THE penultimate full weekend of a full complement of SPFL fixtures brought joy to some and pain to others, with promotion and relegation races heating up across the divisions.
The Premiership, which has three rounds of fixtures to go, is getting exciting with five teams separated by two points in the battle to avoid a relegation play-off.
The top of the Championship is tilting Dundee’s way after a weekend of drama, while fifth-place Dumbarton are still involved in the promotion hunt going into the last weekend of Championship fixtures.
Top flight play-offs; what a cracking idea – well done to the hundreds of people now stepping forward to claim credit for them!
Cowdenbeath could yet avoid relegation to League 1 at the expense of Alloa, and promotion play-off chasers Stranraer, Ayr United and Stenhousemuir all lost... again.
Next week will determine which of East Fife and Arbroath goes through the trapdoor to League 2 and who survives to fight another day.
At the top of League 2, Annan and Clyde are in the play-offs, with Stirling Albion and Berwick going for the final place on judgement day.
Good week for – Clyde
Jim Duffy’s side secured a play-off place after the Bully Wee’s 4-0 win over Albion Rovers at the weekend. After finishes of tenth, ninth and ninth since dropping to Scotland’s fourth tier for the first time, the Broadwood boss has put together a side that has both youth and experience in their ranks.
Next week will determine who they face at the knock-out stage, but for now Clyde can enjoy this achievement.
Bad week for – Alex Neil (Hamilton Accies) and Hibs (again)
Hamilton lost 4-1 at Dumbarton to hand the lead in the Championship to Dundee, and as if that wasn’t bad enough, player-manager Alex Neil was sent off.
Neil got caught up with former Accie Mark Gilhaney with the score at 2-1 with six minutes left, and when the players clashed heads Neill was deemed to be the aggressor and off he went.
He will sit out his side’s game at home to Morton next Saturday and will miss the start of this season’s promotion play-offs if his side fail to wrestle back the Championship lead.
Hibs are winners of the Bad Week award once again as their alarming slump continues. They have lost to Hearts four times this season, and unless something is done to stop the rot they could be playing Edinburgh derbies again next season.
Team of the week – Dundee United
The Tannadice side were back to their terrifying best at the weekend as Motherwell were seen off 5-1 to move Jackie McNamara’s side to within four points of second place.
Nadir Ciftci hit a double before young guns Stuart Armstrong and Ryan Dow made it 4-0 with Brian Graham adding a fifth before Lionel Ainsworth grabbed a consolation.
United have started their Scottish Cup Final preparations well.
Manager of the week – Ian Murray (Dumbarton)
The Sons boss led his side to the title of the ‘Best part-time team in Scotland’ and at least fifth place in the Championship table after beating title chasing Hamilton 4-1.
The play-offs, and the Premiership, are still a possibility for the Sons, but it looks pretty certain that Murray will manage in the top flight at some point.
Premiership Player of the week – Anthony Stokes (Celtic)
Champions Celtic are not resting on their laurels and Inverness Caledonian Thistle were crushed 6-0 at Celtic Park on Sunday. Stokes picks up his gong for hitting a treble in the rout.
The opening goal came from a header from a Leigh Griffiths’, corner and that was followed up by a shot from a Griffiths cutback right on half-time. The hat-trick was complete with a penalty eight minutes into the second half that made it 3-0, before some of Stokes’ team-mates got in on the act.
Premiership Goal of the week – Stuart Armstrong (Dundee United)
Armstrong scored the best of the five goals in Dundee United’s win over Motherwell at Tannadice.
The 22-year-old benefitted when a header from Nadir Ciftci on the halfway line found Ryan Dow, and he flicked the ball into the path of Armstrong.
The midfielder darted towards the Fir Park side’s goal before firing home to make it 3-0.
Championship Player of the week – Christian Nade (Dundee)
The burly striker came in for criticism for a miss last weekend as the Championship title chasers lost 1-0 at Morton. The former Hearts man answered in the best possible way by heading Dundee into the lead at Recreation Park.
He was then denied a second through a Darryl Meggatt hand-ball that resulted in a penalty that Peter MacDonald buried to make to 2-0.
Nade wants to impress manager Paul Hartley and displays like Saturday will help.
Championship Goal of the week – Lewis Milne (Cowdenbeath)
Milne turned 20 on Saturday and he marked his milestone with a goal that had shades of Paul Gascoigne’s at Euro 96 against Scotland.
The Blue Brazilian flicked a pass over an advancing Raith Rovers opponent before volleying past Lee Robinson to make it 2-0 for Jimmy Nicholl’s side. The Great Escape could still be on for Cowdenbeath.
League 1 Player of the week – Scott Stewart (Airdrie)
The 17-year-old midfielder obviously holds no grudges towards the Diamonds for dispensing with the services of his dad Sandy as manager nearly eight years ago, as he has been starring in their midfield. He added to his growing reputation with a goal at the weekend as Airdrie won 2-1 at Stenhousemuir.
League 1 Goal of the week – Dale Hilson (Forfar Athletic)
The on-loan Dundee United player, who has made over 100 appearances for the Loons, hit a cracking goal as Forfar defeated Ayr 4-2.
With the Station Park side leading 1-0 against their play-off rivals, goalkeeper Darren Hill made a fine save with the loose ball hacked clear by Marvin Andrews. Chris Templeman flicked the ball on to Hilson on the halfway line and he did the rest.
He caused terror in the Honest Men’s defence before finishing with a low 20-yard drive.
League 2 Player of the week – Craig Comrie (Stirling Albion)
The former Falkirk youngster opened and closed the scoring as Stirling Albion gave their play-off hopes a huge boost by defeating Peterhead 4-0 on Saturday.
Comrie headed in from eight yards, before finishing off a fine move with a low drive to inflict the Blue Toon’s first home defeat of the season on them.
League 2 Goal of the week – Andy Russell (Berwick Rangers)
Russell gets this week’s Award, but he will have to share it with Ross Gray who set up what was the third Borderers goal in their 3-1 win at Queen’s Park.
Gray gave a great example of old-fashioned wing play as he left a trail of Spiders behind him before he teed up his team-mate who took a touch and then smacked the ball home.
Berwick’s Lee Currie, a frequent League 2 Award winner, did score a fine free kick, but the goalkeeper’s poor positioning means that he was discounted for this week.
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