’ll see from a weekend that was chock-a-block with eyebrow-raising finishes.

3. Andy Ryan (Airdrieonians)

For all the warranted criticism that’s been flung Airdrie’s way this season, they look good bets to finish up in the play-off spots by season’s end thanks to a thumping 4-0 win over East Fife on Saturday. If they do inexplicably end up promoted after a fairly bleak season then much of it will be down to Andy Ryan, whose hat-trick on Saturday took his total for the season to 24. The win lifted Airdrie up to third in the table with East Fife slipping down to fifth. At one point Barry Smith’s team looked a shoe-in for the top four after a faultless sequence earlier in the campaign, but they’ve wheezed and spluttered as finishing line approaches. They’re now reliant on favours from others to squeeze into fourth.

2. Ryan McCord (Arbroath)

There’s always a few curious choices when it comes to Player of the Year award shortlists, but for Bobby Linn – a player who would struggle to make Arbroath’s top five performers this term – to be given the nod ahead of Ryan McCord is just downright odd. The Ginger Pirlo has been outstanding this term, and he produced his finest performance of the season on Saturday, wading in with a hat-trick as Arbroath at last reeled in Forfar with this 3-2 win over Elgin. The result leaves Elgin struggling to make the playoffs, an unlikely scenario considering how well they’ve played at times this term, although the fact they’ve conceded 47 goals, five more than Edinburgh City, tells you all you need to know.

1. Steve Mallan (St Mirren)

You’ve got to be impressed with John Hughes. After all, to take Gary Locke’s Raith Rovers team and make them even worse takes mystical skills that even Gandalf and Dr Strange would be envious of. Fair play to his abilities of deflection too, as he blamed, amongst other things, “modern society” for this latest inept performance. Team selection and tactics were more to blame, although credit must be given for an exceptional performance from St Mirren, with Steve Mallan scoring thrice and setting up two in a bravura performance that was as complete a showing as you’ll ever see at this level. The Buddies aren’t quite safe but if they can reproduce anything like this form this weekend they almost certainly will be.

By Shaughan McGuigan

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