The 10 Best Scottish Lower League players this week

November 8, 2017

10. PJ Crossan (Alloa Athletic)

There’s loads of ways to show respect when it comes to Remembrance Day. Bowing your head in solemnity for sixty seconds for example, or perhaps laying a wreath, but fair play to the Alloa PA for trying something a little different at the weekend: by playing some music during the minute’s silence before the match with Airdrie. We doubt it’ll catch on though. Off-park faux pas aside, it’s been a good few weeks for the Wasps, with Jim Goodwin’s side now sitting third after this 1-0 victory, their third straight win in succession. The sudden turnaround in Alloa’s fortunes from makeweights to contenders has caught most unawares, and part of that upturn stems from PJ Crossan’s arrival from Celtic on loan, with the young forward performing admirably again as the Wasps skip over East Fife on goal difference in the play-off spots.

9. Ryan Wallace (Stranraer)

These are grim times for Gus MacPherson’s Queen’s Park. After an almost blemish free few years in charge of the Spiders, MacPherson now finds his side bottom of the third tier, and coming up short pretty much each every week, no matter the opponent. The club’s unique set-up will always restrict them from attracting or retaining talent in abundance, and the signs at the moment suggest that their recent cycle of success may be coming to an end. They were certainly no match for Stranraer, who cantered to their easiest win of the campaign with this 3-0 romp, with Ryan Wallace involved in the first, as well as scoring the third. Raith Rovers and Ayr may be miles ahead of the chasing pack in League One, but Stranraer are involved in a clutch of sides aiming to be best-of-the-rest.

8. Kyle Hutton (Dumbarton)

This meeting with Dumbarton seemed nicely set up to produce Brechin’s first league win of the season. A string of decent performances may have produced more hard-luck tales than points, but it suggested they’d have a good chance against a Sons side that was decimated by injury. Instead, Darren Dods’ disasters put in arguably their worst performance of the campaign to date, slumping to a last-gasp 1-0 defeat, leaving some to ponder if they’re actually going to win a match this season. We’re not sure what the precise term for the opposite of Invincibles would be, but at this rate, we’ll have to find out. Kyle Hutton put in his best shift in a Dumbarton jersey to date, and while that may be reasonably surprising, it wasn’t as eye opening as Willie Dyer’s last-minute sliced own goal, which was hilarious/heartbreaking depending on your point of view.

7. Darren Brownlie (Queen of the South)

Greenock Morton fans must have been hoping the team’s form during the final quarter of last season was a blip, although it would now appear that it was the first 75 per cent of the 2016/17 campaign which was the red herring. This latest defeat, a 2-1 loss to Queen of the South, means it’s now just six wins in the last 28 games in all competitions for Jim Duffy’s team, and in a league that appears to be split strait down the middle, Morton are firmly mired in the bottom half. That said, Queens are a good example of how quickly it can turn around, with Saturday’s victory moving them to within two points of league leaders St. Mirren, thanks to the best form of anyone in the top five. Darren Brownlie put in another fine performance at the back for Gary Naysmith’s men, with the centre-half continuing to be one of the main reasons only two teams have conceded fewer goals than Queens in the Championship this term.

6. Marc McCallum (Forfar Athletic)

Unless you possess an unusually rabid dislike of Coatbridge, you’ve got to feel a little sympathy for Albion Rovers. Brian Kerr’s men have been regularly involved in high-scoring thrillers of late, but have the rather unfortunate knack of being on the wrong end of them. Just a couple of weeks after losing 5-4 to East Fife, the Wee Rovers were at it again on Saturday, and while the 4-3 loss to Forfar wasn’t quite so ridiculous, it was a blow to their playoff aspirations. The win was Forfar’s first in the league since August, and lifted them above Queen’s Park at the foot of the table in the process. That was at least partly attributable to goalkeeper Marc McCallum, whose stops demonstrated exactly why his acquisition from Plymouth was seen as such a coup for the Loons.

5. Mark Durnan (Dundee United)

Generally, new managers come into a football club when they’re at a low ebb or precipitous situation. However, when Csaba Laszlo takes over the reigns at Tannadice he’ll take over a club that’s only behind Championship pace-setters St Mirren on goal difference, following this 2-1 win over a starting-to-stutter Saints. The Buddies were poor by their own recent standards, although United have developed an extra spring in their step under interim chief Laurie Ellis, with Mark Durnan justifying his return to the side with another fine performance, which included the centre-half scoring the game’s opener after 10 minutes – albeit Craig Samson’s decision to walk to the looping header, rather than dive, was a large contributing factor. Only two points separate the top five clubs in a magnificently tricky-to-predict second-tier. Long may that continue.

4. Neil Alexander (Livingston)

Perhaps mindful of the recent gubbing his side took from Dunfermline, Livingston manager David Hopkin set his side up a little more cautiously for the visit of Inverness Caledonian Thistle. That may seem odd considering the lowly nature of the opponent, but when you factor in that barely anyone can recall the last time Inverness actually conceded a goal, it is at least partially understandable. At last, John Robertson’s men appear to be acclimatising to Championship life, and they were unlucky not to take all three points from this goalless stalemate. The fact there wasn’t an away goal was down to Livi’s custodian, Neil Alexander, who pulled off several fine stops, to keep the West Lothian outfit firmly enmeshed in the quintet of teams at the top.

3. Nat Wedderburn (Dunfermline Athletic)

The BBC website listed Falkirk versus Dunfermline as the Kincardine derby, a title that someone has apparently just invented, since literally no-one has ever called it that before. Not for the first time, the match was a rancorous affair, with everyone involved attempting to outdo each other in the angry stakes. The Falkirk TV commentators were incandescent at times, while the Bairns fans proved they hadn’t given all their change to the Poppy Appeal, by chucking their spare shrapnel at various black-and-white-shirted targets. Kallum Higginbotham outshone them all though, by showing he’s about as cool, calm and collected as Bruce Banner with a hangover, culminating in a wild, and inevitable red card. The bad-tempered brouhaha would eventually end 1-1, with Nat Wedderburn doing a fine job of protecting the short-handed Pars goal. But that was somewhat secondary to the enjoyably poor behaviour. We’re looking forward to the next instalment of the Kincardine derby at New Year.

2. Terry Masson (Montrose)

A goal! An honest to goodness, genuine goal for Cowdenbeath, and from open play. This is not a drill, people. Okay, so they were already two down at the time Robbie Buchanan managed the feat, and they’d concede a third soon after in the 3-1 loss to Montrose, but we’ve always been glass-half-full kind of guys and we’d like to accentuate the positives, even though they’re extremely slim pickings from a Cowden perspective at the moment. The opposite is true for Montrose though, with this win keeping them sandwiched between Stirling Albion and Peterhead at the top of the table, with Mo’ midfielder, Terry Masson scoring a brace. Indeed, you can’t help but wonder if Stewart Petrie’s success in turning Montrose from perennial strugglers to promotion contenders will be noticed by a club a little further up the food chain sooner rather than later.

1. Lawrence Shankland (Ayr United)

It isn’t often a team can look second best for a fair whack of a match and still end up winning by four goals to one. Mind you, it’s reasonably rare for a goalkeeper to chuck in three goals in one calamitous, error-strewn, 90-minute spell. Arbroath ‘keeper, David Hutton managed just that on Saturday though, with everything seeming to go straight through him, suggesting he was perhaps a mirage or hologram, rather than a flesh-and-bone human being. Despite the strong start, his aberrations led to Arbroath capitulating to Ayr United, as the Honest Men knocked Raith off the top of the table on goal difference. Lawrence Shankland was again at the forefront of Ayr’s good work, with the forward netting a brace to take his tally to nine goals in just eight appearances. Ayr’s next league match against Rovers should be something of a beezer.

 

Written by Shaughan McGuigan


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