FIRST DIVISION PLAY-OFFS
DUNFERMLINE ATHLETIC’S shock defeat at home to Airdrie United plunged them into the play-offs, setting up a tie against Forfar Athletic who scraped into the final Second Division spot after a win at home to Ayr United. The Pars won just two of their final 14 league matches, conceding three or more goals in seven of those fixtures Forfar, meanwhile, won five of their last seven Division Two games with their two defeats coming against the league’s top two side.
Dunfermline and Forfar met at Station Park in the first round of the Challenge Cup at the beginning to the season, with the Loons emerging as 3-2 victors. Their last meeting at East End Park was also in the Challenge Cup, with Dunfermline winning 2-1 back in September 1995.
Forfar have lost in 29 of their 36 visits to East End Park and have only won there on three occasions. Their most recent victory came in September 1983 when Culture Club were at number 1 with “Karma Chameleon”. The meetings at Station Park have been less one-sided – the sides have 14 wins apiece in 32 meetings. There have only been eight draws in 68 matches between these sides in all competitions.
This is Dunfermline’s first involvement in the current SFL play-offs, but they did lose 2-6 on aggregate to Aberdeen in the Premier Division play-offs back in 1994-95. Forfar, meanwhile, have taken part in SFL play-offs on two previous occasions. They won promotion to the Second Division in 2009-10 after beating East Stirlingshire and then Arbroath, but they lost to Ayr in the semi-final of the First Division play-offs the following year. The Pars have not played in the third tier of Scottish football since 1985-86, while Forfar have not been in the second tier since 1991-92.
The other semi-final sees second place Alloa Athletic take on third placed Brechin City. Alloa finished the season well, winning five of their last six league matches while Brechin have faltered of late, with six defeats in their last 11. Brechin’s hectic fixture schedule may play a part – they have been involved nine matches since the beginning of April, while Alloa have played just five. Brechin had the better of the four matches between the sides this season, picking up two wins and a draw and supporters should be entertained – there have been four or more goals in eight of the last nine meetings between the sides.
Both sides have been regulars in the SFL play-offs, but have achieved little in the way of success. Alloa have been involved in the play-offs for both divisions – they stayed in the Second Division after winning the play-offs in 2005-06, but lost out in the semi-finals of First Division play-offs in 2007-08 and 2009-10 before being relegated from the Third Division via the play-offs in 2010-11 after a semi-final defeat to Annan Athletic.
Brechin, meanwhile, will be involved in the First Division play-offs for the fifth time in seven seasons – they lost in the semi-finals in 2006-07 and 2008-09 and then in the final in both 2009-10 and 2010-11. Alloa have not been in the First Division since 2002-03 while Brechin’s last visit to the second tier came back in 2005-06.
SECOND DIVISION PLAY-OFFS
East Fife were consigned to the play-offs after losing to Brechin on the last day and now face a semi-final clash against Berwick Rangers, whose goal difference managed to survive a trip to Ibrox. Neither team goes into the tie in the greatest of form – the Fifers won just one of their last 17 league matches, while Berwick suffered defeats in five of their last seven matches. The teams have not met since 2007 when they were both in the Third Division. Berwick have won each of their last four matches against East Fife – two at Bayview and two at Shielfield.
Both clubs have one previous unsuccessful appearance in the SFL play-offs. Berwick missed out on promotion to SFL2 in 2005-06, losing to Alloa in the final after a win over Stenhousemuir in the semis. East Fife failed to move up the following year after losing heavily to Queen’s Park in the final after beating Stranraer. East Fife have not been in the bottom tier of Scottish football since 2007-08, which was also the same season which Berwick last played in Division Two.
Peterhead and Queen’s Park meet in the other semi-final, having just played each other on Saturday. The Blue Toon ran out as 3-0 winners at Hampden on Saturday, but both sides already had an eye on the play-offs. Peterhead have a very good record against Queen’s Park – they have 16 wins to the Spiders’ eight since joining the SFL in 2001. The league meetings between the sides this season have been low scoring affairs, with just six goals in four games.
The Blue Toon come into the play-offs in devastating form – Jim McInally’s side won their last eight league matches (a club record since entering the SFL), conceding just one goal in the process. The Spiders, meanwhile, have stumbled into the play-offs, losing six of their last nine league matches and conceding at a rate of more than two per game.
Queen’s Park are competing in the Second Division play-offs for the fifth consecutive season, and the sixth time in seven years. Their only success came back in 2006-07, when they gained promotion after crushing Arbroath in the semis and East Fife in the final, winning both legs of both ties. However, they have lost in the semi-final in each of the last four seasons – they were relegated via the play-offs in 2008-09 after losing to Stenhousemuir, before missing out on promotion in each of the last three years after semi-final defeats to Arbroath, Albion Rovers and Stranraer.
Peterhead are taking part in the Second Division play-offs for the first time but have twice missed out on promotion to the First Division via the play-offs. They lost the final to Partick Thistle on penalties in 2005-06 after Thistle scored in the last minute at Balmoor, and then to Airdrie in the semi-final in 2008-09. Neither side has spent long in the basement league – Peterhead were only relegated in 2010-11 while Queen’s Park were demoted in 2008-09.
If you have any particular questions or topics you would like Craig, a messiah to the animals, to cover, then please contact him via Twitter at @SPLstats. Don’t let the name throw you – he also covers the football league too, much to the disssatisfaction of the great unwashed.