Airdrie United (8th)
A COMMON theme emerging throughout the four senior leagues is how the beneficiaries (in the loosest sense of the word) of Rangers’ relegation to Division Three have struggled to adapt to their new environs – Dundee and Stranraer are propping up their respective tables. Airdrie United, however, are actually performing far better than their counterparts, even if they are in lowly eighth position.
It was never going to be an easy campaign for manager Jimmy Boyle. Until they were shunted into the second tier midway through pre-season, the Diamonds were predicted to challenge for a play-off position in Division Two. To compensate for the relative deficiencies in his youthful squad, Boyle has drafted in a number of well-known faces. Goalkeeper Kenny Arthur has returned to Scotland following a spell in England’s lower leagues, while Michael Hart was signed from St Johnstone. In attack, Paul di Giacomo has been expected to provide the side’s greatest threat, but it has actually been young John Boyle who has been the club’s stand-out performer so far.
His hat-trick in his side’s 4-1 thrashing of Dumbarton was followed by the opening goal in the surprise 2-0 away win at Livingston, but since their bright start, Airdrie have been quite awful. While results have been poor, it is the nature of the defeats which has been a major concern. The club have been dismantled by Cowdenbeath and Hamilton, while last weekend’s seven goal capitulation at Partick Thistle was perhaps the most inept performance from any club so far this season.
Jimmy Boyle must find a way of plugging the gaping holes in his side’s defence, as well as somehow adding creativity to a team so heavily reliant on John Boyle for goals. If he is unable to address his team’s failing, it could be a very long winter in North Lanarkshire. SM
Hamilton Academical (9th)
The current campaign was always going to be difficult for Billy Reid and his young Hamilton side. Since relegation from the SPL at the end of 2010-2011, the Accies have toiled badly. Attendances at New Douglas Park have continued to fall, while financial implications have led to an over-reliance on youth – 15 players from the current first team have all graduated from the club’s academy. The loss of experienced players such as Simon Mensing, Mark McLaughlin and Jim McAllister has only compounded matters.
Reid’s philosophy of ball retention and short, sharp passing is relatively balletic, but the side lack a cutting edge to capitalise on the few chances created. A defeat to Airdrie United in the Ramsdens Cup has set the tone for a poor season – anaemic displays against Raith Rovers and Cowdenbeath have underlined the side’s problems. Had it not been for James Keatings’ timely intervention in a 3-3 draw against Dumbarton, Reid would have been facing an insurmountable backlash from supporters.
On-loan striker Stevie May has impressed since joining from St Johnstone – last season’s Third Division Player of the Year has already scored three times in his two matches and has brought menace to an otherwise mediocre attack. Much will rest on his shoulders if Hamilton are to correct their wretched start to the campaign. SM
At the end of the 1995-96 season – incidentally their last sojourn in the second tier – Dumbarton finished the campaign with a total of 11 points. On current form, it is a record the Sons’ 2012-13 vintage will likely break.
There was little illusion about the difficulties Dumbarton would face this term, but even so, their season has been quite atrocious. The Sons are the only side in the SFL yet to win a league match and their tally of two points from a possible 27 suggests they will make a quick and ignominious return to Division Two. With three part-time sides in the league, it should have been the perfect opportunity for the side to consolidate their First Division status; defeats to Airdrie United and Cowdenbeath in the opening two games have summed up the season so far.
Deposed manager Alan Adamson will shoulder most of the blame. He retained the majority of last season’s squad – most of whom were nothing more than ordinary Second Division players – while his scattergun recruitment policy has ill-served the team. Only defenders Alan Lithgow and Nicky Devlin have shown any competence in the division, while Jim Lister – for so long a walking punchline – has impressed, leading the club’s scoring charts with five goals in all competitions. The rest seem ill-prepared to cope with the rigours of a relegation scrap.
Defensively, Dumbarton have been shambolic. A lack of shape or organisation has marred the campaign and the 27 goals conceded, an average of three per match, is unsurprisingly the poorest record in the league. They are also the league’s lowest scorers. The club must improve in every area.
The callow Jack Ross will take charge of the side for Saturday’s match against Airdrie United. A victory will allow the club to remain within touching distance of their opposition and Hamilton; anything else will probably consign the club to relegation, even at this early stage. CGT