1) Partick Thistle are doing just enough to keep in front
JACKIE McNAMARA revealed in an interview on Saturday he has almost finished writing his football sitcom. With almost a quarter of the season gone, his Partick Thistle side are showing they are not a million miles from being the finished article as well.
Their late, late equaliser at Stark’s Park meant that Thistle passed one of their most challenging tests so far: having come from behind to draw against a Raith Rovers team with an unbeaten home record. While McNamara was delighted with the spirit shown by the players who persevered to gain a deserved point, he will be slightly concerned at how the game unfolded.
Although Thistle’s style of football was a pleasure to watch at times, they failed to create many clear-cut goal scoring opportunities – something which is beginning to become a feature of their away matches. Indeed, for all the good football they displayed on Saturday, Scott Fox was actually the more busy of the two goalkeepers.
The Jags are averaging three goals every home game, but have tended to do just enough when playing away from Firhill. That is no terrible thing of course, but withDunfermline gaining momentum and now only a point behind them at the top of the table, McNamara might need to find more incisiveness to add to their possession to keep ahead. SM
2) Has Allan Moore turned Morton around?
It was only just over four weeks ago when we wondered if Allan Moore would soon be getting his jotters. Since then, he has responded in only the best way possible by achieving four straight victories in the league, including the recent 3-2 win away to Airdrie United.
What has changed between then and now? Playing the three part-time teams in the division among those four matches must be taken into consideration. Although it was predicted before the season started that Airdrie, Cowdenbeath and Dumbarton would struggle against the division’s other full-time squads, beating all three within the space of a month is no small achievement – at least two of the three teams can cause problems to any other opposition. Most impressive was the home win against Raith Rovers, even if Simon Mensing should have equalised from a header.
The re-emergence of Michael Tidser and Fouad Bachirou in central midfield must also be a factor in recent success. Although the former has still not found his best form and was substituted in the match against Airdrie (not as a direct result of playing a careless crossfield ball which allowed Airdrie to counter and score one of their goals, but it might have made Moore’s tactical decision easier), the two midfielders work well together and complement each other’s attributes perfectly. Bachirou himself is now showing signs of the excellent form that he showed last season – at his best, the Frenchman’s incessant pressing resembles a Yorkshire Terrier worrying rats and his composed short passing game provides a basis for the rest of the midfield to attack from.
Lastly, we should not overlook the contribution of Archie Campbell, who scored six league goals in the four matches. When he first appeared in the SFL on loan at Cowdenbeath, he was occasionally used as a right-midfielder-cum-winger who could score goals from range or beat his full-back with unadulterated pace, but his technique and finishing ability deserved a starting place up front much like Shaun Maloney of ten years ago. This is Campbell’s second season at Cappielow and the current glut of goals from extended run in the first XI is surely only the beginning of things to come. JAM
3) Dumbarton require a miracle to survive
It seems a little premature to condemn a side to relegation in September but even at this early stage, Dumbarton are already doomed to make an immediate return to the Second Division. The weekend’s defeat to Livingston – a capitulation that was as good as over after 12 minutes – was their sixth defeat in seven league matches and their poorest performance of the season. Chris Turner’s penalty – horrifically skewed – summed up their general play.
While Cowdenbeath and Airdrie United, the other promoted part-time sides, have acquitted themselves well to the league, Dumbarton have floundered badly. Manager Alan Adamson has little experience beyond the lower leagues and has assembled a squad of players who seem ill-equipped to cope with the First Division. Jim Lister’s performances have been hugely spirited (something of a shock given how badly he was predicted to perform), but Stephen Grindlay, Ross Forsyth and Mark Gilhaney seem wholly lacking in the necessary ability to succeed in the league.
The gap between the requisite quality between the First and Second Divisions is encapsulated by Dumbarton. The Sons are a solid, upwardly-mobile Second Division side; last season’s promotion was a step too far. In 1995-96 – Dumbarton’s last appearance in the second tier – the club finished the season with 11 points. It will be of little surprise if the club finish their current campaign with a similar total. CGT
4) David Sinclair’s goal-scoring form continues at Ayr United
David Sinclair hammered home Ayr United’s third goal on Saturday to put the final nail in the beleaguered Jim Weir’s coffin and secure a comfortable win for his side. Quickest to react to Michael Moffat’s parried effort, Sinclair’s strike was his eighth goal of the season in ten games.
After Livingston’s fiscally-enforced demotion to the Third Division in 2009, Sinclair was afforded the opportunity to establish himself as a regular starter in Gary Bollan’s side, but it was a chance he never fully grasped. The midfielder made 23 appearances as his team cantered towards the Third Division championship, but was limited to 18 appearances the following season, and then only seven last term. After nine years at Almondvale, he was released by new manager John Hughes in acrimonious circumstances. Mark Roberts moved quickly to recruit his services at Ayr.
Sinclair’s goal tally – which, so far, has eclipsed his total in 86 appearances for Livingston – is largely due to some devastating long-range finishing. Comfortable on either foot, he is highly skilled at driving the ball low and hard and out of the reach of goalkeepers. A number of assists from set-pieces underlines his importance to the side – he has been central to nine of Ayr’s 13 league goals. While Ryan McStay occupies a deeper role in midfield, Sinclair is unburdened from defensive duties and allowed to support his side’s strikers, something which presents him with a high number of goal-scoring opportunities.
Ayr United started the season poorly with horrid defensive lapses continually undermining their performances, but Saturday’s clean sheet is a sign of progress. If Sinclair can continue his fine form, it seems unlikely that he will be playing Second Division football next season – with or without Ayr. AG
5) Jim Weir is an unpopular manager – but he has at least one ally…
There were very few tears shed when Brechin City announced the dismissal of manager Jim Weir yesterday morning. Saturday’s thrashing at the hands of Ayr United (their fourth consecutive defeat) coupled with two years of mediocre performances gave the Brechin board little option but to sack him. As mentioned last week, Brechin have regressed so badly under his tenure that a relegation battle, rather than a tilt at the play-off positions, seems a more likely outcome this campaign.
As fans across the SFL took to Twitter to voice their reactions, the outpouring of rancour towards Weir was astonishing. While a handful of people gave him their best wishes, a large majority had very little positive to say about him and many – inevitably Brechin supporters – were delighted their board had finally dismissed him. Even more pertinently, a number of players – some who had played under him, some who hadn’t – also registered their pleasure at his sacking. Hashtags such as #ByeBye and #HorribleGuy regularly featured in their tweets.
While Weir doesn’t have a Twitter account, it seems as though his daughter Lucy does; a quick search of her father’s name would have instantly highlighted the level of disdain towards her father. Her decision to call out his detractors might have been admirable, but it resulted in a wholly unedifying spectacle. She referred to striker Steven Hislop, who played under Weir at Arbroath, as a “bitter rejected player”, while on several occasions, her discourse with supporters inevitably descended into petty tit-for-tat bickering. Although Lucy Weir might have been foolish to engage with the people attacking her father, the people who tweeted her directly to mock him must also be censured.
Jim Weir might be a very decent coach, but as manager he is toxic. As a serial failure across Angus, it would be highly unlikely that he finds employment elsewhere in the SFL in a management capacity. As for Brechin, the club must move quickly – yet carefully – to appoint the correct successor. For the last three years, the Glebe Park side have underwhelmed and need to employ a confident, experienced manager to arrest the club’s inertia. As of writing, Gary Bollan seems to be the most appropriate candidate. CGT