The 10 best Scottish lower league players this week

August 30, 2017

10. Aaron Murrell (Berwick Rangers)

We’re used to the Berwick Rangers Twitter feed being slightly left-field. Who can forget their Valentine’s poem to Cowdenbeath, for example? But announcing that there’d be no updates from the weekend’s match against the Blue Brazil as the media team were at Creamfields was every bit as unexpected as Marvin Bartley tampering with Roarie Deacon’s dung-chute. Hopefully the guys had an enjoyable time dancing to artists such as Mista Jam and Sven Vath, seeing as they missed out on another win over Cowdenbeath, with Aaron Murrell scoring the game’s only goal to cap-off a fine performance. The clean sheet was the Wee Gers’ first of the campaign, and came just a few days after the dismissal of John Coughlin. At least his successor may have a decent platform to build on.

9. Anton Brady (Queen’s Park)

Due to Gus McPherson’s propensity for picking up players from the non-league arena, Queen’s Park were always going to be something of an unknown quantity this term, at least to start with. The expectations for Stranraer on the other hand were significantly higher, but Saturday’s 2-2 draw hinted that neither side will bother the upper echelons of League One. Leading two-nil at the interval, Steve Farrell’s men appeared to have the match sewn up, but driven on by the excellent Anton Brady, who blootered in a fine goal to spark the comeback, the Spiders claimed a point. The QP’s stay bottom, with Stranraer just two places higher.

8. Declan Gallagher (Livingston)

Livingston managed to pick up their first three points of the campaign with this 1-0 win in Greenock, a result which could put in jeopardy Chick Young’s cheerleading campaign to make Jim Duffy the next Scotland boss. This was the very definition of a ground-out win, in what was an attritional watch with few stand-out moments. In fairness, Morton deserved everything they got, not because they were the poorer side, but because they’d decided to charge people £2 extra if they don’t buy their match ticket before 1pm on a Saturday. Considering no-one wants to spend a minute longer than necessary in Greenock, that seems harsh. In a match that was dominated by defenders, Declan Gallagher was the pick of the bunch, as the Amber Machine at last clicked into gear.

7. Iain Vigurs (Inverness Caledonian Thistle)

After an impressive comeback against Livingston and a decent showing against Dundee United, it wasn’t too much of a flight of fancy to think Brechin could be capable of pushing a struggling Inverness side close on Saturday. Instead though, it was quite the opposite. John Robertson’s team swept the Glebe Parkers aside with contemptuous ease, recording their first Championship win in the process with this 4-0 romp, as Iain Vigurs grabbed his second and third goals of the season. Whether or not Inverness are starting to find their feet in this division will be more rigorously tested when they head to Paisley next time out.

6. Mark Whatley (Arbroath)

Pie and Bovril’s lower league round-up recently pointed out that not many teams win at Arbroath, an odd assertion, considering they’ve lost 15 and won just 14 of their last 40 league fixtures at Gayfield. It’s a different story away from their windswept abode though, with Saturday’s 2-1 win over Ayr United meaning it’s been almost a full calendar year since they last lost on their travels in the league. The Honest Men were expected to retain their position at the top of the table but ended up slipping down to second after a resolute defensive showing from the Red Lichties – with Mark Whatley both defending capably, and scoring the winning goal with half-an-hour remaining. Dick Campbell’s team are looking like a decent early-season shout for the playoffs.

5. Darren Smith (Stirling Albion)

We’re not suggesting there’s a fitness problem at Peterhead, but considering Paul Cairney currently sports a physique which is more suited to pacing an oche rather than a midfield, we’re not counting it out either. There certainly appears to be issues at the Blue Toon, with manager Jim McInally stating after the 4-2 loss to Stirling Albion that Scott Ross won’t play for him again, after his eighth (EIGHTH!) dismissal in Peterhead attire. Considering they only have four out-and-out defenders on their books, and Ross is one, that doesn’t bode well. It’s a different story for the Binos though, with Darren Smith’s seventh and eighth goals helping them to consolidate their 100 per cent record, a statistic that only they and Aberdeen are still able to boast about.

4. Bobby Barr (Raith Rovers)

It’s been 30 years since East Fife defeated Raith Rovers in a competitive game, and judging by what transpired on Saturday afternoon it’ll be at least another few decades before they muster another. The gulf in class was wider than the Firth of Forth in this Fife derby, and if Rovers hadn’t squandered a hatful of chances in the first period, they could have been looking at an bigger score line than the 5-0 drubbing they dispensed to Darren Young’s inept side. Bobby Barr grabbed a goal and an assist as Raith went top of the table on the same day Jeremy Corbyn made a public appearance in Kitty’s Nightclub, making it Kirkcaldy’s proudest day since Jim Murphy got egged on the High Street.

3. Kallum Higginbotham (Dunfermline Athletic)

There were plenty sceptics when it came to Steve Aitken’s recruitment policy over the summer. Some felt the signing of half of last season’s Raith Rovers team combined with a dash of Kyle Hutton perhaps wasn’t the greatest of ideas. Considering Dumbarton’s start to the season, they may have had a point. Their latest defeat, a crushing 4-0 loss to Dunfermline, means they’ve yet to win a game this season and have failed to score in three out of their four league outings. Scoring isn’t something that the Pars are struggling with though, with 13 so far as they sit top of the pile thanks to an embarrassment of riches in forward areas. Again, Kallum Higginbotham was their most impressive performer with a goal and two assists, and on this form Allan Johnston’s outfit may take a bit of budging.

2. Lewis Morgan (St Mirren)

Goodness knows how much drink and narcotics Tony Fitzpatrick had consumed when he suggested St Mirren could be champions of Scotland by 2019, but they could at least be second-tier title challengers this season, judging by their 3-0 evisceration of Dundee United on Saturday. Not just because the Buddies were impressive, which they most certainly were, but also because Dundee United looked completely honking. In Lewis Morgan, the Buddies have another young player who could potentially go on to better things, and the hope from the Paisely faithful is that his two goals and assist doesn’t entice any potential suitors to make an offer in the next few days. On the plus side for United fans, at least they won’t have to worry about anyone wanting to sign any of their good-for-nothing ne’rdewells.

1. Stephen Dobbie (Queen of the South)

After cranes and hot tubs, there might not be too much of an interest in Falkirk’s next weird and not-so-wonderful fan competition – unless the prize is an opportunity to truss Peter Houston up in some stocks and pelt him with wet sponges and old vegetables. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be for either of these sides, with Falkirk fans hopeful of a title push after a great League Cup group stage, while Queens fans seethed and griped after quite the opposite from their club. However, the Doonhamers’ 4-1 win, which included an excellent eight-minute Stephen Dobbie hat-trick, lifted them to second while Falkirk stay in ninth. The Bairns’ relegation six-pointer with Brechin in a fortnight now takes on even greater resonance.

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