Hi, remember us? It’s been a few weeks as we took the time to loosen our belts over Christmas and New Year but all of that has resulted in some big changes in the SLFL league table. So without further ado, let’s get into it.
BSC Glasgow vs The Spartans
The Spartans went into a difficult away trip to early pacesetters BSC Glasgow with the potential of taking first place in the Lowland League away from East Kilbride who took the position at the summit in Matchday 20 with a 2-0 win against Dalbeattie Star.
The Spartans were undoubtedly the team in form but BSC Glasgow’s Stephen Swift has overseen an early January refresh and a number of new faces were named on the BSC bench for the match. The returning Gavin Malin was on the bench for Spartans.
The game itself was a case of unstoppable forces and immovable objects with both Spartans and BSC attacks and defences having solid games. Both sides had a few decent attempts but ultimately a 0-0 draw seemed fair.
East Kilbride vs Gretna 2008
Nil nil at the Indodrill, a half-rhyme which would have been as music to the ears of Billy Stark as the full time whistle sounded at K Park. His side had taken top spot but with BSC now with a game in hand and Spartans having three in hand, it was up to Kilby to put in a good performance against a Gretna side who have found things tough of late after a strong early season.
Top scorer Ross McNeil put the home side ahead inside 15 minutes, slotting home a Michael Anderson through ball, but Kilby lost the returning Fabio Capuano to injury early on. Half time saw the game poised nicely at 1-0. East Kilbride have a habit of turning it on in the second half and McNeil was again on hand to round the ‘keeper and provide a two goal cushion. Sean Winter turned the ball home from a blocked shot to make it three before Declan Hughes curled one home from the edge of the box to give Kilby a 4-0 win and a three point cushion at the top of the table.
Edinburgh University vs East Stirlingshire
East Stirlingshire travelled to Peffermill knowing that a win would create Shire history, seven away league wins in a row. Their six up to Matchday 21 had seen them rocket from the bottom half of the table into fourth place in the league and John Sludden’s side were on the hunt for more.
Edinburgh University have developed a reputation as party spoilers this season with some creditable wins and draws against the League’s top sides and they took a second half lead through Joe Boyle who converted from a whipped ball from the right hand side.
The introduction of Kris Faulds turned the tide for East Stirlingshire though, as Paul Sludden scooped in a ball in for Faulds to convert in the 73rd minute. After that the writing seemed to be on the wall and Liam Allison squared the ball for veteran striker Andy Rodgers to convert. 1-2 to East Stirlingshire at full time and a new club record to take home to Ochilview as Edinburgh University drop out of the Top 10.
Selkirk vs Hawick Royal Albert
Selkirk had a mixed end to 2017 and the Borders side went into their derby against Lowland League strugglers Hawick Royal Albert looking to kick their 2018 into gear after a comeback win against Gala Fairydean Rovers last time out.
For Hawick’s part, they took their first point of the season just before Christmas in a thrilling 3-3 draw with Dalbeattie Star but have suffered from the effects of the Scottish weather since with both of their subsequent fixtures being postponed. They travelled to Yarrow Park hoping to turn one point into three.
It wasn’t to be for Craig Tully’s side though, Daryl Healy knocked Selkirk into the lead in 12 minutes. Sean McKirdy doubled the home advantage on 25. Calum Helm made it three in the first of a brace which sandwiched a goal for Ciaren Chalmers as Selkirk kept themselves in fifth place. Things are beginning to look bleak for Hawick though, who find themselves 13 points adrift at the foot of the table.
Vale of Leithen vs Gala Fairydean Rovers
Fans at Victoria Park would be delighted to see their Vale of Leithen side in action after bad weather ripped through their late-2017 calendar, meaning that they played only once in December (a 3-4 loss to Whitehill Welfare). Few would have expected Gala’s visit to coincide with an alignment in the stars for Vale who have endured a tough season so far.
Gala Fairydean Rovers took the lead in just ten minutes when Billy Miller converted but from then on it was Vale, Vale, Vale as Chris Anderson’s side took the game by the scruff of the neck. Sean Stewart hit a hat trick on either side of half time before Cameron Dawson added another two goals in the second half. What had looked like it could be a tough day at the office for Vale of Leithen turned into a 5-1 victory to give them a little bit of breathing space in 14th place. Gala travel to Raydale Park next weekend, looking to turn their form around against Gretna and capitalise on their two games in hand over Edinburgh University above them.
Civil Service Strollers vs Whitehill Welfare
Two teams who can give anyone in the Lowland League a problem on their day came together at Christie Gillies Park, both looking to move into the top ten. It was to be Whitehill Welfare’s day though as David Churchill’s tackle sent Robbie Carter flying in the box and the referee pointed to the spot. Connor McGregor (not that one) stepped up and smashed the penalty home off the underside of the bar.
In the second half Gary Nicholson picked up the ball in his own half, slalomed the full length of the Strollers half and slotted past Kyle Rankin from just inside the box to make it 0-2. Whitehill the victors, putting them tenth with several games in hand over their nearest rivals, Civil have a tough away trip this weekend in the Football Nation Qualifying Cup as they head to K Park to take on East Kilbride as they look to get back to winning ways.
Edusport Academy vs Dalbeattie Star
Dalbeattie Star have suffered with the weather this winter and headed to Galabank in the hope of picking up some points to keep the pressure on Vale of Leithen above them. Edusport had a good December and were unbeaten in five matches coming into this weekend.
Mark McKenna opened the scoring for Dalbeattie Star on the half hour mark before David Sinclair levelled for Edusport Academy in the second half. Final score: 1-1 and a valuable point for Star who face a tough away trip at East Stirlingshire in their next round while Edusport Academy welcome BSC Glasgow to Galabank.
University of Stirling vs Cumbernauld Colts
University of Stirling and Cumbernauld Colts were in a shootout for position on Saturday as they met at The Falkirk Stadium. Chris Geddes’ side have a couple of games in hand on their rivals but knew that momentum would be with the Broadwood men if they lost. For Colts’ part, they were looking to steal a march on Selkirk who also have games in hand.
It was to be the University’s day though, as David O’Brien fired them ahead on the half hour and Lewis Bonar completed a 2-0 victory with five minutes to go. The result keeps things very interesting in the race for the top six and Colts know what they have to do in their remaining eight games to keep in with a chance of finishing as high as possible.
Top Seven Shootout
Fifteen points separate University of Stirling in seventh and East Kilbride in first. A cold snap over December has left some really intriguing games in hand situations as teams have been unlucky with weather conditions and will be looking to capitalise on their rivals.
The same number of points separate the bottom three. Vale of Leithen’s strong showing against Gala Fairydean Rovers will give them confidence and Dalbeattie Star put further distance between themselves and Hawick Royal Albert at the bottom with a draw against Edusport. Hawick still have 30 points to play for this season but will need to start picking up points quickly if they’re going to avoid relegation.
Here’s the all-important league table…
|7||Civil Service Strollers||30||11||7||12||47||44||3||40|
|9||University of Stirling||30||11||5||14||45||49||-4||38|
|13||Gala Fairydean Rovers||30||8||7||15||43||63||-20||31|
|15||Vale of Leithen||30||8||5||17||44||76||-32||29|
|16||Hawick Royal Albert||30||1||3||26||18||108||-90||6|
And here’s the top goalscorers list…
|Paul Sludden||East Stirlingshire||18|
|Andy Rodgers||East Stirlingshire||18|
|Stuart Noble||Gala Fairydean Rovers||11|
|Gary Nicholson||Whitehill Welfare||10|
|Nathan Evans||Edinburgh University||8|
|Kieran Hall||University of Stirling||8|
|Tommy Muir||Dalbeattie Star||8|
|Jack Guthrie||Edinburgh University||8|
|Jordan Finnie||Vale of Leithen||7|
|Stuart Gray||Gretna 2008||7|
|Lewis Bonar||University of Stirling||7|
|Jamie McCormack||East Stirlingshire||6|
|Thomas Garnier||Caledonian Braves||6|
|Kerr Allan||Vale of Leithen||6|
|Jack Wright||Whitehill Welfare||6|
|Chris Geddes||University of Stirling||6|
|Joe Boyle||Edinburgh University||6|