Scottish Play-Off Dominos Begin To Wobble
Although the Scottish league season is drawing to a close, the play-offs will extend the excitement and the nerves for a further few weeks.
The first round of post-split matches took place in the Scottish Premiership this weekend and while Saint Mirren’s 4-1 thumping of Kilmarnock likely came too late to save their top flight status, Ross County and Motherwell’s matches still reeked of importance.
The Well were first up, playing the Friday night game but not particularly well. They lost to Hamilton for the third time this season and while this was only 2-0 - and not 4-0 or 5-0 as it had been previously - the narrow nature of the loss will have been little consolation to Ian Baraclough and his team. Motherwell remain in the second-bottom spot of the division: the play-off spot.
Ross County remain six points away, but will have been angry at missing the opportunity to extend that lead further as they lost at home to Partick Thistle. Next weekend’s trip to none other than Motherwell could either seal County’s top flight status or else bring Motherwell to within touching distance of their Highland rivals.
Whether Ross County or Motherwell occupy that play-off spot come the end of the season, it remains unclear just which team they will face to fight for their top flight status. With Hearts already having won promotion from the Championship, the 3rd-placed and 4th-placed teams in the division will meet in a two-legged play-off before the victor squares off over two legs against the 2nd-placed team for the right to face Ross County or Motherwell.
If the above sounds complicated enough, then the fact that we as yet do not know who will occupy which of those positions complicates matters further. We do know that Hibernian, Rangers and Queen of the South will be in the play-offs, currently sitting in that order in the league. Rangers could yet overtake Hibs in next weekend’s final round of fixtures, but with a visit to league leaders Hearts that looks unlikely.
So, as it stands, we seem set to witness a Rangers v Queen of the South first round before the winner meets Hibs followed by the elected Championship representative squaring off against, what looks like being, Motherwell.
The dominos for an exciting play-off run are firmly in place. As for who will win it all to take that last place in next season’s 2015/16 Scottish Premiership? There’s still plenty of wobbling to be done before we’ll have any idea.
Scottish Football Talking Points Of The Week:
· Saint Johnstone might just sneak that last Europa League spot. A 2-0 win away to Dundee moved the Perth side to within just four points of Inverness and that last European place.
· Dundee may have lost that match to Saint Johnstone, but one player certainly cannot be accused of slowing down as the game ticked towards the end. Dundee’s Paul McGowan played the full 90 minutes and did so with an electronic police tag strapped around his ankle following a conviction for assaulting a police officer. His 7pm curfew meant that McGowan had to save his quickest turn of pace for after the final whistle, racing from Dundee to Airdrie to be home in time for his curfew.
· Aberdeen confirmed their first finish inside Scotland’s top two for 21 years with a 2-1 win away to northern rivals Inverness. Aberdeen will, therefore, enjoy Europa League football and be able to avoid one extra round of qualifying for the group stages. That could prove very worthwhile given that they were paired with Spanish giants Real Sociedad in last year’s qualifying and proved to be no match.