Partick Thistle came out on top in the title battle, pulling away from challengers Greenock Morton in the last few weeks of the season to eventually win the league by 11 points. By clinching the second tier title for the sixth time, the Jags set up a return to the top flight for the first time since 2003-04. Their tally of 78 points was their highest ever total, although it would have been exceeded in 1970-71 and 1991-92 had three points for a win been in place then. It was their home form which saw them promoted – their record of 15 wins from 18 league matches at Firhill was the best total in the First Division for a decade.
Morton eventually fell short in the title race, but they can still take a lot of positives from their season. The Ton finished as the 14th best team in Scotland, their highest position since 1995-96 when they finished 13th overall. Their finish on 67 points equalled their tally from 1995-96 as their best ever in the second tier, and sat 24 points higher than their previous best since promotion in 2007. Allan Moore’s side suffered just four defeats away from home – their lowest total in any division since 1983-84.
Falkirk finished in third place for the third consecutive season, the first time in their history they finished in the same position for three seasons running. Livingston recorded a fourth place finish, their highest standing since being relegated from the SPL in 2006. Hamilton Academical completed the top half of the division courtesy of a late run of six wins in seven games (which featured a club record-equalling streak of five consecutive clean sheets. Raith Rovers finished just below them in sixth and were the highest placed team from Fife for the first time since 1995-96.
Dumbarton confounded pre-season expectations by finishing seventh despite a dreadful start. They failed to win any of their opening ten matches – a run which, when combined with their last visit to the First Division in 1995-96, saw them set a second tier record of 38 (thirty-eight) matches without a win. The sequence was finally ended with a win at Central Park in November while Jack Ross was in temporary charge. The new permanent manager Ian Murray made an immediate impact – the Sons won five of their next six league matches and collected 38 points from his 25 games in charge. Had that form been sustained over a full season, it would have equated to a points tally of 54, enough to finish third. Dumbarton’s eventual placing as the 19th best side in Scotland was their best finish since coming third in the First Division (and 15th overall) in 1986-87.
Cowdenbeath finished eighth after moving out of the relegation play-off on the final day. Their placing as the 20th best side in Scotland was their highest finish since 1970-71 when they finished 18th (and also bottom) of the top flight, which was also their last visit to the top division. Indeed, this season’s finish was their joint second highest finish since World War II. Perhaps more importantly for the Cowden fans, they finished ahead of Fife rivals Dunfermline Athletic for the first time in 65 years.
Dunfermline’s plunge into administration and subsequent 15 point deduction saw them finish ninth and eventually suffer relegation via the play-offs. They also became the first club to drop from the SPL to the Second Division in consecutive seasons since Partick Thistle (2000-2002). They will play in the third tier of Scottish football for the first time since 1985-86, and this season’s 21st position overall was their lowest finish since then. After ninth place finishes in each of their last three First Division campaigns, Airdrie United went one better (or worse, I suppose) by finishing bottom. Their season will not be fondly remembered – after wins in their opening two games, they picked up just 16 points from their final 34 matches, and set a club record of 15 league mathces without a win. This was ended with a final day victory over Dunfermline. The Diamonds won just two matches from November onwards, and both were at East End Park.
Queen of the South steamrolled their way to the title, setting all sorts of records along the way. Their accumulation of 92 points broke the record for the third tier, previously held by Gretna who picked up 88 points in 2005-06. Amazingly, Queens’ previous highest points total for a season was 67 back in 2001-02, and they picked up 25 more points this season than they have in any previous campaign. Their 29 league wins in the season smashed a previous club record of 24, and their previous record of five defeats in a season was cut to two. They also became the first Second Division club to win the Challenge Cup since Alloa Athletic in 1999-00.
Alloa finished second and secured a second consecutive promotion via the play-offs, taking them into the First Division for the first time since 2002-03. Their finish on 67 points was their best ever count in the third tier of Scottish football. Third place Brechin City equalled their best finish since being relegated from the First Division in 2005-06, and could conceivably have done even better had their season not been punctuated by a multitude of postponements at Glebe Park.
Forfar Athletic’s fourth place ending was mainly built on some good form at Station Park, where their win column reached double figures for just the second time since 1999-00. Arbroath would have been disappointed to finish fifth and miss out on the play-offs, but they can take solace in the fact that the last time they played in the third tier for three consecutive seasons, they were promoted in the third of those years. Sixth place Stenhousemuir’s season was possibly most notable for their cup exploits, although they can also celebrate the fact that they were the only team in the SPL or SFL to have a goal difference of zero.
Pre-season title contenders Ayr United in seventh, leaving them as the 29th placed side in Scotland. Only once in the last 48 seasons have they finished lower in the pile – that came back in 2005-06 when they finished in eighth. They can at least console themselves with the fact they have ceased to be a yo-yo club and will play in the same division in consecutive seasons for the first time in five years. Despite being thrust into the division at short notice after the Rangers saga last summer, Stranraer finished eighth, securing their safety and recording their highest finish since being relegated from the First Division in 2005-06.
East Fife finished ninth – their lowest placing in the division since being promoted in 2007-08 – but secured their safety via the play-offs to set up a Fife derby with Dunfermline next season. Their total of 32 points was their lowest since an ill-fated foray into the First Division in 1996-97 when they managed only 14. Albion Rovers couldn’t quite match their heroics of last season and were relegated in last place. It took them 20 years to get out of the bottom tier of Scottish football last time – they’ll be hoping for a quicker return this time around.
The Third Division has seen unprecedented press coverage as a result of the election of Rangers into the bottom tier of the SFL. Ally McCoist’s side won the title as expected, but it wasn’t straightforward – they dropped 25 points and finished 15 points behind Gretna’s record points score set in 2004-05. They did manage a couple of records though – they set a fourth tier record of 14 away matches unbeaten between October and April, and also equalled the record of nine consecutive away wins, originally set by East Fife in 2007-08.
Peterhead finished as runners-up after ending the regular season with eight consecutive league wins, a club record since being elected to the SFL in 2000. They extended that run to ten matches by beating Queen’s Park in both legs of the play-off semi-final, but missed out on promotion after losing to East Fife in the next round. QP finished third but lost in the play-offs for the fourth consecutive season. The Spiders recorded an impressive 11 away wins in the league, equalling a club record set in 1955-56 and 1987-88. Berwick Rangers came in fourth – their best finish since being relegated in 2008 – but lost out to East Fife in the play-off semi-finals. They have been the model of consistency in the last four seasons, with points totals of 50, 49, 48 and 49.
Elgin City finished fifth and missed out on the play-offs after a late slump. They have yet to be promoted from the Third Division since being elected in 2000 – only East Stirlingshire and Montrose have been in the division longer. City only lost five league matches away from home this season, their lowest number of away defeats in an SFL campaign. That record is, however, slightly spoiled by the fact they won just four away games, with the other nine matches on the road finishing as draws. Fans at Borough Briggs were treated to 81 goals this season – more than any other set of home supporters in the SPL or SFL (although Station Park had more goals if you include the two games Brechin played there).
Montrose also narrowly missed out on a play-off place after a late dip in form – they still finished sixth which was their best finish since 2008-09. They lost just five times at home in the league, their best since their last promotion season back in 1994-95. Next season will be their 18th consecutive year in Division Three. Stirling Albion were seventh, but they would have been much higher had they started the season the same way they finished it – they lost just two of their last 17 matches. The highlight of that run was a 9-1 home win over East Stirlingshire, which was both the club’s biggest league win and the biggest ever win in the Third Division.
Annan Athletic’s eighth place equalled their poorest finish in the five seasons they have been in the SFL. They also suffered their biggest league defeats since joining the SFL, losing 5-1 to both Stirling Albion and Montrose. Clyde finished ninth for a second season running – perhaps the biggest indication of their recent fall from grace is that the last time they finished in the same position two years in a row – as recently as 2005-06 and 2006-07 – they were fifth in the First Division. Their collection of 12 away defeats was their worst biggest since 1993-94, when they were relegated from the First Division. East Stirlingshire picked up the wooden spoon for the second consecutive season and the tenth time overall – only Brechin City have finished as the worst team in the SFL more often (12 times). Seven of the Shire’s bottom place finishes have come in the last 11 seasons.
If you have any particular questions or topics you would like Craig, a New Romantic, to cover, then please contact him via Twitter at @SPLstats. Don’t let the name throw you – he also covers the football league too, and judging by the reaction, you would think he’d just spat in your face.
Tonight he hosts the inaugural SPLstats Quiz, if you are not attending then keep an eye out for the published questions over the weekend.