Guess who’s back? Back again? Yes, it’s Craig Anderson, the Zordon-like master behind @SPLStats and an all-round good-time guy. After an unfathomable absence from Tell Him He’s Pelé (he recently fled the country under a cloud), he’s come back to take a look at tonight’s play-off fixtures as well as the forthcoming dust-up between Queen of the South and Rangers and the inaugural Pyramind play-off.
Enjoy his big brain while you can – there’s no way of knowing when this unpredictable individual will return.
The Premiership play-off quarter-final
The first round of the Premiership play-offs sees Queen of the South and Rangers battle it out for the right to take on Hibernian in the semi-final. The Doonhamers were eliminated at this stage last season, while Rangers are taking part in a play-off game for the first time in almost exactly 100 years – their last such match came on 6 May 1905 when they lost 2-1 to Celtic in a title play-off after the sides finished level on points.
Since Rangers first entered the lower leagues in 2012, these sides have met on six occasions – four times in the league this year, and in the Challenge Cup in each of the previous seasons. Each team has two victories to their name, with the other two matches finishing as draws (though it should be noted that the Dumfries side won on penalties after one of those draws). This term, Queens have comprehensively won both matches at Palmerston (where Saturday’s first leg will be held), while Rangers have managed a win and a draw at Ibrox.
The Championship play-off semi-finals
Stranraer and Forfar Athletic will both be looking to put their League 1 title-race disappointment behind them as they clash in the play-off semi-final. The Blues have taken part in play-offs on five previous occasions and have been successful just once, gaining promotion to the Second Division in 2007-08. They also indirectly won promotion to the same league via the play-offs in 2011-12 – they had lost in the final to Albion Rovers but were then suddenly elevated after Rangers’ financial implosion. Stranraer took part at this stage last season but were defeated by Dunfermline Athletic. Forfar, meanwhile, have three previous play-off appearances under their belt – they won promotion to the third tier in 2009-10 but then lost out at the semi-final stage of the First Division play-offs in 2010-11 and 2012-13. The season’s four league meetings between the sides saw them take one win apiece, with the other two matches finishing as draws.
Alloa Athletic and Brechin City will face each other in the other Championship play-off semi-final for the second time in three seasons, with City seeking revenge on the Wasps. Back in 2012-13, Alloa won the first leg 2-0 at Glebe Park, which was enough to see them through despite Brechin winning the return leg 3-2 at Recreation Park. Both sides will be making their sixth appearance in the play-offs. Alloa have taken part in the second-tier play-offs on three previous occasions, winning them to gain promotion in 2012-13, having previously failed in 2007-08 and 2009-10. They also faced the Second Division play-offs twice – they successfully avoided relegation in 2005-06 but then suffered the drop in 2010-11. Brechin will be hoping it’s sixth time lucky in the Championship play-offs – they’ve been involved in five of the last eight seasons, but have lost three semi-finals and two finals.
League 1 play-off semi-finals
Both East Fife and Stenhousemuir had their places in the League 1 play-offs confirmed on the final day of the season, and the sides now meet in the semi-final. The Fifers have competed in the play-offs on three previous occasions, and won their semi-final tie each time. Gary Naysmith’s side will be competing in these play-offs for a third consecutive season – they won them to stay up in 2012-13 but were relegated by the same method last season. Stenhousemuir will be making just their third play-off appearance overall, and their first for six years. The Warriors were promoted in 2008-09 after defeating Cowdenbeath on penalties in the final but were less successful back in 2005-06, losing to Berwick Rangers in the last four. Stenny have the upper hand in recent clashes between these two sides – they have seven wins in the last 12 meetings and have suffered just two defeats.
The other semi-final sees Queen’s Park take on Arbroath, with both teams having experienced less-than-convincing finishes to the season. The Spiders picked up just one win in their last seven matches, but that pales into insignificance compared to the Red Lichties’ two wins in the entire second half of the season (and one of those was in a dead rubber on the last day). QP were unbeaten against Arbroath in the league this season, picking up two wins at home and two draws at Gayfield.
Queen’s Park are participating in the League 1 play-offs for the seventh time in the last nine seasons, but their only success came in their first attempt back in 2006-07 when their semi-final opponents were none other than Arbroath. (The side they beat in the final that year was East Fife, who could also stand in their way again should both teams prevail.) Since then, the Spiders have lost five consecutive semi-finals (including one to Arbroath in 2009-10) and have not even managed to win a single game. Arbroath are also play-off regulars – they have taken part in the League 1 play-offs on four previous occasions, and also played in the First Division play-offs in 2011-12. Like QP, they have only been successful once – that came in 2007-08 when they defeated Cowdenbeath and Stranraer to gain promotion.
The Pyramid play-off final
The final of the first-ever Pyramid play-off sees the SPFL’s bottom club Montrose take on Highland League champions Brora Rangers for a place in next season’s League 2. The Mo are involved in the end-of-season play-offs for just the second time – they were beaten by Stranraer in the Second Division play-off semi back in 2007-08. Montrose were always going to be amongst the most vulnerable clubs when the pyramid was introduced – they have played in the lowest tier for 19 consecutive seasons, and have finished in the bottom half in all but four of those.
Opponents Brora Rangers have won back-to-back Highland League titles and were unbeaten in the league this season. They defeated Edinburgh City on penalties in the semi-final, coming from behind to draw both legs of the tie. The only previous competitive meetings of the sides came in a Scottish Cup second-round tie back in 1982-83 when the sides drew 0-0 in Brora and 1-1 at Links Park, before the Highland League side won the second replay 5-2 at Dens Park.