The five biggest games in Scottish football this weekend

The most important matches in Scottish football this weekend as the final day of the regular season takes place in the lower leagues

Cowdenbeath manager Gary Locke will be looking to rescue the Blue Brazil from the relegation play-off place. Picture: SNS
Cowdenbeath manager Gary Locke will be looking to rescue the Blue Brazil from the relegation play-off place. Picture: SNS

Motherwell v Ross County

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With the championship wrapped up, Aberdeen still nine points ahead of Rangers and Hearts without much hope of catching St Johnstone given their current form, the real important encounters are to be found in the bottom six.

You could say the biggest match is Inverness CT v Hamilton. But, in all honesty, Caley Thistle already look dead and buried at the bottom of the table.

The team most likely to join them at the moment are Motherwell. The only victory in their last seven games came against Inverness, which barely counts, and they were defeated by Neil McCann’s Dundee at home in their last match.

Ross County, meanwhile, can all but eliminate themselves from the relegation play-off dogfight with a win on Saturday, which they’ve every chance of doing. After all, Liam Boyce against a patchwork Motherwell defence spells trouble for the Fir Park club.

Raith Rovers v Ayr United

Bottom travels to second-bottom in the Ladbrokes Championship and both teams have a chance of saving themselves. Admittedly, it’s somewhat of a long shot for Ayr to overtake Raith, seeing as they trail the Kirkcaldy club by three points and have a -10 goal differential. A 5-0 away victory sounds unlikely, but with Raith boss John Hughes questioning the heart and desire of his team, not to mention their dire form since October, it’s not outwith the realms of possibility for Ian McCall’s side to pull off the greatest escape in Scottish football history.

Raith themselves have more than just automatic relegation to fight against. A victory may not be enough to guarantee survival, as eighth place St Mirren just require a point from their trip to Easter Road to complete the remarkable turnaround under Jack Ross. How seriously the champions treat the final day encounter will go a long way to deciding the outcome of the match. Though they have nothing to play for, Neil Lennon has promised a bumper Hibs crowd that they intend to celebrate trophy day in style.

Even if St Mirren should drop into ninth, their tremendous form in 2017 (since February, no other team has amassed more points) should see them come through the play-offs unscathed.

Stenhousemuir v Brechin City

The match at Ochilview will have huge ramifications at both ends of the table. Having looked certainties for automatic relegation for so long, Stenhousemuir go into their final match as favourites to avoid the instant trapdoor.

With a much inferior goal difference compared to Stranraer, one place and three points ahead, the best they can achieve is a spot in the play-offs, but they would have bitten your hand off for that four games and three victories ago.

Even if they are unable to control their own destiny, they will hope Peterhead’s dreadful form - the bottom side have won only once in 13 games - continues when the Blue Toon entertain second-place Alloa.

Brechin themselves have plenty to play for. A draw will guarantee them a spot in the promotion play-offs, defeat and they could see their position usurped by East Fife, who travel to Stranraer.

The same goes for Airdrieonians, who entertain Queen’s Park. Gus McPherson’s visitors can still make it into the play-offs themselves, though they’ll likely have to defeat Airdrie by four goals in order to do so. Seeing as they haven’t scored three goals in a league match all season, it’s a tall order.

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Stirling Albion v Arbroath

The other three SPFL divisions may have been wrapped up with weeks remaining, but the League Two title race is going down to the wire. Arbroath are poised to steal the crown from rivals Forfar, who led the division for most of the season.

The Red Lichties once trailed their Angus neighbours by 11 points, but now require just one victory to become champions.

It’s been quite the collapse by Forfar. Since defeating Arbroath 1-0 at Gayfield on 4 February, they’ve taken only 12 points from the following 12 matches. It leaves them needing to defeat Annan Athletic and hope that Stirling Albion - who have nothing to play for - can do them a favour by stopping an Arbroath win.

The helicopter is poised.

Elgin City v Cowdenbeath

Cowdenbeath are just three games away from being relegated for the third consecutive season. It’s been a spectacular fall from grace from the side that played in the second tier of Scottish football and boasted the talents of Greg Stewart and Kane Hemmings not so long ago.

In order to save themselves from a relegation play-off, Gary Locke’s side will need to win at Elgin and hope for favours from elsewhere. Thanks to a superior goal difference, a defeat by either of Clyde or Berwick Rangers on the last day will give them a chance. Clyde visit Montrose, while the Wee Rangers host Edinburgh City. A draw would be good enough for either of those two sides.

These games will also decide the promotion play-off places as Elgin and Montrose are left fighting it out for the final spot. A point separates the two sides, though fifth-place Elgin have the goal difference advantage. Bizarrely, they have a +29 goal differential compared with the Angus club directly ahead of them.