The hotly-anticipated Championship season gets underway tomorrow with relegated Hibernian welcoming Livingston to Easter Road. Hibs have won just two of their last 22 matches in all competitions and have found the net only six times in their last 13 games. Their opponents, meanwhile, have kicked off their season by winning two cup ties away from home, but have not won their opening league fixture of the season since 2009, when they won at home to Montrose in the Third Division. The last meeting of the sides came at Easter Road in February 2006 when Hibs smashed Livi 7-0 courtesy of strikes from Steven Fletcher (two), Derek Riordan (two), Garry O’Connor, Chris Killen and a Dave Mackay own goal. That thumping aside, Livi have a fairly decent record at Easter Road and have picked up four victories in ten visits, with their most recent coming in April 2005.
After retaining their place in the division via the play-offs, Cowdenbeath kick off their season at home to Falkirk. The Bairns have started well under Peter Houston, scoring ten goals in two cup wins away to League 2 opposition, while Cowden crashed out of the Challenge Cup at home to League 1 Brechin City and then scraped past League 2 Clyde in the League Cup. The Blue Brazil are without an opening day victory since Mixu Paatelainen’s side beat Alloa Athletic 6-1 in 2006, but the Bairns have fared little better and their last opening day win coming against Gretna in the SPL in 2007. Falkirk have scored 11 without reply in their last three matches against Cowden, but have suffered defeat on two of their last three visits to Central Park.
The two newly-promoted clubs face off against each other as Stirling Albion travel to take on Peterhead. The Binos were the only side to record a league win at Balmoor last season, but it should be noted that their 4-0 success came after Peterhead had already secured the title. Stirling have won each of their last three opening day fixtures, and haven’t lost one since 2008. Peterhead, on the other hand, haven’t won on the opening day since 2009. Both sides kicked off their seasons with victories over League 2 sides in the Challenge Cup, but they both followed that up by losing to higher-ranked opposition in the League Cup. Five of the last eight meetings between these sides at Balmoor have finished as draws. Strangely, there have been eight draws in 18 meetings in Peterhead compared to just one in the same number of matches at Forthbank.
Relegated Greenock Morton kick off their campaign away to Ayr United and will be looking to improve on the form which saw them win just one league match away from home in the whole of last season. Jim Duffy’s time in Inverclyde has started well, with victories over Spartans and Berwick Rangers in the cup competitions, while Ayr suffered a shock defeat to League 2 Clyde in the Challenge Cup in their opening match. They fared better in their League Cup tie though, thumping East Stirlingshire 4-0 at Ochilview to set up a mouth-watering clash with rivals Kilmarnock in the second round. Morton have picked up five wins and a draw in their last six games against Ayr, with the last win for the Honest Men coming back in March 2010.
Albion Rovers kick-off life in the bottom tier with a top of the table clash against Annan Athletic in Coatbridge. Cliftonhill has been something of a fortress of late and Rovers have won 11 of their last 17 matches at home, with just three defeats in normal time plus one on penalties against Livingston last week. However, Annan had the second best away record in the division last season, with only runaway champions Peterhead picking up more points on the road. Rovers were the first side to beat Annan after they joined the SFL in 2008 but have struggled against the Galabankies in recent times, with just two wins in their last 11 meetings.
Montrose and East Stirlingshire are two of the favourites to finish bottom and earn the unwanted prize of being the first side to face the “pyramid play-off”, and their meeting at Links Park may set the tone for the season ahead. The Shire started last season well but finished it with seven defeats in their last eight matches, and then kicked off this season by conceding 11 goals in two cup ties. Montrose had an inconsistent league campaign last term – they failed to win more than two games in a row at any stage, but also never suffered more than two consecutive defeats. Coincidentally, these sides also met on the final day of last season, with Montrose winning 2-1 at Ochilview. Indeed, the Gable Endies are unbeaten in their last nine matches against the Shire, with their last defeat coming back in January 2012.
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