THE race to avoid bottom spot in Scotland’s top tier looks a competitive one. Chris Graham (@chrisgraham79) tells us who he’s backing.
Scottish Championship | To Finish Bottom
This particular market last season was fiercely contested with Alloa’s victory over Cowdenbeath on the final day pushing The Blue Brazil down and Athletic into the play-offs. Danny Lennon’s side managed to negotiate that stern test and the Wasps are back in the betting here.
Unsurprisingly they head the betting at 9/4 with Dumbarton to fill the bottom spot in the second tier. Their signings leave me cold to be honest, the veteran Burton O’Brien and Kyle McAusland hardly set the pulse racing but Geoff Mitchell looks interesting. The journeyman striker has been banging the goals in during pre-season and scored again on Saturday in the Petrofac Cup. He could be key.
The one reason I’m happy to swerve Alloa in this market is their manager. Danny Lennon has a superb CV for this level and is to be trusted. He took Cowdenbeath to two successive promotions at the end of the last decade and moved onto St Mirren. In Paisley he guided the Buddies to a famous League Cup success and it’s fair to say the club haven’t flourished since his departure. Lennon looks a vital signing for Alloa.
Dumbarton are joint favourites with Alloa in the Ladbrokes betting and again I ain’t getting involved. Last season’s manager Ian Murray has left for St Mirren and the reins have been handed to Stephen Aitken who done so well at Stranraer.
Aitken has brought in a shedload of players and I like the look of his mix. Former Scotland international Darren Barr has been recruited from Ross County and immediately installed as captain; he should be a fantastic influence on the squad. Joining him is striker Gordon Smith who managed to find the net on a number of occasions last season despite playing for a woeful Stirling Albion side.
And there’s more…Steven Craig comes from Wycombe after playing a part in their impressive English League Two campaign last season and Kevin Cawley arrives from Alloa. Hearts were beaten in a pre-season friendly and the Sons beat Morton 3-2 in their opening Petrofac Cup tie. The ingredients look there for Dumbarton to have a good season.
At 11/4 it’s Livingston. It was a pretty fraught season for Mark Burchill’s men but a late burst of good form towards the end of the season saw them survive and pick up the Petrofac Cup. An air of optimism seems to be prevalent round the club but it’s sure to be a challenging campaign.
Shaun Rutherford and Kyle Jacobs have moved onto Queen Of The South but the capture of Liam Buchanan from Alloa looks a good one. Livi look sure to be in the relegation mix again.
I can’t say I’m hugely enthused by Morton to be honest and will be backing them at 4/1 to finish bottom. They won League 1 last season but I’m not convinced it looked the classiest of third tiers. When you consider Ton lost 11 of their 36 league matches and tally in the fact the likes of Alloa, Dumbarton and Livi were rubbing shoulders with Hearts, Rangers and Hibs last season on a consistent basis and the jump in class looks significant.
Morton failed to beat any top two tier side in the Cups and lost to non-league Spartans in the Scottish Cup. Their signings look limited (only two as far I can see) and I can’t see why they’re bigger than three other sides in this market.
Raith Rovers were the embodiment of a mid-table side last season but the sacking of Grant Murray could backfire on them. The 39 year old was dismissed in April after three consistent years at the helm that brought trophy success in the Petrofac Cup. His replacement Ray McKinnon (from Brechin) has never managed at this level before and may find it tough.
Rovers have lost Ryan Conroy to Queen Of The South and Christian Nade to Hamilton and that will affect their chances in the final third as only Mark Stewart scored more goals than them last season for Raith.
At 14/1 Rovers are worth a small investment in this market. There are a lot of question marks hanging around them at the moment and it could be a tough season without Murray.
Scottish Championship – Morton to finish bottom (4/1 Ladbrokes)
Scottish Championship – Raith Rovers to finish bottom (14/1 Ladbrokes)
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