Andy Harrow of The Terrace Scottish football podcast selects four key games to look out for in the SPFL this weekend.
Hamilton Accies v Kilmarnock
Last encounter: Kilmarnock 0-1 Hamilton Accies (21.01.17)
Home advantage is not a term readily used for this fixture. In the last six meetings between the two, the away side has triumphed on five occasions, with the other ending a draw. Kilmarnock won 2-1 on the road in August, while the solitary draw came in November when neither side could break the deadlock. The most recent match came in the Scottish Cup, which too looked to be heading for a 0-0 draw before Kilmarnock’s new signing Karleigh Osborne felled Grant Gillespie in the box. Rakish Bingham held his nerve to put Hamilton through in stoppage time.
October feels like a long time ago but it must have felt an eternity for Hamilton fans, players and staff. After more than three months without a league victory (a 1-0 win over Aberdeen on October 25), Martin Canning’s side could toast a job well done after a convincing 3-0 defeat of Inverness on Tuesday night. That winless run doesn’t quite tell the whole story – Hamilton racked up six draws during that period – but a return to winning ways will have buoyed confidence ahead of the weekend’s fixture.
Like Hamilton, victory last weekend would have tasted all the sweeter after an extended spell without a win. Their home match against Ross County was book-ended by goals in both the first and last minute in a 3-2 win. With Hamilton occupying the play-off spot, Lee Clark’s men will be looking to put further distance between them – the gap is currently three points.
Queen of the South v Morton
Last encounter: Morton 1-0 Queen of the South (24.12.16)
Morton’s three points were an early present on Christmas Eve, as they won a hard-fought encounter. Thomas O’Ware scored the only goal 17 minutes in, heading past Lee Robinson. It was centre-half O’Ware’s ninth goal in an outstanding season and his fifth in the league. Queens – who were looking to improve their promotion play-off chances – had several opportunities in the second half but couldn’t breach Andy McNeil in the Morton goal.
Queen of the South
After a 13-game winless run in the Championship, which resulted in the Dumfries side dropping from top spot to outside the play-offs, Queens have moved on to a surer footing in recent weeks. Although last weekend saw a narrow defeat to leaders Hibs, two wins and two draws in the four games previous have meant the Palmerston men sit one place outside the top four. A win on Saturday may allow them to put further pressure on Falkirk.
It’s a sign of how well Morton have played this season that they go into Saturday’s game knowing that should they win, and Dundee United lose, they will finish the day in joint-second place. Despite a serious injury to talisman Jai Quitongo, and the departure of Gavin Gunning, Morton have continued on their upward trajectory; picking up 13 points from a possible 15 in their last five fixtures.
Stranraer v Albion Rovers
Last encounter: Albion Rovers 3-2 Stranraer (12.11.16)
The Wee Rovers ultimately triumphed in a match which see-sawed back and forward over the course of 90 minutes. Ross Stewart put the home side ahead on 15 minutes, but Willie Gibson pulled Stranraer level with a shot the edge of the box. With a minute to go until half-time, a Ryan Wallace penalty put Rovers back ahead. Stranraer equalised for the second time through on-loan Aberdeen striker Joe Nuttall but Darren Young’s men had the final say; Wallace getting his second with a deflected free kick.
The Blues currently occupy bottom spot in League 1 after picking up only one win in eight. Their sole success came away to in-form Queen’s Park on Hogmanay but there’s renewed optimism after the appointment of Stevie Farrell in mid-January. Farrell is a popular figure at the club after his time as assistant to Stevie Aitken between 2012 and 2015 and the first league result under his watch, a 0-0 draw at East Fife, showed signs of promise.
The men from Coatbridge sit seventh in the table but their season is by no means over – they are two points behind fourth-place Brechin and four points clear of the relegation play-off spot. Rovers’ recent form has been good too; they’ve managed two wins and a draw in the last three league games and played commendably in a 3-0 defeat to Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic in the Scottish Cup.
Arbroath v Forfar Athletic
Last encounter: Forfar Athletic 0-1 Arbroath (10.12.16)
There’s added spice to this weekend’s Angus derby. It’s not only local bragging rights at stake; with the sides first and second in the division, the potential destination of the Ladbrokes League 2 championship could take a decisive turn. Last time out, Ryan McCord headed home the only goal with five minutes remaining and, although the Loons hit the post in the last minute, Arbroath held out to keep within touching distance of their local rivals. Were the Lichties to win again this weekend they’d move to within five points of Forfar. An away win, meanwhile, would see them open up a huge 11-point lead at the top.
Arbroath’s recent form has marked them out as Forfar’s biggest challengers for the title. They’ve won six of their last eight league games, including the success at Station Park in December, as well as a comprehensive 4-1 victory over Berwick last month. Their only defeat in that run came at home to Annan, but the Lichties got back to winning ways last Saturday at Clyde.
If Arbroath’s form over the past eight games is excellent, Forfar’s is even better. In that period the Loons have also won six, but haven’t lost. Draws with Elgin City and Stirling Albion have been the only blots on the copybook as they strengthened their grip on the League 2 leadership. Forfar’s last defeat? The 1-0 reverse to Arbroath.