How the Premiership split panned out for the bottom six

Cody Cooke's goals against Dundee proved to be fruitless, due to Hamilton's win. Pic: SNS
Cody Cooke's goals against Dundee proved to be fruitless, due to Hamilton's win. Pic: SNS
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With the conclusion of yesterday’s fixtures, the bottom six teams in the Scottish Premiership have signed off for the regular season. Andy Harrow looks back on how the bottom six battle panned out for the teams involved and what’s next for each.

St Johnstone (7th)

Bottom six results: Two wins, two draws, one defeat.

The Perth side, despite the disappointment of missing out on the top half, go into the summer in a positive frame of mind. Despite defeat on the final day, they’ve finished six points better off than last season, all the while undergoing a transition from a largely functional unit to something more agile.

The loss of Drey Wright in November may have put paid to the ‘sexy St Johnstone’ moniker, but with Matty Kennedy and Tony Watt, Danny Swanson and Michael O’Halloran delivering fitfully, they were at least moderately alluring. Over the final few games, Tommy Wright has also managed to try out next season’s centre half pairing of Liam Gordon and Jason Kerr.

What’s next: Picking up a striker (or two) and a creative central midfielder in the transfer window would give them better options for the new season. Capturing an experienced back-up to centre half to help Kerr and Gordon would do no harm either.

Motherwell (8th)

Bottom six results: Two wins, two draws, one defeat.

In David Turnbull, Motherwell had the player of the bottom six, further emphasising his credentials as a legitimate star in the process. The 19-year-old’s six goals from five games helped Well to eight points from their fixtures.

The side’s performances over the last few weeks have been Motherwell (2019 edition) in microcosm; a reliance of young talent, a painful lack of goals from centre forwards, and a steady accumulation of points.

The style of play and the players used by Stephen Robinson over the opening half of the campaign failed badly, leaving Motherwell in a relegation battle and Robinson in danger of losing his job. But the emergence of youngsters like Turnbull, Jake Hastie and Gboly Ariyibi, and the improvement of Alex Gorrin alongside Allan Campbell, turned around a listing ship and offered hope for the future.

What’s next: How many players sign on for next season remains to be seen – Hastie has already signed for Rangers, Gorrin is attracting covetous glances from England and Ariyibi’s loan spell will end shortly – but the hope is Robinson now has a blueprint to work from.

Livingston (9th)

Bottom six results: Two draws, three defeats.

Livingston may have limped over the line – they’ve won only three times in 2019 and picked up only two points after the split – but it’s unfair to read too closely into those results given the foundations laid during the opening half of the campaign. After the Kenny Miller player-manager experiment was ended surprisingly – and, as it happened, fortuitously – early, Gary Holt took the team back to the approach that had won them promotion. And it worked; Livingston were effectively safe from the drop by Christmas – a blitzkrieg against Hearts in December saw them 19 points clear of the bottom two.

The second half of the season does raise concerns though. The defence, which had been the team’s biggest strength, shipped three goals five times (three of them after the split) and they’ve relied too heavily on goals from the centre halves and midfield. It’s something to work on, but it’s been a positive season overall.

What’s next: With Craig Halkett and Declan Gallagher going, re-upping the defensive unit looks like a priority. Signing Queen of the South’s Lyndon Dykes could be a smart bit of business further up the field, but they might need a bit more depth.

Hamilton (10th)

Bottom six results: Two wins, Two draws, one defeat.

Hamilton’s season has followed a familiar trajectory to those of almost all of their Premiership years; picking up just enough wins to keep their heads above water. The last three seasons they’ve finished 10th, 11th and 10th, so this years’ finish is par for the course. The main difference this time is a different manager has eventually steered them to safety. The Hamilton board (perhaps spurred on by the fanbase) finally grew tired of Martin Canning and his replacement, Brian Rice, has done exactly as you’d have imagined Canning ultimately would have.

Credit where it’s due though; Accies picked up results when they most needed them. Despite the limited resources at Rice’s disposal - and the feeling from those outwith the club that this might finally be the year they go down - he guided them to eight points after the split. On the final day, when the country anticipated a thrilling end to the campaign, they turned up and dispatched St Johnstone with minimal fuss. Job done.

What’s next: Rice has the chance to fully put his stamp on the team over the summer. His version of Hamilton seems more gung-ho than that of his predecessor so signings might begin to reflect that.

St Mirren (11th)

Bottom six results: Three wins, two draws.

In most other seasons, St. Mirren’s points total would have relegated them, but they’ve been fortunate to have the Den’s Park buffer on this occasion.

Oran Kearney’s had the unenviable task of unpicking Alan Stubbs’ mess and the fact they made it to the final day could be seen as a small achievement - that squad looked just as bad as Dundee’s before Christmas.

And if Adam Hammill had stayed fit, they might even have been secured safety some weeks ago. The Scunthorpe loanee looked a class above in his brief Premiership cameo – not least as he scored twice against Hearts in November – but his injury seemed to stymie the side for a number of months.

Unlike Dundee, who failed to rouse themselves after the split, St Mirren remained unbeaten over the last five games and had the best record of any team. In the end, it just wasn’t enough.

What’s next: The play-offs. Dundee United will be no easy test, despite their occasional fragility. They saw off Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the semi-final relatively comfortably and will go into match against the Paisley side with confidence. It’ll be a massive two games for Kearney and company.

Dundee (12th)

Bottom six results: One win, four defeats

There have been few teams in recent Premiership history as listless as this Dundee side. The worst points haul over the Premiership era; 10 games without a win in the business end of the season; two managerial sackings; a raft of journeyman signings who haven’t been good enough, haven’t cared, or both. It’s been dreadful.

Going into the split, the Dens Park side had the chance to save themselves but they flopped. By the time they finally won, they were already down. The only positive is that a miserable season has now come to an end.

What’s next: A Championship promotion push is going to be no easy task. The only player you’d expect to be a guaranteed success in that division is striker Andrew Nelson. Otherwise, there will be a massive re-build over the summer, and it’s still unclear who will oversee it.

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