Saturday’s clash between play-off chasing Dumbarton and league leaders Dundee is all about contrast. The Sons are the highest scoring side in the division, while the Dees have the meanest defensive record. Dumbarton’s last eight league matches have featured 41 goals while Dundee’s last eight have featured just 12. Dundee have the most clean sheets in the division (15), while Dumbarton have the fewest (two).
Perhaps the only thing which isn’t contrasting about the sides is their form – Ian Murray’s boys have just one defeat in nine league matches, while Paul Hartley’s team have one loss in their last seven. Dundee recorded comfortable wins in both previous clashes this season and have ten wins and a draw in their last 11 matches against the Sons. The original “Do They Know It’s Christmas” was at number 1 the last time Dumbarton beat Dundee – that was a 1-0 success at Boghead on New Year’s Day, 1985.
Nearest challengers Hamilton Academical face a less daunting trip to Cappielow to face a miserable Greenock Morton side who are counting down the days until their relegation is confirmed. The Accies are the division’s form side over the last five matches, with 13 points earned, 13 goals scored and just four goals conceded. Morton, on the other hand, have just one win in 15 league games and haven’t found the net more than once in a match since early November. To make things worse, they haven’t won any of their last 11 matches against Hamilton at Cappielow – their last home victory against the Accies came back in February 1999, when Keith Wright bagged a double in a 3-0 success.
There’s an intriguing match-up in the battle for the play-offs as stuttering Stranraer host swashbuckling Stenhousemuir. Steve Aitken’s men have hit the buffers at the worst possible time, losing three matches in a row for the first time since October 2012 and putting their play-off place in jeopardy as a result. The Warriors, meanwhile, are on an upwards trajectory and have gone eight league matches without defeat for the first time since the 2009-10 season. It should, however, be noted that six of those eight matches finishes as draws.
Recent meetings between these sides haven’t exactly been goal-fests, with an average of just 1.6 goals per game over the last seven meetings. You wouldn’t necessarily expect that to continue though, given that Stenny have scored eight goals in their last three matches while Stranraer have conceded ten in their last three.
Ayr United welcome bottom side Arbroath to Somerset Park with both sides in desperate need of the three points. The Honest Men have recorded back-to-back 5-0 victories over Stranraer and East Fife and will be looking to score five or more goals in three consecutive league matches for the first time since the 1936-37 season, where they achieved the feat twice within the space of a month. The latter of those runs saw them record an 8-1 win over Montrose, a 5-0 success against Forfar and a 7-2 victory over East Stirlingshire, with the second and third matches coming in consecutive days!
Arbroath lost to Airdrieonians last weekend to end a mini-resurgence which saw them pick up two wins in a row. They have the worst away record in the division, though they did win 4-2 at Brechin City the last time they went on the road. Ayr have won all three meetings between the sides this season and will be looking to repeat the whitewash they achieved in 2008-09. Draws between these sides at Somerset Park are incredibly rare – there have been just four in 48 meetings.
Just three points separate fourth placed Stirling Albion from Montrose in sixth ahead of their clash at Forthbank on Saturday. The Binos are clinging on to the final play-off spot courtesy of their impressive home form, with just one defeat in their last 11. The Gable Endies have picked up just one win in their last six on the road and lost 0-5 to Berwick Rangers on their last away trip. Stirling are unbeaten in their last five matches against Montrose, picking up three wins and two draws.
East Stirlingshire are only outside the play-off places by a single goal and may get the chance to give that goal difference a boost when they welcome bottom club Queen’s Park to Ochilview. The Spiders picked up a shock 4-0 win over Albion Rovers last weekend, but that was against a side who made 11 changes with an eye on their Scottish Cup quarter-final replay with Rangers. They have not picked up consecutive wins all season. The Shire are unbeaten in their last seven home matches and have not gone eight without defeat since 1998. However, they have not won any of their last five home games against the Spiders.
We dig into the mailbag to pull out the questions you want answered. Dumbarton fan and cosplay advocate Robbie Brown asks:
“With Greenock Morton showing no sign of avoiding automatic relegation, what is the worst finish of any side in the second tier since the introduction of the ten-team setup?”
Morton fans will be glad to hear that they won’t be troubling the record books this season. That particular igominy belongs to Clydebank, who picked up just ten points in the 1999-00 season. It took them until their 27th game of the campaign to pick up their only win, at home to Raith Rovers; they swiftly followed it up with an 0-8 defeat away to St Mirren four days later. In total, they conceded 82 goals and managed to find the net just 17 times.
Even if Morton fail to make it out of the teens this season, it won’t be a particularly rare occurrence. In the previous 19 seasons under the ten-team format, there have been eight occasions where a side have picked up fewer than 20 points in their 36 matches. Stranraer are the only side who have suffered this fate twice – they picked up 17 points in both the 1994-95 and 1998-99 seasons. The other sides who can lay claim to this dubious honour are Dumbarton (11 points, 1995-96), East Fife (14 points, 1996-97), Arbroath (15 points, 2002-03), Raith Rovers (16 points, 2004-05) and most recently Brechin City (17 points, 2005-06).
If you are curious about any team-specific stats or records, e-mail us at email@example.com or tweet Craig at @SPLStats and he will pick out the most interesting questions.