SCOTTISH football bible Willie Duncan (@Willie_Duncan) delivers his first NAP of 2016 with Scottish League One in focus.
Stranraer v Ayr United | Saturday 15.00
Are you looking forward to 2016? If you’re a fan of Ayr United, there’s a very good chance that you are and if you’re a fan of Stranraer, there’s every chance that you’re feeling just a wee bit less optimistic heading into the New Year.
These two sides go head-to-head on Saturday afternoon and Brian Reid’s side, despite being second bottom of League One might well go into this match with a bit of a spring in their step having moved off the foot of the table with an impressive 5-1 win over Stranraer on Boxing Day.
However, Stranraer will face a much tougher test this weekend when Ayr United do some first-footing at Stair Park, for the Honest Men are genuine title contenders and they will fancy their chances of starting the New Year with a victory.
Ian McCall’s side suffered league defeats against Dunfermline Athletic and Peterhead recently and that has dented their hopes of pipping the Pars in what is, effectively, a two-horse race for the title, but prior to that, Ayr had gone an impressive 14 league matches without defeat – a sequence of results that included a 2-1 win against Stranraer at Stair Park in August and a 3-1 win at Somerset Park against the Blues on Halloween.
The recent acquisition of Ryan Stevenson on an initial one-month loan deal looks to be a superb piece of business for the Honest Men, for Stevenson is still capable of performing well in the Premiership – as, indeed, he had been doing regularly for Partick Thistle this term before returning to the club that he idolised as a boy. Stevenson is most certainly not at Somerset Park just to make up the numbers and he is joining a squad bursting with confidence – and goals.
Stranraer are fighting for their lives at the foot of the table, but Brian Reid's men have won only one of their last seven home games – against Buckie Thistle in the Scottish Cup. The Blues' squad simply does not contain the quality of player that Ian McCall has at his disposal and, for my money, there is a massive gulf in class between these two sides.
Remarkably, though, Ayr can still be backed at 21/20 to win at Stair Park – and that looks to me to be the perfect way to start 2016.
Stranraer v Ayr United – Ayr United to win (21/20 Stan James)
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