The Mid-Term Report Card

Clyde (8th)

C

DESPITE a strong start to the season, Clyde’s form has dipped badly and the club appear to have lost their early season momentum. A tally of 11 points from eight matches is admirable, but there is a nagging feeling that Jim Duffy’s side should have done more to build on their impressive opening of three wins from the first four games – it seems as though Duffy is beginning to doubt his charges, and has made unnecessary changes throughout the side with little reason or logic. The club have already been knocked out of the Scottish Cup by Nairn County, while Saturday’s 1-2 defeat to Berwick Rangers was perhaps their poorest performance of the season.

Clyde were expected to struggle after the summer departures of defenders Declan Gallagher and Jason Marr, but Duffy has always been able to form organised solid defences, even although full-backs and strikers have been required to deputise at centre-back at points over the season. The Bully Wee are also a credible attacking threat and boast an array of potent forwards, including Stuart McColm, Stefan McCluskey and Kevin Watt, while the talented yet brittle winger Sean Fitzharris has been the club’s brightest player so far this year.

However, it is the team’s midfield which is of most concern, with players seemingly more at ease playing hopeful punts towards the general direction of Pat Scullion than moving the ball through the middle of the park. Injury problems have precluded Stevie Masterton’s participation and without him in the side, players like John Sweeney and Paul Hay lack the ability or the pluck to attempt to pass the ball and retain possession. At times, particularly in recent weeks, Clyde look like the only side in the division unwilling or unable to play football. CGT

 

Rangers (1st)

C-

At long last, Rangers have finally clambered to the top of the Third Division – it’s just been so bloody difficult getting there. Much, much more than a total of 15 points was expected from Ally McCoist’s side, and their lowly grade of C- reflects this. To continue the academic analogy, Rangers’ season to date is the equivalent of getting the correct answer to an algebra problem, but getting the working all wrong in the process.

So far this season, Rangers’ home form has been immaculate. Despite several nervy moments against East Stirlingshire and Elgin City where they conceded early goals, results have been positive, and a League Cup third-round victory over Motherwell was seen as a symbolic raised middle finger to the SPL.

However, it is their form away from from that has been perplexing. At best, Rangers’ performances have been mildly embarrassing, and at worst, they have been humiliating. The club are yet to record a victory on the road, drawing with Peterhead, Berwick and Annan, while the 0-1 defeat to Stirling Albion was the season’s nadir. Given the fact their resources vastly outstrip every other club in the SFL, it is astonishing to see them toil against such modest opposition. The lack of craft and guile throughout the side is remarkable, and McCoist will shoulder the blame for this particular deficiency.

McCoist has hired the wrong tools for the job by entrusting expensive foreign imports to secure their passage through the SFL, but youth players Barrie McKay, Lewis MacLeod and Fraser Aird have been generally impressive and played without inhibition and have given some spark to the side – their elders could do well to replicate their fearlessness.

In all likelihood, Rangers will sustain their position at the top of the table and as their players adapt to the quaint environs of the league, they should pull away from the chasing pack. Anything less, quite frankly, is unacceptable. CGT

 

Stirling Albion (10th)

D

After two successive relegations, many had predicted that the 2012-13 season would see Stirling Albion return to something of an even keel. On paper at least, manager Greig McDonald appeared to have assembled a squad capable of challenging for the play-off places but after eight matches, the club are perhaps at their lowest ebb since the dismal 2002-03 campaign.

Their famous 1-0 victory over Rangers was an unimpeachable highlight, but that remarkable result masks an otherwise rotten season at Forthbank. The thrashing of Annan Athletic on the opening day appeared to be a false dawn; the club contrived to lose their following five matches, despite opening the scoring on three occasions. The Binos’ soft centre seems all the more bizarre given the core of experienced players at the club. Central defenders Gary Thom and Brian Allision should be accomplished performers at this level, while the likes of Kieran McAnespie, David McClune and Graham Weir have all played in the upper echelons of the SFL – the squad seems far less than the sum of its parts.

The victory over Rangers should have been a turning point in Stirling Albion’s season, yet following the weekend’s 1-3 home defeat to Montrose – another match where they took the lead before capitulating – it already feels as though the good work has already been undone.

Had it not been for the 5-0 thumping of Dalbeattie Star in the Scottish Cup, it is entirely plausible that McDonald would have been dismissed. That result, and the win over Rangers, will have bought him some time – somewhat ironic given the fact he was actually absent from the latter match to attend his wedding – but if results do not improve over the next month, it seems unlikely that he will remain as manager going into Christmas. 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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