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  • tm4tj
    tm4tj

    Dunfermline -V- Inverness CT - Report

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    Par for the course

     

    It was pretty much Par for the course as we slumped to another defeat in the league. It would appear that our league form is not as good as our cup form, or maybe it's just the local derby's we get our act together for. Whatever is the issue, it's a disappointing trend and Dunfermline were untroubled for most of the game with Joe Thomson getting the only goal of a scrappy game. Mark Ridgers will feel he might have done better at the goal. Aidan Connolly smacked the bar, but a late flurry from Inverness produced little of note in another hapless display, the team looking somewhat jaded.

    John Robertson made several changes after the bruising cup tie at Dingwall last Monday. Liam Polworth was injured and Coll Donaldson and Sean Welsh got some bench time. That meant that Darren McCauley and Charlie Trafford started and Shaun Rooney came back in at right back.

    RIG was as usual in the away end with Caley Away and here is his report.

    Hands down one of the worst performances from an ICT that I can recall in a long time, especially that first 45 minutes. We were all over the shop. McCart, who until recently had been a very solid performer, was uncharacteristically sloppy with a number of sliced clearances and slack passes but he got better as the game wore on as did the likes of Trafford who was something of a headless chicken until we went to 442 and he seemed to be a lot more effective. White struggled badly until Austin came on. He (White) didn't get much service and when the ball did come his way he was largely dominated by Ashcroft who was excellent yesterday as were Connolly and Vincent for the home side. 

    McCauley should have been sent off. After he was booked he committed two needless fouls that both could have resulted in a second booking so it was no surprise when Robbo took him off for MacDonald. Pars had a weak penalty claim when Anderson seemed to go down quite easily. Maybe any highlights will show something different but I wasn't convinced at the time.

    Second half Dunfermline started much the better side. I don't know what Robbo said to the players at the break but most seemed to be still sleepwalking when Thomson dribbled across goal then lashed a shot past Ridgers who seemed to be caught by a deflection or by McCart ducking out of the way or something. In Mark's defence, it appears that he may have been slightly unsighted and the ball also appears to swerve a bit. Meh! Disappointing goal to concede but we were lucky not to be two down when Connolly battered the crossbar with a lovely shot just outside the area.

    We started to come back into the game when Doran went off and Austin came on giving White a bit more support up front and we started to create some half chances. Walsh had perhaps the best opportunity for an equaliser when he drove towards goal and was afforded a lot of time and space to shoot from about 20 yards but he sent the ball well over. White and Mckay passed up a couple of decent chances to bring us back on level terms but they shot wide of / over the goal.

    A seriously disappointing performance after what was a good showing on Monday night against County. We were missing arguably three of our most important players in Donaldson, Polworth and Welsh however if we want to stay in the play-off spot we need to improve our performances quickly.

     

    FT Pars.png

    Inverness Caledonian Thistle manager John Robertson was speaking to BBC Sport: "I'm massively disappointed. It was straightforward - Dunfermline showed more hunger, energy and work-rate in first 10 minutes of each half. "I felt they were up for the taking, but they got their goal - Ridgers should've saved it. It was mistake from him. "Then the penny dropped and in the last 15 minutes we were camped in their half, but we had chances through Brad McKay and Shaun Rooney. "It's a missed opportunity because, if we win, we get a wee gap and we start pushing above us. "We're now in a hell of a scrap with Queen of the South, Morton, Partick, Falkirk. What they've done now is give me a blank sheet of paper for Tuesday night because there will be changes."

    Caley Stan was less than impressed with the value for money

    That's the worst away performance I've seen this season. We missed Coll and Polly as you would expect, but the absence of Sean Welsh had the most impact, his replacement charged and lunged his way around the park in a way that seemed to unsettle his teammates as much as the opposition. We didn't get the forward midfield 3 into the game at all, and when we finally went to 4-4-2 we looked slightly more threatening but without creating clear-cut chances. 

    It could've been worse - McCauley should've been sent off and a better side would've added to their tally in the second half. 

    We are a very poor side without those 3 players.

    Yngwie was more supportive to the keeper................

    What actually happened with Ridgers for the goal? Routine looking save but the shot went through him. You know it’s not your day when even your most dependable player messes up.

    Look away now Marky boy.............

    FansBet.jpgSite Admin Scotty has this to add from our site sponsors FANSBET

    Ahead of our replay against County, Fansbet are allowing CTO users to suggest what the special bet to be promoted on their site should be for the game next week ?   If you want a specific special listed please put them in the thread on CTO and they will chose one at random, assign it odds and feature it before the game in the fan boosts section.

    https://www.fansbet.com/en/betting/sports/fan-boosts/

     

     

     

     

    Here's the full highlights................

     


    Date: 16/02/2019  Venue: East End Park Attendance: 4497 Referee: Steven Kirkland
     
    Dunfermline: 1

    • Lineup:  Scully; Craigen, Ashcroft, Devine, Longridge, Vincent, Beadling, Thomson,
    • Blair (Williamson 78), Connolly (Longridge 70) Anderson (Durnan 90+1)
    • Subs (not used): Gill; Todd, Hippolyte, Higginbotham
    • Scorers: Thomson (47)
    • Booked: none
    • Sent Off: none

    Inverness CT: 0

    • Lineup:  Ridgers; Rooney, B Mckay, McCart, Tremarco (Welsh 88), Walsh, Trafford,
    • McCauley (McDonald 34), Chalmers, Doran (Austin 64), White
    • Subs (not used): C Mackay, Donaldson, McHattie, MacGregor,
    • Scorers: none
    • Booked: McCauley (27), Trafford (55), Rooney (81)
    • Sent Off: none

    a

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  • Blog Entries

    • By tm4tj in Football adventures with James Rendall
         0
      Click to view slideshow. This article has been penned with a view to appearing in the Football Weekends magazine in August or September, hence the reference to last season when the dust has yet to settle on the present one!
      History was made at the end of the last Scottish season with a Highland League club stepping into the league for the very first time through league effort, and as the 19/20 campaign gets underway Aberdeen will join the rest of Scotland’s big cities with two clubs. Cove Bay is a small coastal satellite town (population, 7,000) but the clubs new Balmoral stadium is actually on the outskirts of Aberdeen itself, a mile or so away from Cove.
      This was the second time since the inception of the Scottish pyramid system a non-league side has replaced one of the stalwarts of the previously closed shop structure. It was a case of third time lucky for Cove Rangers in the Play Offs. Getting into the Scottish League is an ambition they have openly embraced for more than a decade, having been pipped by Annan Athletic to replace the demised Gretna well before the relatively new pyramid play off route was opened merely five years ago now. Cove failed in the semi-finals in 2016 losing 4-1 on aggregate to Edinburgh City, who went on to be the pioneers of this promotion seeing off East Stirlingshire. Cove finally made the final in April 2018 but were left feeling rightly aggrieved by some “odd” officiating in a 3-2 loss to Cowdenbeath that culminated in their manager John Sheran having an astonishingly withering attack on the standard of refereeing! Back they went to the Highland League, licked their wounds, dusted themselves down and got ready for another crack at promotion at their new new stadium, albeit initially with the boss taking a touchline ban for his outburst! John sadly had a heart attack in the lead up to the last few weeks of last season, but pleasingly he recovered sufficiently to be on the touchline for the celebrations down in Berwick Upon Tweed.
      Brora pushed them hard last season but Cove always looked to have something in reserve, aided by 49 goals from Mitch Megginson. Having cliched a third title in four seasons they came through two semi-final jousts with an equally ambitious club in East Kilbride, even if allowing a club with a 500 capacity ground into the league wouldn’t be a healthy option. That particular argument is for another day and never arose as relevant with Cove imperiously sweeping the Lowland League winners aside 5-1 on aggregate, winning both legs. They progressed to the final where it seemed for 90% of the season they would be playing Albion Rovers, but the Coatbridge side were gifted three points for Clyde fielding an ineligible player and that seemed to act as the catalyst to claw back the gap on second bottom Berwick Rangers, culminating in guaranteeing themselves safety and condemning Berwick to the play off matches with a win on the penultimate round of games south of the border.
      It was a real fall from grace for Berwick Rangers,  they have rarely struggled as badly as this term, and I am unsure when they last finished bottom of the Scottish leagues. In the inaugural play off season, Montrose found themselves on the brink, they were 45 minutes from going down at home to Brora. A collection was being made at half-time by the Brora fans to buy a road map of the Highlands for Montrose! A controversial red card, and a howling gale aided the Gable Endies recovery, and a few seasons on, they went down to Dumfries at the end of last term 90 minutes away from the final to gain access to the second tier, leading 2-1 from the first leg. They were duly humbled 5-0 by half time by a Queen of the South side who had endured a Berwick-esque slump in form late in the season, but I am sure as the Montrose fans drove home they’d reflect on how wonderfully the club has turned around since that awful play off day. Cowdenbeath are the only league club to have played in two of these end of season plank walks, and they survived them both, just on both occasions. East Kilbride had got by Buckie Thistle and then took Cowdenbeath to penalty kicks amid monsoon rain at Central Park. One missed EK penalty was enough for Cowden to retain their status, 5-4 in the spot kicks. They didn’t improve and scraped by Cove 3-2 last season in a real nasty spat of a second half, that kicked off as soon as the Cove keeper was tripped up as he tried to get back in his goal allowing a goal to be scored into an unguarded net! It messed with the Cove heads, and they never recovered the necessary composure.
      Berwick were England’s Scottish League side, but in last season’s play off final they were never at the races. With a winning mentality against a crestfallen losing one, it’s not easy to change the mindset, despite Berwick’s desperate attempt to fortunes by changing manager days before, but it didn’t work. Somewhat predictably Cove powered their way into the league, winning 4-0 at home, making the second leg a mere formality. However, they maintained a professional attitude, adding another three goals to the aggregate score at a muted Shielfield, save the partying visiting fan base, whose “Highland dynamite” song rang out regularly as well as hero worship of oddly not 49 goal Mitch, but substitute Eric Watson, “Balon D’Or elect” goes the song!! At 7-0 up on aggregate, the management who had been giggling at the songs, finally relented and on trotted Eric to the loudest cheer of the day! The idea the crowd was 1314 was just someone trying to reinvent a famous battle with a morsel of humour!
      The win is a signalling of intent for the forthcoming inaugural league campaign. I think I can quite easily predict that Cove will not struggle, and they won’t be hanging around the bottom league for any longer than merely bedding in! It is all far removed from the club that merely dotted around the Aberdeen Amateur circuit from foundation in 1922 until 1984, when they briefly flirted with the North Junior scene, before joining the SFA affiliated Highland League the very next year! It soon became apparent that Cove were not merely making up the numbers, and even having to become nomadic for three seasons until last July, it makes their continual high performance standard even more admirable, including an unbeaten Highland League title in 2017. Those left behind in the Highland League will wish Cove well, but delight in a more level playing field until the next “ambitious” club, more than likely another from the Aberdeenshire clubs who will endeavour to get the better of Brora, with Formartine, Inverurie or Fraserburgh lining up to be the likely challengers.  
      Cove’s grandly named Balmoral Stadium with a capacity of 2,602 was nearly stretched to that number when Berwick came to town, with a new record high of 1,955, higher than the ground opening friendly with Aberdeen that sadly had to be abandoned due to a terrible injury to a Cove player, and bigger than when Hearts were the first competitive opponent in the League Cup last July! It is a very well appointed stadium, if in a hidden away location. It ticks all the boxes for lower league football with a small stand, three relatively small, terraced sheds (a very Highland League thing!) and plenty of perimeter fence to lean on thus providing a good view. Alas, as at the Berwick game, if you are standing behind the fence hoggers, make sure they are suitably smaller than you as the lack of any terracing aside from these wee sheds means everywhere is flat.
      As I discovered the Balmoral isn’t the easiest place to find, and you can’t for now necessarily rely on Sat-Nav as the new Aberdeen bypass seems to have sent that particular tool into meltdown! Upon switching to Google maps on my phone, it will guide you to where you can see the stadium, but on the wrong side of the Retail/Business development where the stadium is squirrelled away, and their is no access from where Google takes you! If you are heading up the A90 take the Aberdeen Harbour turn off as you would for Pittodrie, then turn right at the lights at the top of the new exit slip road. You are now headed towards Aberdeen, and indeed, ignore the sign pointing off to Cove to the right a little further along. At the first major roundabout you want to take the first turning left, taking you between a petrol station and a burger selling pavilion with Retail outlets in front of you. Follow the road round to the right and keep going as far as the road allows, and after about half a mile the stadium presents itself tucked in behind an enormous Royal Mail depot. Now that Cove might be attracting larger crowds on a regular basis, the Retail car parks might try and stop you parking nearby, but for now you are ok! Aside from Burger King, or the shop at the filling station, nearby amenities are at a premium. There is a bar/restaurant about half a mile further down the dual carriageway if you are looking for proper bib and tucker pre or post match!
      So Aberdeen, joins Edinburgh, Dundee and Glasgow on the two teams or more roster, and being bigger than Dundee it has capacity to take a new league team under its wing. Just how far, or how high Cove’s seemingly limitless ambition goes, well who knows! Cove Bay is after all bigger than Dingwall, and look where Ross County are now! As for Berwick, they will slip into the Lowland League and doubtlessly need time to steady the ship before trying to get their league place back. Treks north of Edinburgh will be limited to Kelty in Fife, with new “local” Borders rivalries available with Vale of Leithen and Gala Fairydean Rovers as well as bringing the first ever “old” league fixture to be played in the non league environment with East Stirlingshire. They may or may not be spared the Lowland league inclusion of another ambitious club in Bonnyrigg Rose, who won the East of Scotland title in sensational fashion at Broxburn only for the rug to be pulled from under their title success days later by being denied promotion due to the requirement for floodlights being added to the list of requirements after they were invited to put in their affiliation application, and despite the club guaranteeing they would be in place before a ball of 19/20 season was kicked! This particular issue rumbles on, and legal teams might be called upon! The members of the Lowland and East of Leagues play joint cup competitions, and Berwick could play Tweedmouth, who use the ground behind Shielfield’s shed, in what would be an historic all English tie in a Scottish competition! Oddly both are called Rangers!
      Let’s hope Berwick Rangers can get themselves sorted, and that they’ll enjoy the Lowland League, it’s becoming a hotbed of well run, ambitious clubs. Good luck to Cove another Rangers as they step into a new brave world of league football, but as the fans were singing “we’re on our way, on our way”.
      .
       

      View the full article
    • By Scotty in Across the Pond
         0
      For the second home game in a row TFC went down 2-1, this time to the Philadelphia Union, albeit with a little help from rookie referee Ramy Touchan. Despite having the better of the opening 25 minutes, TFC found themselves 1-0 down when Chris Mavinga got the last touch on a Fabrice-Jean Picault effort.  The reds equalised early in the second half with another audacious chipped free-kick from Alejandro Pozuelo which Carlos Coronel got a hand to but couldn’t stop. That’s his 5th of the season.
      Jamiro Monteiro would go on to score the winner in 68 minutes when TFC were temporarily down to 10 men after Auro suffered an injury and was making his way to the touchline to be subbed. A further cynical foul saw Ciman having to be replaced and the ref then seemed to lose control of the match towards the end, booking 4 players as things got heated with TFC seeking an equaliser and Philly falling over at every opportunity. The most bizarre of the 4 bookings was the one dished out to Philly’s Przybylko who was carded on the bench after being subbed. Why he was not carded on the 2 or 3 occasions he wasted valuable time trying to re-enter the field of play without permission after one of his miraculous recoveries beggars belief but that is the oxymoron that is “PRO” referees here in MLS.
      All in all a frustrating day where our lack of a credible second striker to deputise for Jozy cost us dearly. Boyd is not the answer. Hamilton is not the answer. Akinola may become an option but he is not the answer right now.
      Gallery for this game can be found here :  https://viewfromthesouthstands.com/gallery/2019-gallery/collections/72157678247494367/
       
      Match Highlights

       
      Alejandro Pozuelo goal

       
       
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    • By Scotty in Across the Pond
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      TFC went down 2-1 at home to the Portland Timbers in our first home defeat of the season. Jonathan Osorio had put the reds ahead with a scrambled goal after a corner in the 20th minute, but the Timbers drew level with a sweet strike from Bill Tuiloma just a couple of minutes later.  Jeremy Ebobisse wrapped it up in the 70th minute for the visitors with another good goal.
      Gallery for this game can be found here :  https://viewfromthesouthstands.com/gallery/2019-gallery/collections/72157708581866394/
       
      Match Highlights

       
      Jonathan Osorio Goal

       
       
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    • By hislopsoffsideagain in Narey's Toepoker
         0
      Four years ago Falkirk were preparing for a Scottish Cup Final against Inverness Caledonian Thistle.


      Three years ago they came mightily close to promotion to the Premiership, losing the playoff final to Kilmarnock despite a first leg lead.
      Two years ago they came second in the Championship and got another pop at the playoffs.
      Today, they are preparing for life in League One.
      There have been no financial problems, no administrations, no unusual or unforeseen mitigating circumstances. Falkirk's relegation to the third tier is a culmination of two years of mistake after mistake at every level.

      Rangers' struggle up from League Two, laced with either farce or fiasco at almost every turn, became colloquially known as 'The Banter Years'. Falkirk have just had one of their own. And as a result a club with bigger home crowds than St. Johnstone and a higher turnover than Hamilton Accies are now facing away days at Peterhead and Stranraer next season.

      For fans of smaller clubs, it's been a great source of tedium and frustration to hear journalists bemoan the absence of 'big' teams from the Premiership - as if average attendance should somehow be taken into account when deciding promotion and relegation. With Hearts, Rangers and Hibernian having extricated themselves from the Championship, Dundee United are the biggest fish left in this pond. Falkirk, who last played in the top flight in 2010, are not in the same financial league as these clubs. However, given that the likes of Hamilton Accies and Livingston are currently amongst the elite and that in the last nine seasons Inverness, Ross County, Partick Thistle and other 'diddy clubs' have had long spells in the Premiership, there isn't a bigger side that has been stuck in the lower divisions for as long.

      Falkirk's relegation to the then-First Division in 2010 led to a big emphasis on bringing through youth. First Steven Pressley and then Gary Holt were unable to get them promoted - they finished third in the table four consecutive times - but they did develop an impressive group of academy graduates: Blair Alston, Botti Biabi, Ryan Blair, Jay Fulton, Tony Gallacher, Stephen Kingsley, Conor McGrandles, Stewart Murdoch, Craig Sibbald and Murray Wallace all went on to leave for bigger and better things and often for a decent transfer fee (Blair, Fulton, Gallacher, Kingsley and Wallace for six figure sums, McGrandles for a reported £1m). Luke Leahy, Peter Grant and Will Vaulks were youngsters plucked out of nowhere and developed into very decent players.

      Holt left in the summer of 2014 to join Norwich City's coaching team. The appointment of the much older Houston seemed on the face of it to be a change of direction but he continued the work of his predecessors. Getting to another cup final was a considerable achievement. So too was beating Hibs in the playoffs the next season (before the defeat to Killie) and finishing ahead of Dundee United in the league the year after. 
      It all started going downhill after that, though pinpointing why is not easy. It's not as if there was huge upheaval in the playing squad in the 2017 summer transfer window. Perhaps, as sometimes happens, things just got a bit stale. Houston and his players seemed to have picked up where they left off with four wins out of four in their League Cup group, including an away win over newly relegated Inverness Caley Thistle.
      Yet they managed just three points from their opening seven league games and on 26 September Houston was dismissed. The board, afraid of being cut adrift from the promotion race so early in the campaign acted swiftly. It turned out that was the least of their worries.

      Houston was replaced by Paul Hartley, who had won the Championship with Dundee back in 2014. In the meantime the Bairns had picked up their first league win of the season under caretaker management. They would not win again until 30 December. Bottom spot was never a realistic possibility - Brechin City's record-setting incompetence made sure of that - but a relegation playoff spot was a real worry. Thankfully things clicked in the new year. Falkirk picked up a very respectable 33 points in the second half of the season, compared to 14 points from their first 18 games. That was still only good enough for eighth (it would have been enough for fifth this season!) but it offered encouragement to the board that Hartley was on the right track.

      That'll be why they let him sign sixteen players last summer.


      The overhaul was carried out with the assistance of Richard Mitchell, formerly head of recruitment at Ross County, who was brought in to scout players primarily from England's lower leagues and find some cheap rough diamonds to polish. Ideally the youth academy would have produced some too...but in December 2017 the club closed it with virtually no prior warning. Despite the impressive output of previous years, it was claimed that it cost too much and that, unless players were sold for significant money each season, it was too much of a risk. The club also stated that the money could be used to concentrate on the first team.

      Hence Hartley's summer shopping spree. Of those sixteen players signed, only four remained after January 2019 and just two - Paul Paton and Deimantas Petravicius - were first team regulars. If there was a strategy to the signings it remains unclear. On the face of it, it seems no more clever than throwing mud at a wall and hoping some of it stuck.

      Hartley's tenure was over by the end of August. By that point Falkirk had lost at home to Montrose in the League Cup, toiled to a narrow win against Rangers Colts in the Challenge Cup and lost their first three games of the league season in increasingly hapless fashion. The last of those was a 3-0 drubbing at home to Queen of the South. Stephen Dobbie scored a hat-trick for the visitors, and might have had double that. The shot count after 90 minutes was an extraordinary 27-3 in favour of the Doonhamers. It was the sort of performance and result that gets managers sacked on its own...and so it was for Hartley.

      To their credit, the powers that be identified their candidate to replace him soon enough. The trouble was that Ray McKinnon had taken the Morton job a few months earlier. That didn't put the club, or McKinnon himself, off though - to the fury of his current employers he walked out to take over at the Falkirk Stadium. Falkirk would be fined £40,000 by the SPFL as a result, as well as having to pay compensation to Morton. The history books will not show that it was worth it.


      In mid-September a rather bullish Q&A with the chairman was published on the club website. "We have been in the Championships too long. Playoffs and finishing second are not good enough", it was stated. As for the current campaign, "the playoffs remain our aspiration".

      At the time, Falkirk were bottom and were still to score a point. A few days earlier, in McKinnon's second game in charge, they had blown a 2-0 half time lead at Ayr United and lost 3-2, the winning goal coming when in a goalmouth scramble a clearance hit prostrate keeper Leo Fasan on the back and ricocheted into the net. Unfortunately, there was plenty of farce still to come.

      By the end of September they did get off the mark with a win at Alloa, but whilst there were occasional signs of life - a combative draw with Ross County and a smash-and-grab win at Dunfermline - by the end of November they were still bottom. The Scottish Cup offered a distraction, but not a welcome one, as they were humiliated by local neighbours Stenhousemuir 4-2 in a stark example of how the players were neither good enough nor motivated enough. Just when it seemed things couldn't get any worse, striker Dennon Lewis reported that he was racially abused during the match by his own fans.

      It won't have helped matters that McKinnon was never shy about the need to bring in new faces; the knowledge that most of the squad were unwanted would not have done morale much good. And so in January, with the club still bottom of the league, in came another twelve players. Most of the summer duds were punted, with some having been paid to go away even before then. One shudders to think how much it has cost the club to 'mutually consent' so many.

      But the influx of new talent seemed to have done the trick. An eight match unbeaten run between January and March yielded sixteen precious points. Not only were they out of the bottom two, but they were only eight points off fourth with nine games left. Maybe September's predictions weren't so ridiculous after all?

      Nah. They would win only twice more.


      The unbeaten run came to an end at Ross County, but was followed up with three draws. The second of those, up in Inverness, was a 0-0 bore-draw where McKinnon, who had hardly been adventurous tactically since his arrival, sent his team out to frustrate rather than attack. Their only shot on target came in injury time. The plan was clearly to grind out results.

      Next was a Tuesday night trip to Dumfries. With the match goalless after 90 minutes, Falkirk won a stoppage time penalty. Davis Keillor-Dunn converted it and raced towards the away support, sparking a pitch invasion which took a few minutes to clear. Keillor-Dunn was shown a second yellow card and dismissed. There was sufficient time added on that Queen of the South got a soft penalty of their own and nicked a draw, robbing the Bairns of two precious points. Queen of the South would finish the season ninth, above Falkirk on goal difference.

      Then they went and lost at home to Alloa, despite dominating the second half with the score at 1-1. Alloa were winning games. So were Partick Thistle. By the time Falkirk starting doing so it was too late. Victory over Championship winners Ross County on final day wasn't enough. And so they'll drop into the third tier for the first time in 39 years.


      It is easy to see how this happened. The board made poor managerial appointments in times of crisis. Those managers in turn recruited appallingly, looking for quick fixes to their crises. It seems like the panic button was pressed in the autumn of 2017 and the finger was never lifted.

      And yet it would not be hard to see the Dunfermlines, the Partick Thistles, the Invernesses of Scottish football suffering similar fates. Being in a ten team league where ambitions are high and patience is low and money is tight means there is rarely if ever time for a blueprint for the future to be drawn up, let alone seen through. It's quite possible Falkirk will not be the last full-time club to meet this fate.

      As for their fans, there is some solace to be found a little further along the M9. Livingston were relegated to League One in 2016. Two years later they completed back-to-back promotions, and this year they are a comfortable ninth in the Premiership. Maybe the only way is up?


      Lawrie Spence has ranted and spouted his ill-informed opinions on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007.  He has a life outside this blog.  Honestly.
      View the full article
    • By hislopsoffsideagain in Narey's Toepoker
         0
      I like to think that the lack of outrage I've received over my choice of keeper and back four suggests that I've got it right...but it probably means that nobody gives a s***.  Oh well...

      Here, to try and wind folk up further, is the midfield and attack.


      CENTRAL MIDFIELD: CALLUM MCGREGOR (CELTIC), DAVID TURNBULL (MOTHERWELL)
      Honourable mentions: Graeme Shinnie (Aberdeen), Peter Haring (Heart of Midlothian), Stevie Mallan (Hibernian), Alan Power (Kilmarnock)

      Even at left-back against Rangers McGregor looked pretty decent. If anything, he - and Celtic - were at their best this season when Scott Brown was unavailable and he had to drop into a deeper role. He deserves his place on the Player Of The Year shortlist. Where did Turnbull explode from? He'd only started two games for Motherwell before this season , but the 19 year old has 12 goals and counting from centre mid in 2018/19. Excellent at free kicks, nerveless and penalties and a terrific engine too; this boy is going to go far.

      If this was Shinnie's last season in Scotland for the time being, he earned his move to the English Championship and Aberdeen will have a heck of a job replacing his tenacity. Haring seemed limited by injuries as the season went on but has a remarkable instinct for winning second balls. Mallan had his share of quiet days but at his best his passing was deadly and his goals spectacular. Power meanwhile has become even more influential at Kilmarnock since Youssouf Mulumbu left and has been consistently excellent.


      ATTACKING MIDFIELD: JAMES FORREST (CELTIC), RYAN CHRISTIE (CELTIC), RYAN KENT (RANGERS)
      Honourable mentions: Gary Mackay-Steven (Aberdeen), Greg Stewart (Kilmarnock), Steven Naismith (Heart of Midlothian), Daryl Horgan (Hibernian), Scott Arfield (Rangers), Matty Kennedy (St. Johnstone)

      It seems weird to say that a 27 year old had a 'breakout year' but that's what it felt like with Forrest ; no more running into cul-de-sacs, instead every decision was made correctly and at such high speed that defenders all over the country were left shaking in their boots. But for an autumn injury crisis at Celtic, Christie might never have got the chance to show what he could do; now he's cemented as a first choice for the champions. Kent went against the general trend at Rangers by getting better as the season went on; he has all the moves - and a decent punch on him - and surely there's no way Rangers can afford to make his loan deal permanent.

      Mackay-Steven was having his best season since his Dundee United days until the injuries stacked up. Stewart deserves mention for his spell at Kilmarnock (but definitely not for his time at Aberdeen!). What on earth happened to him over the winter break? Hearts were so much better with Naismith on the park as much for his leadership as his ability. Despite missing half the season he still scored twice as many league goals as any other Jambo. Horgan has really pushed on since Paul Heckingbottom arrived at Easter Road and I expect a big season from him next year. Arfield often seemed the only Rangers player able to find space between the lines, and had even more influence when moved to the right flank. Kennedy was a real find for St. Johnstone and did well even though too often opponents identified him as the Saints' only threat and snuffed him out accordingly.


      STRIKER: ALFREDO MORELOS (RANGERS)
      Honourable mentions: Sam Cosgrove (Aberdeen), Odsonne Edouard (Celtic)

      I know, I know, too many red cards. But Morelos scored 30 goals for Rangers this season and there's no-one in the country better at terrifying two centre-backs on his own. The idea that the Gers could do without him is ridiculous - they shouldn't sell him unless they get a really good offer.

      It seems ironic that Aberdeen have taken a step backwards despite finally coming up with a regular goalscorer. If Cosgrove can become more composed in front of goal he could be even more dangerous next season. Edouard may well be the most talented centre forward in Scotland but never seems to stay fit enough to start more than a few games at a time. He still ended up Celtic's top scorer though.


      So here's the XI for you in all their glory...





      I look forward to the usual constructive criticism...


      Lawrie Spence has ranted and spouted his ill-informed opinions on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007.  He has a life outside this blog.  Honestly.



      Edit - here's some of that constructive feedback...




      What can I say? I'm clearly a popular guy...

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