THE game of the weekend sees Livingston host league leaders Partick Thistle. The last four matches between the sides at Almondvale have featured an impressive 17 goals. Thistle have recorded four wins out of four so far this season and since the league reconstruction in 1994, only Dunfermline (1995-96), Falkirk (2002-03) and Hamilton (2007-08) have won five out of five; each of those clubs went on to win the league championship. Livingston have not won any of their last seven home games in the division, and last success was a 3-1 victory over Raith Rovers in February. Thistle, meanwhile, have continued to impress with their shooting accuracy, finding the target with 19 of their 29 shots (65.5%), the best in the league.
Elsewhere, second placed Dunfermline travel to rock-bottom Dumbarton. The sides haven’t met in the league since the 1995-96 season, when the Pars won the league and the Sons finished well adrift of everyone else. Dumbarton failed to win any of their last 28 games in that year, and even lost all of their last 19 matches. Those defeats have already contributed to one unwanted record: they have now suffered 23 consecutive defeats in this division. Failure to win on Saturday will mark another entry in the hall of shame – they would equal Cowdenbeath with 33 consecutive matches without a win in the second tier, set in 1992-93. Dumbarton will also be looking to avoid becoming the first side since Forfar in 1991-92 to lose their first five matches in this division. Dunfermline have won their last eight league games against Dumbarton, scoring 28 goals in the process.
Ayr and Queen of the South were the two pre-season favourites, but Saturday’s match is a clash between top and bottom following Mark Roberts’s poor start at Somerset Park. This equals Ayr’s worst ever start to a season in the third tier (they also only took one point from four in 1995-96). In contrast, the Doonhamers have made their best start to a season since 1983-84. If Queens can keep a clean sheet on Saturday, they will equal a Second Division record of seven consecutive clean sheets, currently shared by Montrose, Kilmarnock and Morton.
The clubs are meeting in the division for the first time since 1996-97. Ayr are unbeaten in the previous seven matches between the teams at this level. The stats suggest Queen of the South will have plenty of shots on Saturday: they have averaged over 13 shots per game, while Ayr have allowed their opponents ten or more shots in every match this season, at an average of nearly 12 per game.
On the other side of the country, second placed Forfar take on Brechin. Matches between these sides have been historically tight – they have met exactly 150 times in national competitions and have 55 wins apiece. Forfar have had the upper hand in recent seasons, with Brechin only winning one of the last ten meetings.
The top five sides are only separated by three points, and four of the five are in action against each other this weekend. Leaders Peterhead travel to Borough Briggs to face fifth-placed Elgin, while second-placed Clyde make the short journey to Hampden to face fourth-placed Queen’s Park.
Peterhead’s start to the season is their second best since being elected to the SFL – only their promotion season in 2004-05 was better. They have dominated their SFL meetings with Elgin, winning 15 of the 24 and losing only five. The good news for Elgin is that two of those five victories came last season.
Tuesday night’s boos might still be echoing around Hampden when Queen’s Park and Clyde run out on Saturday, but the form guide suggests that the slightly smaller band of home fans at the weekend will go home happy. The Spiders have won each of their last seven matches against Clyde, scoring ten times without reply in the last three matches at Hampden. The ever-improving Bully Wee have played well in their last two matches by winning twice and scoring three goals despite only having two shots on target.