WITH the title race decided, the focus now shifts to the battle to avoid the relegation play-off place, and two of the three candidates clash at Central Park on Saturday. Cowdenbeath currently occupy the second from last spot, and they host a Dumbarton side who need just a point to secure their safety. The Blue Brazil have lost five of their last seven league matches, and have won just two of their last 12. Dumbarton have won five of their last eight in the league, and those matches have averaged 4.5 goals per game. Cowden have lost just one of their last 11 league matches against Dumbarton, at Central Park, but that loss came in their most recent meeting back in November. If Cowdenbeath lose and Dunfermline beat Partick Thistle, then Cowden’s inferior goal difference will make it all but impossible to escape the play-offs.
Dunfermline Athletic are only above that play-off spot by virtue of goal difference and they face a tough trip to Firhill to face newly crowned champions Partick Thistle. The Jags have won 15 of their 17 home league matches this season, and a win on Saturday would see them equal a club record of 16 home league wins of a season, which they previously managed in 1930-31 and 1970-71. The Pars have hit form at the right time, winning their last two matches to climb out of the drop zone, but they have conceded nine goals in their last two matches against Thistle.
With Queen of the South champions and Albion Rovers all but relegated, the play-off battles at the top and bottom provide the main interest for this weekend’s fixtures. The game of the day sees eighth placed Stranraer welcome fifth placed Forfar Athletic to Stair Park, with the home side looking to stay out of the relegation play-offs and the visitors looking to sneak into the promotion berth. Stranraer have gone four matches without a win but are still three points ahead of ninth placed East Fife, and they would secure their safety if they better East Fife’s result away to Queen of the South. Forfar have lost their last two matches, and have slipped a point behind fourth place Arbroath as a result, meaning that defeat on Saturday would rule them out of the play-off race if Arbroath win away to Ayr. Stranraer are unbeaten in their last 14 home matches against Forfar, and have won their last seven league matches against the Loons at Stair Park.
Arbroath remain in pole position for the final promotion play-off spot, and they face a trip to Somerset Park to take on Ayr United, the only team in the division who can be neither promoted nor relegated. The Honest Men have not drawn any of their last 13 league matches, winning six and losing seven, while the Red Lichties have lost just one of their last seven games. Arbroath have not won any of their last eight matches at Somerset Park – their last win in Ayr came back in November 2001, when Afroman was at the top of the charts with “Because I Got High”. Arbroath can confirm their place in the play-offs this weekend if they win, Forfar lose to Stranraer, and Stenhousemuir fail to win away to Brechin City.
Peterhead and Queen’s Park both confirmed their play-off places last weekend, but three clubs are still in the hunt for the final spot as we go in to this weekend. Berwick Rangers are well placed to take the spot – they are three points clear of nearest challengers Montrose, and have a vastly superior goal difference. They can all but seal the play-off place with a win at home to Annan Athletic on Saturday. Berwick have won six of their last nine league matches and five of their last six at Shielfield, while Annan have won just three of their last 14. This will be the 20th league meeting of the two sides – Berwick have six wins to Annan’s five so far, with eight draws. However, in nine previous league matches at Shielfield, Annan have the upper hand, winning four times to Berwick’s three.
Montrose will be hoping to pounce if Berwick slip up, but they have a tough match at home to Queen’s Park on Saturday. Neither side is in the greatest of form – both have just one win in their last seven league matches, both against bottom side East Stirlingshire. The clubs have met 125 times in the leagu, and Queen’s Park have the better of the head-to-head, winning 51 times to Montrose’s 44. However, Montrose are unbeaten in their three matches against the Spiders so far this season, winning one and drawing the other two.
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