Shaughan McGuigan of The Terrace Scottish Football Podcast takes us through his pick of the fixtures from the four leagues this weekend.
He previews form, previous meetings and key players!
Kilmarnock v Inverness Caledonian Thistle
Last meeting: Inverness Caledonian Thistle 1-1 Kilmarnock (22.10.16)
It was all square the last time these two sides locked horns which extended Kilmarnock’s winless streak at the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium to 10 matches. However, they only had themselves to blame for failing to break their Inverness hoodoo, after squandering a steady procession of chances. Souleymane Coulibaly won and scored a penalty after seven minutes, after he was fouled by Brad McKay, before Kris Boyd and Rory McKenzie both struck the post. Killie’s profligacy would eventually cost them all three points, when Lonsana Doumbouya equalised in the closing stages. The point kept Inverness in the top six, while Kilmarnock remained in eighth.
Kilmarnock The curiously topsy-turvy nature of this season’s Premiership has led to some unusual situations, one of which is that a side with the worst goal difference in the league, Kilmarnock, currently occupy a much vaunted top-six position. A slow start saw them win just one of their opening eight fixtures, while early elimination from the Betfred Cup saw boss Lee Clark placed under the spotlight. However, since October, only Celtic, Rangers and Aberdeen have registered victories over the Rugby Park side, while a 0-0 draw with Motherwell last time out saw them retain their sixth-placed position. That said, such is the concertina effect of the current table, a loss to Inverness on Saturday would see the team currently second bottom leapfrog their opponents.
Inverness Caledonian Thistle After kicking off the campaign with three straight defeats, Richie Foran’s side rallied, losing just once in their next nine fixtures, rising from bottom to top six in the process. However, a run of four successive defeats saw them return to that lowly perch, although a Larnell Cole equaliser last Saturday against Hamilton saw them clamber off the foot of the table. If the Caley Jags are to take all three points from this one, they’ll need to go against the grain of their away form this term which has seen them win just once on their travels - 3-0 over Motherwell in October.
Souleymane Coulibaly (Kilmarnock) The 20-year-old Ivory Coast forward has already been pointed out as Kilmarnock’s biggest potential game changer on this website back in October, and that’s still very much the case with Coulibaly now on 10 goals for the season. He’s found them harder to come by of late, with just one in his last six appearances, with managers and defenders potentially singling him out for closer attention due to his blistering start to the campaign. As he has already demonstrated however, his ability to rustle up goals from situations which are barely even quarter-chances, never mind a half variety, means he’ll still be the biggest threat to Inverness this weekend.
Ross Draper (Inverness Caledonian Thistle) Richie Foran’s charges have struggled defensively this term, conceding 33 goals in 17 Premiership fixtures, making them the most porous side in the division. That can be partly attributable to misfortune, with injuries to key players such as Kevin McNaughton, David Raven and Brad McKay at various points of the season. That’s led to Ross Draper being used elsewhere than his normal position of screening the back four from midfield, and it’s perhaps no surprise that Inverness looked slightly sturdier last weekend with the 28-year-old returning to his normal position in midfield. With others now returning from injury, Inverness’s defensive woes may just be easing.
Queen of the South v Dunfermline Athletic
Last meeting: Dunfermline 0-1 Queen of the South (27.08.16)
The Doonhamers were in the midst of their fine unbeaten start to the season when these two sides last met, and that momentum continued with a 1-0 victory at East End Park, thanks to a historic strike from Derek Lyle. The experienced striker notched his 100th goal for the Dumfries club in the final minute of the first half, converting a nod-down from Andy Dowie. The Pars had already had something of a let-off when a Lyle free-kick cannoned off both posts before being cleared. The hosts' hopes of a comeback were made even harder in the second period when Jason Talbot was dismissed for a foul on Kyle Jacobs as the visitors comfortably held on to remain unbeaten, leaving them third in the embryonic Championship table.
Queen of the South It's been the very definition of an up and down season for the Dumfries side this term. They sprinted clean out the Championship blocks in August, navigating the first eight games of the season unbeaten, to lead the table by the beginning of October. However, it was all change over the next sequence of eight games, with seven defeats and one draw seeing them slide down to sixth. However, with new manager Gary Naysmith looking on, they secured an excellent point last weekend against Falkirk away from home, suggesting there may be some light at the end of the tunnel.
Dunfermline Athletic It may have taken the Pars far longer than expected to find their feet this term, with just two wins from their opening 13 matches, but results suggest they've recently managed to find their bearings. Allan Johnston's men have only tasted defeat once in their last six matches, a 1-0 loss to Dundee United, and two wins from their last three outings has seen them climb the table from ninth to seventh. Their 2-1 win over Morton last weekend was also their first three points against a current top-half side this season.
Stephen Dobbie (Queen of the South) The Doonhamers are far from a one-man team, but the basic rule of thumb is that when Stephen Dobbie performs well, Queen of the South perform well. After nine goals in his first eight appearances the man of many clubs had been experiencing a fallow period by his own high standards, but the return from injury of strike partner Derek Lyle has reignited his scoring touch. He followed up a double in the 3-2 defeat to St Mirren with a single against Falkirk in last weekend’s 2-2 draw, taking his tally for the season to 15. Keeping Dobbie quiet is easier said than done, but the responsibility to do just that, lies at least partly with the next man…
Sean Murdoch (Dunfermline Athletic) Defensively, Allan Johnston’s team looked somewhat muddled at the start of this term. Thirteen goals were conceded in their first six games as the Pars toiled to just one win from those early fixtures. However, the return from injury of goalkeeper Sean Murdoch coincided with an upturn in their fortunes. Murdoch may have picked the ball out the back of his net on three occasions during his first game back, during a ding-dong seven-goal thriller with St Mirren, but he’s conceded just 10 in the nine league fixtures since, keeping three clean sheets in the process, as Dunfermline have at last started to climb the table.
Livingston v Airdrieonians
Last meeting: Airdrieonians 2-4 Livingston 4 (13.08.16)
This will be the third occasion the two sides have met this term, with the amber machine coming out on top in the two prior meetings. They eliminated Airdrie from the Scottish Cup last month with a 2-1 win, but the last league meeting in August was a more goal-heavy affair. Danny Mullen put the away side into an early lead, before former Diamond Liam Buchanan doubled the advantage just before the break. Andy Ryan reduced the arrears early in the second period, but the unfortunate Daniel Boateng, who was making his Airdrie debut, scored an own goal to make the score 3-1. He made some amends by setting up Ryan for his second, but the match was eventually put to bed by David Hopkin’s team when a late Josh Mullin tap-in completed the scoring.
Livingston With 39 goals to their credit this season, only Celtic have outscored the Livi Lions this term, while the side from the Tony Macaroni Arena are one of only two teams in Scotland not to have drawn a league match this season. Their current run of six wins in seven matches unsurprisingly makes them League 1’s form side, which has allowed them to take advantage of early challengers Alloa and Brechin’s recent cold streak. While Airdrie had recently picked up the slack to close the gap at the top, a 4-0 midweek win over Stenhousemuir thanks to goals from Raffaele De Vita, Liam Buchanan, Dale Carrick and an own goal from Ciaran Summers saw Livingston extend the gap to seven points.
Airdrieonians There’s no such thing as a Manager of the Month curse, you know it and we know it, but try telling that to the fans of Airdrie, who watched new boss Mark Wilson rightfully pick up the honours for his side’s splendid form, before losing 5-0 to Stenhousemuir last Saturday. The surprise result of the weekend was the Diamonds' first defeat in seven matches, taking 18 points from a possible 18 across the previous half-dozen fixtures. That sequence was the club’s best run of results since the 2011-12 campaign, when six consecutive victories helped clinch then-manager Jimmy Boyle’s team a place in the League 1 play-offs.
Scott Pittman (Livingston) Liam Buchanan and Danny Mullen may have caught the eye with 26 goals between them this season, while recent acquisition Raffaele De Vita has provided some star quality, but it’s another midfielder who really makes things tick at the Tony Macaroni Arena. Scott Pittman had already impressed in fits and starts in the second tier, but he’s grasped the thistle as Livingston’s main playmaker this term, with the West Lothian side now seven points clear at the top of the pile. Pittman has always combined fine close control with an ability to both beat a man and thread a pass, but the former Broxburn Athletic and Bo’ness United player has also added goals to his game, with six to his name already.
Joe Gorman (Airdrieonians) With Livingston running roughshod over a number of sides this season, Mark Wilson’s team will need to do what virtually no-one else has managed, and keep the free-scoring Livi at bay. If that’s going to happen, then Joe Gorman will need to be at the top of the game, with the central defender proving vital in the back four so far. You just need to look at how the team fares without him to see how important the former Inverness stopper is to the side. After taking part in the opening day 3-1 win over Queen’s Park, Gorman didn’t feature again until the end of September, by which time the club had managed just one win in six league games. His return coincided with Airdrie winning seven games in nine, and they’ll need that fine run to continue, if they’re to stop Livingston disappearing into the distance.
Clyde v Edinburgh City
Last meeting: Edinburgh City 0-1 Clyde (Meadowbank Stadium 15.10.16)
These two sides were almost separated by the length of the League 2 table the last time they met in October, with Edinburgh City rooted to the bottom without a win, while Barry Ferguson’s men were residing in second place. However, perhaps City’s performance that day hinted at the change in form which was just around the corner, as they penned Clyde in for long stretches of the game. Spurned chances were to be their undoing though, with a Sean Higgins goal enough for Clyde to take all three points. This fixture was the last time Gary Jardine’s side tasted defeat in the league.
Clyde Just two defeats in their first 11 league fixtures, saw the Bully Wee sitting third in the table at the beginning of November, four points behind top-of-the-table Forfar Athletic. However, just one win from their last four outings has seen them move down a place, although they retain a five-point gap between themselves and fifth-placed Annan Athletic. Barry Ferguson’s men do have a formidable home record this season though, with only Forfar managing to leave Cumbernauld with all three points.
Edinburgh City What a turnaround in fortunes there’s been for the SPFL’s newest club. Winless in their first 11 fixtures, they trailed Cowdenbeath and Montrose by four and five points respectively, despite playing more matches than the pair of them. However, a new-found defensive rigidity has seen them keep four clean sheets from their last five games, enabling them to take 13 points from 15. That run continued into last week, when goals from Ouzy See and Dougie Gair sealed a comfortable 2-0 win over Stirling Albion, lifting them to seventh in the table.
Peter MacDonald (Clyde) Edinburgh City may now be a far more resolute side than the one which started the current campaign, but Clyde’s leading marksman, won’t need too many opportunities to cause them damage. The 36-year-old is in the twilight of his career, but he’s rarely been in such prolific form, with six goals in his last seven appearances, taking his tally to 11 for the season.
Ousman See (Edinburgh City)
While the signings of former Scotland striker Craig Beattie, and ex-Manchester City and Millwall midfielder Marc Laird were seen as more eye-catching signings by Gary Jardine, Ouzy See has been key in City’s rise. The 22-year-old's pace and ungainly style have caused consternation for opposition defenders. With City games generally tight affairs, his seven goals to date, including three in his last four appearances, have been vital to the cause.