THERE are two First Division matches on Saturday, both of which could impact on both the title race and the relegation battle. Partick Thistle begin life after Jackie McNamara when they travel to Central Park for the second part of their double header, having beaten Cowdenbeath 2-1 at Firhill last Saturday. The Jags have not won any of their last seven away matches in the league, while the Blue Brazil have gone 16 league games without a win. Cowden have taken the lead in each of their last six league matches, but have managed just four draws in that period. This will be the 20th meeting between the sides in Fife, with Thistle having won eight times to Cowdenbeath’s seven. The good news for the home side is that Cowden have won six out of 12 league meetings at Central Park.
Meanwhile, Dumbarton will be hoping to continue their sensational run of form under Ian Murray when they welcome Livingston to the Bet Butler Stadium for the first of a home and away double-header. The Sons have won five league matches out of six since Murray took over from Alan Adamson and have climbed out of the relegation places as a result. The last time they managed four wins in a row in this division was the last time they stayed up at this level – 1992-93. The first of those four wins came against Livingston’s predecessors, Meadowbank Thistle. Livingston will need to improve their consistency in the latter part of the season if they are to have any hopes of promotion – they have only won two league games in a row on a single occasion this term. They will be hopeful of changing that on Saturday – they have won ten of their 13 previous matches against Dumbarton, including five of their six matches at Boghead and the Rock. Dumbarton’s only win over Livi came when R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly” was at number one (April 1997). Excluding cup competitions, the two sides have never previously met at Dumbarton in the second tier of Scottish football – all their previous league clashes there were in the Division Two.
The top two clash as Alloa Athletic make the journey to Dumfries to face Queen of the South in what will probably be their final opportunity to keep the title race alive. The Wasps are the only side who have beaten Queens in the league this season, but Allan Johnston’s side responded to that defeat with seven straight wins. The Doonhamers have earned 31 points from a possible 33 at home this year, but Alloa have the second best away record in the league (guess who has the best!) with just three defeats in nine matches. Meetings between these sides at Palmerston have been tight in recent years, with each of the last ten league matches having been drawn or decided by a single goal either way. The meeting prior to those ten was anything but close, with Alloa thrashing their hosts 7-0 in May 1993.
Third place Brechin City will be aiming to further entrench themselves in the play-offs by picking up three points against Ayr United at Somerset Park. Brechin have scored two or more goals in all but one of their league matches since Ray McKinnon took over – their only failure came in their solitary league defeat of his tenure when they lost at Palmerston. Ayr have won just one of their last eight league matches, sliding back towards the relegation places as a result. Curiously, the sides have three wins apiece in their last six league meetings, with the winning side having kept a clean sheet each time.
Leaders Rangers are in Scottish Cup action, so Queen’s Park could apply some serious pressure by cutting their lead to just 17 points if they can beat Annan Athletic at Hampden. The Spiders have won just three of their ten home league games this season, while Annan have picked up just one league win on their travels. Gardner Spiers’s side have lost just one of their last nine league matches, and that was a last minute defeat to Rangers. This will be the 15th league meeting of the two sides, and Queen’s Park have the upper hand with seven wins and just four defeats so far.
Peterhead host Berwick Rangers with both sides chasing a play-off place. The Blue Toon are currently four points ahead of Berwick, but have played two games more. Peterhead have lost just twice at home this season while their opponents have just two wins on the road. The sides have met ten times in the league, with Peterhead having six wins to Berwick’s two. Peterhead have not scored in any of their last three matches – if they fail to score on Saturday will equal their record “dry spell” since joining the SFL in 2000.
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