At the upper end of table, play-off chasing Queen of the South welcome title hopefuls Hamilton Academical to Palmerston. Since the start of December, Queens have suffered just three defeats in their last 12 league matches and have moved from eighth to fourth. They have four wins in their last five home matches, and have conceded just three goals in the process. The Accies have picked up three consecutive league wins – they haven’t managed four on the bounce since the start of the season. Alex Neil’s side have lost fewer away games (three) and conceded fewer goals away from home (ten) than any other side in the division. Hamilton have won each of their last six league matches against the Doonhamers, although Queens did put them out of the Scottish Cup earlier this season.
Looking towards the bottom, Cowdenbeath host Alloa Athletic and will be hoping to close the gap on their opponents as they aim to escape the relegation play-off spot. The Blue Brazil have ten points from their last five league matches, the joint best total in the league along with Dundee and Hamilton. Alloa, meawhile, only have one win in their last ten league matches, and that came against bottom club Greenock Morton. Cowden have won their last two home matches in the league – they haven’t won three-in-a-row at this level since the 1972-73. Cowdenbeath have not won any of their last eight games against Alloa at Central Park, though six of them were draws (and they managed a penalty success after one of those).
Stuttering Ayr United are in danger of slipping out of the play-off places and they face a tricky home match against third place Stranraer. Ayr have taken just one point from nine matches against the three clubs above them in the division, and have conceded 30 goals in these games at an average of 3.33 per match. Stranraer have been responsible for 11 of those goals, with ten coming in the last two meetings. Stephen Aitken’s side have suffered just three defeats in their last 21 league matches, and just one loss in their last ten away from home. Ayr, on the other hand, have lost four league games in a row – they haven’t lost five consecutive league matches since the summer of 2010, and haven’t done so in the third tier since 2006.
The bottom two clash at Gayfield as Arbroath aim to close the four-point gap on East Fife in ninth. The Red Lichties have the worst home record in the division, and have lost seven of their last eight matches in all competitions at Gayfield. Gary Naysmith’s side have taken just two points from their last six league matches and have scored just once in their last five. They are the lowest scoring away side in the division, having found the net just nine times in 13 matches. East Fife have not won on any of their last six trips to Gayfield, a big turnaround when you consider that they’d won six consecutive matches there prior to the start of this run.
The biggest game in the play-off battle sees fourth placed Stirling Albion travel to Ochilview to take on fifth placed East Stirlingshire. The Binos have been leaking goals away from home: only bottom club Queen’s Park have conceded more on the road than the Binos this season. Their opponents are keeping themselves in contention for a play-off berth by virtue of their impressive home form – the Shire are unbeaten in six home matches and have suffered just one defeat in their last ten. Recent matches between these sides have been high-scoring – there have been 50 goals in the last 11 meetings, with 35 of those being scored by Stirling Albion.
Berwick Rangers and Montrose meet at Shielfield with both clubs still harbouring ambitions to sneak into the play-off reckoning. Berwick started like the proverbial house on fire under Colin Cameron, taking ten points from his first four matches, but then the fire quickly burnt itself out and the charred remains comprise just a single point from three games. Montrose have been going fairly well of late, with just one defeat in their last six, but their away form will have to improve if they are to make up the five point deficit to the play-offs – they have only one win in five on the road. All three matches between the sides this season finished as draws – if the match finished as a draw it would be just the second time that either side has drawn four league games against an opponent in a season. Berwick previously did it against Stenhousemuir in 1994-95, while Montrose managed it against Queen’s Park in 2003-04.
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