PARTICK THISTLE’S title credentials will face a stern test when they travel to third placed Dunfermline Athletic. Thistle have not won any of their last eight away matches in the league, a statistic which looked set to become nine before Tuesday’s match against Cowdenbeath at Central Park was abandoned. The Pars have lost their last three league games – they haven’t lost four in a row in the First Division since August and September of 2009. Thistle are unbeaten in their last five league games against Dunfermline, and no Pars player has scored in those matches – their only goal came when the Jags’ Aaron Muirhead put through his own net in a 1-5 defeat at Firhill this season.
At the other end of the table, Dumbarton welcome Cowdenbeath to the Bet Butler Stadium for a crucial relegation battle. The Sons have not tied any of their last 15 league matches, winning seven and losing eight since drawing 2-2 with Raith Rovers at Stark’s Park in October. Cowden have not won any of their last nine away games, but did record a 3-0 victory in Dumbarton on their previous visit in August. Indeed, Dumbarton have suffered defeat in each of their last three home matches against Cowdenbeath without scoring a single goal.
The play-off battle intensifies on Saturday as Ayr United visit Arbroath with both teams having an eye on a fourth place finish. Arbroath have only lost three home games this season, and those came against two of the top three (Queen of the South and Brechin). Ayr have won just one of their last nine away matches in the league, and lost 2-4 on their last trip to Gayfield in August. Despite the defeat, Ayr have an impressive record at Gayfield, leading 16-15 in the head-to-head between the sides in Arbroath, with 15 matches having been drawn.
Stenhousemuir and Brechin City will also both have their eyes on a play-off place when they meet at Ochilview. Both sides have reason to be positive coming into the match – Stenny have won three and drawn one of their last four home matches, while Brechin have won ten of their 13 matches under Ray McKinnon, with their only defeat coming against leaders Queen of the South. Brechin’s season is being disrupted by the poor condition of the Glebe Park pitch, and they have played just twice in the last six weeks, having only managed three home games since the beginning of December.
The big game of the day sees Montrose travelling to Hampden to take on Queen’s Park, with both teams currently looking good for a play-off place. The Spiders have lost just two of their last 13 league matches, and both of those came against runaway leaders Rangers. Montrose, meanwhile, have won their last two league matches and will be looking to record three consecutive league wins for the first time since March 2010. QP are unbeaten in their last ten home matches against Montrose – the Gable Endies last won at Hampden in November 2006.
Elsewhere, Elgin City host a Stirling Albion side who may well be emerging as outsiders for the play-off places. Elgin have won just one of their last 11 league matches, slipping from second to fifth in the table in the process, while the Binos are unbeaten in six league games. Stirling have not won an away match in the league all season, picking up just three of the 24 points available away from Forthbank. Elgin have won just two of their seven league meetings with Stirling at Borough Briggs, but did beat them 3-1 in the first meeting in August.
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