The Mid-Term Report Card

Queen’s Park (3rd)

B-

QUEEN’S PARK might be sitting in third place, one point from the summit of the division, but their standing has perhaps as much to do with the indifferent form of those around them than their own recent results. While their form away from home has been creditable, it is at Hampden where QP appear to be struggling.

On the road, the club have competed well, winning two of their four matches. Despite losing at Peterhead and Rangers – no disgrace for any side in the division – they reserved their best performances of the season for the games against Stirling Albion and Elgin City. In the former match, they cruised to victory after falling behind early on, while in the latter, they decimated the Highland side 4-0 at Borough Briggs .

It is their home form which is particularly bothersome. Despite securing a customary victory over Clyde, the Spiders have failed to beat Montrose and Annan in Glasgow. Against Montrose, they toiled badly before two goals in the final five minutes secured a point; in the match with Annan, their performance was unusually flat and for long periods, they were sucked into an attritional tit-for-tat battle, eschewing their traditional neat passing game for playing long ball after long ball.

That said, David Anderson and Jamie Longworth have continued their outstanding form from last term and alongside youngsters Lawrence Shankland and Andy Robertson – two players whose futures lie far beyond the realms of the Third Division – there is a small core of the division’s finest performers. When the side finally hit their groove, Queen’s Park should be able to pull away from the teams beneath them to consolidate a play-off position. CGT

 

East Stirlingshire (9th)

B-

That East Stirlingshire are not bottom of the table at this early stage is something of a surprise; the club were expected to spend the majority of the season propping up the entire football league, so to see them sitting in eighth place with a haul of nine points is a fine achievement.

John Coughlin, the arch-pragmatist who builds his sides on rigidity and tactical discipline, is beginning to get the best from his young side. Despite outstanding results in the opening rounds of the Ramsdens Cup – Ayr United and then Airdrie were dismissed from the competition – the club were unable to translate this form into the league, losing their first four matches, until a remarkable comeback in the final 20 minutes against Stirling Albion secured the club’s first victory. Since that 3-1 defeat of the Binos, the Shire have won three of their last four matches.

While there are deficiencies in certain areas of the pitch – for all Coughlin’s insistence on utilising a compact defence and midfield, the club have only kept one clean sheet all season – the team excite as an attacking force. Kevin Turner and Paul Quinn are very capable forwards at Third Division level, and young winger Nathan Shepherd looks like a talented prospect.

Recent results have done enough to suggest that the Shire have enough about them to avoid finishing the campaign in the very lowest reaches of the league. While the side will inevitably capitulate by the odd 1-6 reverse over the course of the season, they are capable of surprising some of the division’s more fancied sides. CGT

 

Peterhead (4th)

C

Although a 50% win ratio is normally to be commended, Peterhead still find themselves in only fourth place after suffering three defeats.

The first of those losses was away to Elgin City at a time when Peterhead were top of the league following a deserved draw against Rangers and three successive wins. Ten points from the first four matches was form ahead of the curve for any team, but two losses in a row (0-2 at Elgin and 1-2 at Annan) meant the Blue Toon have not seen the top since. A win at home to Berwick Rangers promised a return to form but the most recent 1-2 loss at Ochilview to East Stirlingshire has seen them fall to fourth place.

It is no coincidence that those losses have been recorded on the back of ill-discipline. The first loss was a result of Peterhead being reduced to eight men against Elgin, while the second arrived in the next match when they had to deal with a clutch of suspensions from the farce at Borough Briggs. The third loss saw Peterhead unable to react to having an early 1-0 lead turn into a 1-2 deficit, because Scott Ross was sent off soon after the Shire’s second goal. That was Ross’s second red of the season; even if the Shire registered twice the amount of shots as Peterhead, a theme of cause-and-effect from poor discipline can be seen.

Peterhead still have plenty time to improve their long-term form over the season, but needless red cards must be avoided to keep up with the pack. JAM

 

Annan Athletic (7th)

C

With the installation of a new artificial pitch at Galabank, the 2012-13 season should have been the perfect opportunity for Annan Athletic to press forward and mount a genuine challenge for promotion. After collecting ten points from a possible 24, it feels as though the club have yet to shake off the hangover from the disappointing conclusion to last season’s campaign. The club were a permanent presence in the play-off positions until late February when a sustained loss of form curtailed any such aspirations.

Nothing seems to have changed for Harry Cairney’s side, with results so far being the literal definition of a “mixed bag”. Home victories against Berwick and Peterhead were credible results, and the club were widely praised for their diligence and hard work in the 0-0 draw with Rangers, but defeats to Stirling Albion and Clyde, as well as the loss against Buckie Thistle in the Scottish Cup, have evened out their positive performances. In their most recent two matches against Queen’s Park and Elgin City – both of which finished as 2-2 draws – the club recovered from losing positions to secure a point.

Scott Chaplain’s general play has been to a high standard and the talented midfielder is the club’s top scorer this term with three goals, but there are too many average players throughout the side who lack the skill to take advantage of his clever moves. Cairney continues to divide opinion amongst the Annan support, with some believing the club have failed to improve substantially since joining the SFL. Annan are currently punching their weight in the division, but one cannot help but think that the side is capable of better. CGT

Tell Him He's Pelé

Tell Him He's Pelé

If Tell Him He's Pelé were a boy band, they would probably be the much-missed One True Voice, both in terms of appearance and musical output.

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