Play-off fever coming to a head in the SPFL

Hibernian's John McGinn, Dylan McGeouch and Jason Cummings

Three games remain in Scotland’s leagues below the top flight and there are still plenty of question marks over promotion and relegation.

Hibernian have won the Championship and Livingston have done the same in League One, while half a dozen play-off places have been secured.

But, with only 10 teams in each tight division, most clubs do not yet know their destiny for next season.

Championship

Dundee United's Blair Spittal and Falkirk's Craig Sibbald<!–

Hibs wrapped up the title[1] on Saturday and can now concentrate on their attempts to retain the Scottish Cup, with the Easter Road men facing Aberdeen in Saturday’s semi-final.

Both Falkirk and Dundee United have secured their place in the promotion play-offs, while Greenock Morton are hot favourites to secure the final berth.

A win over Ayr United on Saturday would book the Ton’s place. However, they can still be caught by both Queen of the South and Dunfermline Athletic should they lose all three games and either of these two sides win all three of their fixtures.

The relegation battle looks a lot more complicated, with four points separating the bottom four sides.

Ayr are bottom and face Morton and Hibs before taking on Raith Rovers, who are four points better off at present, in Kirkcaldy in the final game.

Dumbarton, who are three points ahead of Ayr, are currently second bottom and in the relegation play-off spot.

The Sons face away games against Queens and Dundee United before entertaining Falkirk in their final game.

St Mirren are also above the bottom two but behind Rovers on goal difference ahead of their trip to face Dundee United on Saturday.

The Buddies and Rovers then square up in Paisley before St Mirren take on champions Hibs.

Rovers take on Hibs at Easter Road on Wednesday then, after their trip to Paisley, have their final game at home to Ayr.

League One

Livingston manager David Hopkin<!–

Livingston will be promoted as champions, while second-top Alloa Athletic have secured a place in the promotion play-offs.

The battle for the other two promotion play-off spots is likely to go down to the final day, with only six points separating the clubs in third and eighth positions.

Queens Park are third virtue of goal difference, ahead of Airdrieonians, with Brechin City a point further behind.

East Fife are a further two points behind, while Albion Rovers are one more further back.

However, even Stranraer, in eighth place, could still conceivably make a late push for promotion.

And remarkably, Stranraer could yet still be pulled into a relegation battle as they are only three points above second-bottom Peterhead.

Indeed, Albion Rovers and East Fife could also yet be sucked into the relegation play-off spot.

Stenhousemuir have fallen five points adrift of Peterhead and will be relegated this weekend if they lose at home to the second-bottom Blue Toon.

League Two

Clyde striker David Goodwillie<!–

The title looks to be between Forfar Athletic, who currently sit top, and Angus rivals Arbroath, who are one point behind.

Whoever loses out on the title is already assured of a place in the promotion play-offs.

Annan Athletic, seven points adrift of Arbroath, lead the chase for the other two play-off spots and are three ahead of Elgin City.

Montrose are a point behind Elgin, but Stirling Albion, three points further back, could yet make a push in the final three games.

At the bottom, Cowdenbeath are three points adrift of Berwick Rangers and Clyde, who are in eighth courtesy of goal difference.

Edinburgh City, a further point better off, could yet be dragged back into trouble.

However, the capital outfit, who are in their first season in the Scottish Professional Football League, have benefited in recent weeks from the recruitment of some interesting characters to their squad.

Midfielder Josh Walker was rated as a £1m player when at Watford and spent five months on loan at Aberdeen in 2008.

They also have former Celtic and Hearts striker Craig Beattie in their ranks, with ex-Celtic and Hibernian forward Derek Riordan warming the bench in recent weeks.

Clyde also signed a former Scotland cap, David Goodwillie, late in the campaign and it paid dividends with a late hat-trick[2] as they came from 2-0 down to beat Elgin last weekend.

The scramble to avoid bottom spot is vital because it brings with it a two-leg play-off against the winners of either the Lowland League or the Highland League to retain a place in the SPFL.

Highland League and Lowland League

The Highland League and Lowland League champions will face one another in a two-leg semi-final to qualify for a showdown with the bottom side in League Two for a place in the SPFL set-up next season.

East Kilbride will be in the shakedown as winners of the Lowland League, from where Edinburgh progressed last season at the expense of East Stirlingshire, who are finishing runners-up in the feeder league this season.

Brora Rangers sit top of the Highland League after having completed all of their fixtures but look unlikely emerge as champions.

Buckie Thistle, second on goal difference, and Cove Rangers are two points behind and will both overtake Brora if they win their final games this weekend.

A Buckie win over bottom-of-the-table Strathspey Thistle is likely to be enough for them to claim the title as they have a nine-goal advantage over Cove as they host 12th-placed Lossiemouth.

References

  1. ^ wrapped up the title (www.bbc.co.uk)
  2. ^ late hat-trick (www.bbc.co.uk)

BBC Sport – Football

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