Scottish League One 2020/21 Season Review

By Colin Byiers

 

A few months ago, I wrote a “half term” report on the sides in League One on the hope that the season would restart. Thankfully, it did, all be it, slightly later than what was expected, and what an ending we had!

 

Here are my thoughts on each side following the restart and I’ll also rate them out of 10.

 

PARTICK THISTLE

 

When the season was curtailed in January, Thistle found themselves in 5th place and 6 points behind then leaders Falkirk. They did have a game in hand, however, they did win just 1 of their opening 5 following the restart with draws against Falkirk, Cove Rangers, Forfar and East Fife. Ian McCall was under pressure. The key result was the next match at Peterhead. The first half was petering out to a 0-0 before Joe Cardle opened the scoring. What happened next turned the Jags season. Thistle came out all guns blazing, and whatever McCall said at the break worked. It was the biggest team talk of his managerial career. Partick would run out 3-0 winners in the end and from there would win the next 5 out of 6, including a 5-0 win over Falkirk to become League One Champions. Another factor in the turn around was the loan signing of Livingston’s Scott Tiffoney. The 22-year-old had already played 14 times for Livi before going on loan, and would end up scoring 8 times in his 13 appearances for McCall’s men. Thistle will be delighted but relived that they will not be spending a second season in League One. In the end were worthy champions. 9/10

 

AIRDRIE

 

Much like Thistle, started the restart badly, with no wins in their opening 3 matches, but did bounce back by going unbeaten in the next 5. Any outside chance they felt they had at winning the league were dashed with a defeat to Thistle at Firhill, but Ian Murray’s men finished strongly, with wins over their other three top half opponents, with clean sheets against Cove and Falkirk. Montrose’s Graham Webster was the only man to score against the Diamonds in those games. These win’s helped Airdire to a 2nd place finish, the first time the club has achieved such a finish in the third tier since 2008. In the play-off’s, they dispatched Cove 4-3 on aggregate, thanks to a Callum Gallacher extra time strike. However, they came up against a strong Morton side and will face another season in League 1. Should be pleased with the second half of the restart and should be up there again next season. 8/10

 

Cove Rangers

 

Cove’s first season in League 1 resulted in them finishing 3rd, a finish that might have suited most sides following a promotion, however, Paul Hartley and his team may feel like this was a chance for back-to-backpromotions that they threw away. Cove stuttered after the restart, picking up just 1 win in their opening 4 games, but would get 2 wins on the bounce with victories against Dumbarton and Falkirk. This wouldn’tlast, and Hartley’s side would win just one more game in the season. They dropped points from winning positions 3 times which would ultimately cost them not just 2ndspot, but a 2nd title in a row. Cove relied on captain Mitchel Megginson too much has the former Aberdeen man bagged half of Cove’s 28 league goals this season. If Cove are to push for the championship in the new year, they must find goals from across the squad. On the whole, Cove’s performance shows that they are on the right direction and will no doubt be in the top half again next term, but with the financial backing that Hartley has, would a top half finish be enough? A very good first year in League 1. 8/10

 

Montrose

 

Montrose’s late win over Partick Thistle and Falkirk’s lose to Airdrie, saw the Gable Endies finish 4th for the third season running, thus securing another play-off spot. That finish seemed unlikely following their opening 6 matches after the restart, when they picked up maximum points just once. During this time, they did knock out Highland League sides Nairn County and Fraserburgh in the Scottish Cup, to set up a tie at Kilmarnock. Two days prior to this though, they were thumped 5-0 at Partick Thistle. Their top half hopes looked over going into the final game pre-split, as they faced title challenging Cove Rangers, while keeping an eye on the Airdrie v East Fife game, as a draw would confirm both sides in the top half. Fortunately for Stewart Pertie, his side won their game and Airdrie won 2-0, which gave Montrose the final top half spot on goal difference. In the play-off, Montrose faced 9th placed Championship side Morton and in the home leg, won 2-1. It was a late extra time goal from Craig McGuffie that ended Petrie’s hopes of promotion, when his struck in the 120th minute of the game. Montrose should be proud of their season and with the right additions, should be top half again next season. 8/10

 

Falkirk

 

This was the biggest collapse since Nick Lesson was with Barings Bank! The Bairns started with successive 2-0 wins over Montrose and Forfar, and most thought that they would were well on their way to the title, as they had an 8 point lead. A draw at home to Dumbarton and a lose at Airdrie, were the first signs that the cracks were appearing, however, in the next game against Clyde, parity was restored with a 2-1 win. Incredibly, with 6 games still to go, that was Falkirk’s final win of the season. A 2-0 lose to title rivals Cove Rangers and a 1-0 lose to Peterhead 3 days later, resulted in the co-managers David McCracken and Lee Miller relieved of their duties and Director of Football, Gary Holt appointed interim for the remaining 4 games. Holt, however, couldn’t stop the rot and despite a 2-2 in his first game in charge at home to Cove, thanks to a late Connor Sammon goal, the Bairns would lose the next three and would not only throw away the title they seemed to have in their grasp, but they didn’t even make the play-offs. It’ll be a huge summer for Falkirk as they now face the prospect of a third season in the third tier of Scottish football. 3/10

 

East Fife

 

The Fifer’s will look at this as a season of “what if’s”, as a place in the top half was in their hands, but a 2-0 lose to Airdrie on the final day meant that they would have to make do with finish top of the bottom half. Inconsistencies also cost Darren Young’s men as they would win 4 times in their 9 games in the restart up to the split, but also lost 3. You would have to wonder what would have happened had they managed to keep Jack Hamilton for the entire season. The Livingston man scored 7 times in his 9 league appearances for East Fife before returning to his parent club following the league suspension in January. Despite not playing for the club since the suspension, he would still end the season as the club’s top scorer. That 6th place finish means they have now missed out on the play-off’s for the 5thcampaign in a row. The Fifers were too far away from the bottom clubs to be troubled by relegation, but also too far away from the top sides to join the title hunt. Some of the East Fife fans believe that this should have been Young’s final season, but he recently signed a 2-year deal. He has some work to do to break into that play-offs next season. 6/10

 

Peterhead

 

Jim McInally’s side started well in the restart and bagged wins against Airdrie and Dumbarton to push themselves into the top half of the league. Thoughts of a play-off place were on the Blue Toon supporters’ minds and not a relegation battle like last season. However, Peterhead would go onto suffer defeats in 3 of their next 4 games, crucially against Clyde and a draw at Forfar, sides that were below them in the table and any hopes of a top 5 finish disappeared. Peterhead did win the next 3, with wins over Falkirk, Clyde and East Fife, scoring 7 times in those 3 matches. The Blue Toon, even though they lost the final 2 games, finished 7th, a place higher than last term and with more points, even though they played 5 less league games. Hamish Ritchie’s loan signing was the biggest positive from the restart as the Inverurie Locos man, bagged 4 goals and 4 assists in his 11 matches. Peterhead have announced that he will join them in the summer on a 2-year deal and will no doubt be a key figure in McInally’s plans for the new season. A decent 2nd season in League 1, and one that had more positives than negatives. 7/10

 

Clyde

 

Clyde was the biggest handicapped side going into the restart as they were already 3 games behind the rest of the sides due to call-offs before the suspension. This meant that Danny Lennon faced the prospect of 4 games in 7 days for much of the final 2-and-a-half months of the season. To their credit, they stuck at it and even put on a cup run in the Scottish Cup. Despite the cup run, Clyde won only 2 of their 6 league matches and would end up in a tussle with Dumbarton to avoid 9thspot. A 3-1 win at Forfar stopped a run of 3 defeats, but 2 loses in their opening 2 split matches had them fearing the worst. 8th place was in their own hands in the final 2 games and a huge win over Dumbarton followed by a win against East Fife pushed Jim Duffy’s side into the relegation play-off spot. David Goodwillie was, of course, the star man for Clyde again, but with the players they had at their disposal, 8th and just avoiding 9th would be seen as disappointing by many Clyde fans. Defensively, they were poor, with the worst defence in the league conceding 38 goals, one more than relegated Forfar. Clyde must improve on this to steer clear of another relegation battle in the new campaign. 5/10

 

Dumbarton

 

Having finished 6th in the last 2 season’s it would be unthinkable that Dumbarton would be embroiled in a relegation struggle. With no wins in the first 5 after the restart, which included loses to Peterhead and Forfar, it was clear that The Sons would not be making it a hattrick of 6th place finishes. In their final 8 league games, inconsistent would be the watch word, as Dumbarton would win 4, (versus East Fife, Clyde, Forfarand Peterhead), but suffer defeats in the other 4 against Dumbarton, Partick Thistle, East Fife and more importantly, Clyde, a result that gave Danny Lennon’s side the advantage in avoiding 9th. In the playoff, The Sons were victorious against League 2 side Stranraer with a narrow 1-0 aggregate win. They then faced Edinburgh City and came out narrow aggregate winners 3-2. Overall disappointing. 4/10

 

Forfar

 

Unfortunately for the Station Park side, this season never really got going even after the restart. A 1-0 win at Dumbarton, just their 2nd of the season, seemed to be the perfect start for Stuart Malcolm but that was short lived as it would be another 8 games before they saw a win again. After a 3-0 lose at Clyde, Malcolm walked away from the job and this started a run of 5 league defeats in-a-row and made survival almost impossible. Going into the post-split fixtures, Forfar were now reliant on other results going their way as well as their own to have any chance of staying up. A late defeat to Dumbarton meant that they needed 3 wins minimum to avoid the drop. They beat Clyde, thanks to Danny Scally’s 90th minute winner, then followed that up with a 2-1 win at Balmoor against Peterhead, but results else where didn’t go for them and they were officially relegated to League 2. Just 2 years ago, Forfar finished in 2nd place and now are back in League 2. Hugely disappointing year for Forfar. 2/10


FEATURE PHOTOGRAPH: “Firhill, Partick Thistle FC” by SteHLiverpool is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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