Before Craig indulges us with his statistics-based preview of the weekend, he has some news: the second annual SPLstats quiz is to be held at the Alan Rough Suite, Firhill on Friday 16 May 2014. The maximum team size is five and it costs just a tenner for the whole table. Get in touch with him if you want to book.
New Douglas Park plays host to a crucial match in the title race as second place Hamilton Academical host third place Falkirk. Both clubs missed out on the opportunity to go top last weekend when they were held to 1-1 draws, but the teams are in decent enough form with the Accies unbeaten in four and the Bairns unbeaten in three. Gary Holt’s Falkirk have tended to keep things tight away from home this season: they have the second best away defensive record in the league (behind Hamilton, as it happens), but only the bottom three clubs have scored fewer on the road. However, Alex Neil’s side have the second highest home goal tally in the division; only Falkirk themselves have scored more.
Hamilton definitely have the upper hand so far this season, with two wins and a draw from the three meetings. They will be aiming to finish a league season unbeaten against the Bairns for the first time since the 1989-90, when they managed a win and two draws in three fixtures. Falkirk have suffered just one defeat in their last ten visits to New Douglas Park, but that came on their most recent trip back in October when goals from Tony Andreu and Louis Longridge gave the Accies a 2-0 win.
Leaders Dundee face a tough trip to a Livingston side who are staking a claim for the final play-off spot. Livi have suffered just one defeat in their last five matches, while Dundee have lost two of their last three away games. Dundee’s recent matches have been low scoring affairs: none of the last eight have featured more than two goals, and both teams have scored in just one of their last ten. Dundee won the first meeting this season, but Livi picked up wins in the next two and are looking to record three consecutive league wins over Dundee for the first time ever.
Three teams are locked together in a relegation battle and two of them meet on Saturday, as Arbroath welcome Airdrieonians to Gayfield. Before an unsurprising defeat at Ibrox in midweek, Airdrie had been on a seven-match unbeaten run which was built on a new found defensive solidity – they conceded just four times in those seven games and picked up three clean sheets (having previously kept just one in 54 league matches). Arbroath’s form has finally picked up too – they have recorded consecutive league wins for the first time this season and will be looking to make it three-in-a-row for the first time in over two years.
While Arbroath and Airdrie appear to be improving, the other relegation candidates East Fife appear to be going in the opposite direction and will be looking to halt their slide against Ayr United at Bayview. In their last seven matches, Gary Naysmith’s men have picked up only two points and have found the net just three times. Their opponents have not been in the best of form themselves, but did end a run of four consecutive defeats in emphatic style last weekend by beating Stranraer 5-0. I am going to give you a personal guarantee of goals in this match* – the last five meetings between these sides in Methil have featured a whopping 26 strikes – an average of 5.2 per game.
Both Clyde and Stirling Albion will be looking to boost their play-off hopes when they meet at Broadwood. The Binos continue to hang on to the final play-off spot despite a disappointing run of form which has yielded just two wins in nine matches. The Bully Wee have built up a bit of a cushion to the sides below them courtesy of two consecutive wins, but have only managed three-in-a-row once since the start of 2009. The last four meetings at Broadwood have finished 2-1 to Stirling, 2-1 to Clyde, 2-1 to Stirling, and 2-1 to Clyde. I’d say it’s therefore pretty much guaranteed to finish 2-1 to Stirling and you should definitely put your house on it**.
East Stirlingshire have kept themselves in the race for the last play-off spot and have a chance to apply more pressure when they visit Links Park to take on struggling Montrose. The Gable Endies have just three wins in their last 13 matches, but have recorded two consecutive home wins and will be looking to make it three-in-a-row for the first time since the tail end of the 2011-12 season. The Shire started with four wins in their first five away matches, but since then their away from has nosedived and they have just two wins in nine. However, they have just one defeat in their last six league matches and that came against runaway leaders Peterhead. Montrose have a superb record against the Shire at Links Park in recent times, with five wins and a draw in their last six.
* not legally binding
** please don’t
If you are curious about any team-specific stats or records, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet Craig at @SPLStats and he will pick out the most interesting questions.