There’s a Relegation Battle in Scotland and it Promises to Excite
There was little love lost at Victoria Park in Dingwall this Valentine’s Day as focus turned to a massive game in the Scottish Premiership relegation battle.
Ross County hosted Motherwell and with neither side having won a single match in 2015 it was little surprise to find these two teams in the bottom two league positions. Ross County started the day at the foot of the table on 12 points, while Motherwell had 18 – the same total as Saint Mirren who were ahead of The Well on goal difference.
That all made this Saturday’s match a massive one for County if they wanted to avoid finishing bottom and suffering automatic relegation. Lose and it would be a momentous task to achieve safety. Win and Motherwell would be dragged right back into the relegation battle.
Fortunately, for County fans, the outcome was the latter and a tasty 3-2 win brought the home side back to within three points of their guests. Goals from Martin Woods, Paul Quinn and Raffaele De Vita gave the home side enough of a lead to survive a late period of pressure from Motherwell after goals from Conor Grant and Fraser Kerr.
Meanwhile in Paisley, Saint Mirren were doing themselves no favours as they fell to a 2-1 defeat to Inverness – a scoreline which flattered the Saints who could have been three or four down by the half-time break. That result means that they too remain on 18 points.
And so we have a very entertaining close to the season to look forward to at the bottom of the Scottish Premiership. There are just 13 matches remaining for these three teams to grab as many points as they can in order to avoid the drop. At the end of it all, the bottom side will be automatically relegated, while the second-bottom will face a daunting play-off over two legs with a promotion hopeful from the division below – possibly Rangers or Hibernian, neither of which would be an easy game.
Yet for all three of these clubs, the glory of 10th place and safety is still very much attainable. Saint Mirren and Motherwell may have more points in the piggy bank than Ross Country at this stage, but each side will face each other at least once more – with St Mirren and Ross County to face each other twice more before the season end. The term “six pointer” will surely be banded about plenty of times before then.
So which team looks most likely to go down?
The obvious answer at this point would be Ross Country given their current position. However, Motherwell is the team with the worst goal difference of the lot – of minus 31 – and has shown the least promise under their new manager. Unsurprisingly, all three of these relegation contenders have parted company with the managers with whom they began the 2014/15 campaign. Motherwell brought in Ian Baraclough while Saint Mirren promoted Gary Teale to the manager’s role after Ross Country replaced Derek Adams with Jim McIntyre so early into the season that fans were still wearing shorts and t-shirts to matches.
Both McIntyre and Teale have had a visible impact on both performances and results, while Barraclough has won just two of his nine matches since taking over – one of which was a 1-0 win over St Mirren in a very controversial match that saw several decisions go against the Paisley team.
Predicting next week’s lottery numbers might be an easier task than correctly forecasting just how this relegation fight will play out. One thing that’s certain, though, is that it will be immensely entertaining to watch.