BETTING on the SFL for the forthcoming season has been virtually non-existent due to the Rangers debacle, but with the situation beginning to become a little clearer, punters are starting to show their hands.
With Dundee’s promotion to the SPL, Dunfermline are the favourites to make an instant return to the top tier with odds of 5/2 to win the league. Jim Jefferies has lost a number of players but has enhanced his squad with the signings of Ryan Wallace and Josh Falkingham. If they secure the experienced (but injury-prone) Kevin Kyle to the squad, they will be a strong position to top the table.
Falkirk and Livingston are next in the betting at 10/3 and 7/2 respectively. Many thought Falkirk would struggle after the loss of hulking striker Farid El Alagui, but they seem to have found a ready-made replacement in Lyle Taylor. Livingston, meanwhile, will be hoping they can start the season in the same manner they finished the last. Their price is based around the ability of John Hughes and John Collins – the pair appear to be a winning combination and could turn Livi into promotion contenders.
Hamilton and Partick Thistle are next in the betting and both priced at 5/1. Hamilton were favourites to win the league last season but it seems the Accies are still in a transitional period. The squad is replete with talented youngsters and in Billy Reid, they have a capable manager. If they can start the season strongly, Hamilton could well be challenging come the end of the season. For many, Thistle are the best value of all the teams in the league this season. The loss of Paul Cairney will be keenly felt, but manager Jackie McNamara has made a number of canny signings – the aquisition of Hugh Murray looks particularly shrewd.
Morton are a team that may catch the eye at a bigger price. They perhaps should have performed better than they did last season and manager Alan Moore will be under pressure for his side to challenge at the upper-end of the table this term. They certainly have a solid squad and if Peter McDonald can stay fit, they could go well at 16/1. Raith Rovers struggled last season and could be drawn into a similar dogfight, especially with the charasmatic John McGlynn no longer in charge. They can be backed at 33/1.
Promoted sides Cowdenbeath (66/1), Airdrie United (100/1) and Dumbarton (100/1) are unlikely to trouble the top end of the table and will be playing to stay in the division.
First Division prices
- 5/2 Dunfermline
- 10/3 Falkirk
- 7/2 Livingston
- 5/1 Hamilton
- 5/1 Partick Thistle
- 16/1 Greenock Morton
- 33/1 Raith Rovers
- 66/1 Cowdenbeath
- 100/1 Airdrie United
- 100/1 Dumbarton
Ayr United are clear favourites to make a swift return to the First Division and are priced at 9/4. Their squad is strong and Mark Roberts could prove to be a fantastic appointment.
The nearest competitors are sure to be Queen of the South who are 4/1. Like Ayr, they have appointed a rookie boss with former Hearts and Scotland winger Allan Johnston taking charge. At the bigger price, Queens might represent better value than Ayr.
Last year’s Division Three winners Alloa are next in the betting at 11/2. Third Division champions have traditionally tended to perform well in the Second Division and manager Paul Hartley is keen to prove his managerial acumen. Along with Arbroath (7/1), they could be the teams to push the favourites closest by the end of the season. The Red Lichties may feel hard done by because they were not promoted instead of Airdrie, but they will be determined to improve this year.
A case can be made for Stenhouseumuir (8/1), Brechin City (9/1), East Fife (10/1) and Forfar Athletic (12/1) for good each-way bets. At the prices, Brechin might be the most appealing and former Morton forward Andy Jackson could take the league by storm; 9/1 could be great value for money.
Albion Rovers and Stranraer are both 33/1 and unlikely to attract much support. Staying in the division will be an achievement for both clubs.
Second Division prices
- 9/4 Ayr United
- 4/1 Queen of the South
- 11/2 Alloa Athletic
- 7/1 Arbroath
- 8/1 Stenhousemuir
- 9/1 Brechin City
- 10/1 East Fife
- 12/1 Forfar Athletic
- 33/1 Albion Rovers
- 33/1 Stranraer
With the uncertainity still surrounding the Third Division, bookmakers have opened up a w/o Rangers market. Peterhead lead the way at 9/4 and manager Jim McInally will ensure his side start the season the way they ended the last. They were the best backed team in Scotland last year but, after a rotten start, failed to live up to their reputation. Similar form to the second half of last season’s should see them finish as the best of the rest.
Stirling Albion suffered through a dire campaign last season and some may think 10/3 is too short considering that in the last ten years, no team that finished bottom of the Second Division has won instant promotion. However, they have made some good signings and manager Greig McDonald has kept the core of his better players from last term.
Queen’s Park (4/1) will challenge for a playoff position again are likely to face competition from Annan Athletic, Elgin City (both 13/2) and Berwick Rangers (12/1). If only one side could potentially challenge at the top, then Elgin look to be the best value. The Highland side made the playoffs last year and with the experience of Dennis Wyness, they have one of the most capable forwards in the division.
Clyde (20/1), Montrose (25/1) and East Stirlingshire (40/1) will be fighting to avoid finishing bottom of the table. Of the three, it seems that East Stirlingshire might once again be that team.
Thid Division prices (w/o Rangers)
- 9/4 Peterhead
- 10/3 Stirling Albion
- 4/1 Queen’s Park
- 13/2 Annan Athletic
- 13/2 Elgin City
- 12/1 Berwick Rangers
- 20/1 Clyde
- 25/1 Montrose
- 40/1 East Stirlingshire
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