The 10 best Scottish lower league players this week

January 10, 2018

10. Paul McLean (Brechin City)

Perhaps it’s a good thing Brechin City didn’t win their first match of the season on Saturday, as it would have overshadowed Saturday’s main Glebe Park talking point, the melee at the hedge. With stewards moving in to speak to some Morton fans, a pie was allegedly thrown, which was then followed up with some hair-pulling and, most interestingly, a ‘Ton fan being bitten by a female steward. At the time of writing it’s not clear how old the perps are, but with that fighting technique, we’re guessing around the early primary school age. At least they didn’t lob a cup of soup at anyone, what a waste of delicious broth that would have been. Away from the real football factories of Angus, Brechin and Morton drew 1-1. Morton had the better of the second period but were thwarted by stout defending from the home side, typified by the excellent Paul McLean, who did more than most to prevent yet another Brechin defeat.

9. Leighton McIntosh (Arbroath)

Ayr United were bodying all-and-sundry not too long ago, as they surged clear in the League One title race. However, their form has deserted them of late, losing three games in four, as Ian McCall’s Honest Men slip to second in the table. Admittedly they weren’t helped by Jordan Hart’s inexplicable decision to head for a run with about two minutes remaining, allowing Leighton McIntosh to chip into an unguarded net to give the Red Lichties a 2-1 win. The goal was a sickener for United, who had opened the scoring, and was also a blow to anyone who was in earshot of the celebrating Kirkcaldy dunderheid who was in the Somerset Park hospitality box. Apologies to anyone who may have been offended, etc.

8. Darren Brownlie (Queen of the South)

Livingston were being singled out as plucky, odds-defying title challengers just a few weeks back, but one win in six has seen them plummet, not just from that particular equation, but out of the playoff spots altogether. Their latest defeat was arguably the most worrying of the bunch, a toothless 1-0 loss to a threadbare Queen of the South side, who eked out their first win since gubbing Dunfermline 5-2 in December. While that victory was all about the talents of Stephen Dobbie, this triumph was far more of a grind, with central defender David Brownlie the best of the bunch in a game that won’t linger long in the memory. That won’t worry Queen’s though, who now reside in fourth.

7. Liam Buchanan (Raith Rovers)

Raith Rovers are making something of a habit of churning out slender victories. This 2-1 win over Forfar Athletic was their fourth by a single goal margin in six outings. After a dodgy November they’ve hit back to claim 19 points from a possible 21, a sequence that’s taken them to the summit of League One. Barry Smith has struggled to get the best out of the triumvirate of Liam Buchanan, Greig Spence and Lewis Vaughan, and while the move to midfield has tapered Vaughan’s productivity, it’s breathed new life into Buchanan and Spence. It was the latter who scored the opening goal, but the former who was the game’s most impressive performer, as Rovers go into this Saturday’s huge game with Ayr in fine fettle.

6. Garry Fleming (Alloa Athletic)

With Alloa again showing their League One best-of-the-rest credentials with this 3-1 win over Albion Rovers, the challenge was determining which of their players merited a spot, such was their dominance over a flailing Wee Rovers. Garry Fleming demonstrated an outstanding range of passing in the first period, and arguably put in his finest display as a Wasp, which may explain his huffyness at being substituted by Jim Goodwin. Whilst we would never condone violence at The Terrace, we’d probably play top-dollar to see those two settle their differences in the squared circle, in a brawl that probably wouldn’t involve hair-pulling. But might feature biting.

5. Angus Beith (Stranraer)

It probably wasn’t too much solace to Steve Farrell that, after a fraught week, his team were involved in the most exciting climax to a match at the weekend. Four goals in a final ding-dong quarter-of-an-hour saw Queen’s Park and the Blues share the points. But after taking the lead twice, with the second occasion coming in the 90th minute, they still couldn’t quite hang on. With the cash stricken Stair Park side shedding players at an alarming rate, three points would have been a welcome fillip, as would the extension of Angus Beith’s loan deal, who grabbed the opening goal. With Stranraer now involved in a fight to stay up, the retention of one of their best players must now be a priority.

4. Dean Shiels (Dunfermline Athletic)

We’re reaching that stage of the season again. Yes, it’s the time of the campaign where Dumbarton become rubbish, everyone looks at their squad and decides it isn’t good enough to stay up, then are proven to be silly when Steve Aitken pulls off an impressive signing or two, allowing them to reside in the Championship by the skin of their teeth. All they need to do is hope their main relegation rivals are dumb enough to loan them their best player again, and they should be hunky-dory. They look a little way off it just now though, going down by a goal to nil by a suddenly resilient looking Pars side, who moved up to third with this 1-0 win. In a forgettable game, Dean Shiels’ assist and Joe Cardle’s magnificent finish were two of the game’s few stand out moments.

3. Rory McAllister (Peterhead)

There’s always things that teams need to brush up on. Their finishing perhaps, or defending set-pieces. The Warriors of Stenhousemuir are no different, although their deficiency is a little niche, in that they’ve suddenly become hopeless at defending kick-offs. Fresh from conceding immediately after scoring against Annan, they let in a goal 19 seconds into the second period in this 4-1 defeat to Peterhead. Rory McAllister took his tally to 26 for the season with his brace, and he’ll presumably be the main attraction at the recently announced Peterhead Ladies Day, held to celebrate Mary Berry’s birthday. No seriously, it is.

2. Harry Davis (St Mirren)

The Paisley Buddies stretched their lead at the top of the Championship to six points after this tight, but probably just about merited, 1-0 victory over a typically obdurate Inverness side, who always seem to struggle when they aren’t playing Brechin. (Hastily edited to add: or Falkirk.) The Caley Jags have drawn admiration for the defensive qualities this term, but the redoubtable Harry Davis has shown he’s arguably the best centre-half at this level since returning from injury, with St Mirren conceding just four times in his eight league appearances. With the door shut at one end and Gavin Reilly recreating his Doonhamers form at the other, St Mirren look to have the right combination to go the distance.

1. Louis Longridge (Falkirk)

Considering they’ve been diabolically inept since about half an hour into the league campaign, you’d have received long odds on Falkirk producing the finest lower league performance of the season, but the ragdolling of Dundee United by six goals to one was exactly that. After going a goal down to United, it appeared to be a case of same-old-same-old for The Bairns, but an incredible turnaround, which could easily have finished up as eight or nine, reduced Csaba Laszlo to saying “err” for five minutes during his rather awkward post game interview. Louis Longridge hadn’t particularly impressed since heading to The Falkirk Stadium, but he scored two, and was involved in another three, as United capitulated in an extraordinary manner. Normal service was resumed on Tuesday though.


Written by Shaughan McGuigan

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