Scottish Leagues 1 & 2: What's the state of play going into new split?

By Brian McLauchlin & Colin MoffatBBC Scotland
Partick Thistle and Cove Rangers are vying for top spot in League 1
Partick Thistle and Cove Rangers are vying for top spot in League 1

A divisional split is long-established in the Scottish Premiership but the fashion is spreading to Leagues 1 and 2 as this strange season draws to a conclusion.

There is still so much at stake in the bottom two tiers and one big as-yet unanswered question.

The title race looks set to go to the wire in League 1, while ambitious Queen's Park are running away with League 2.

All 20 teams are involved on Tuesday evening to settle who plays who over the final four fixtures of a truncated and utterly hectic campaign.

Then we get to the play-offs, although there may be one less this year with still no decision on whether or not the team finishing rock bottom of the SPFL pile will be involved in a 'pyramid' decider. We'll return to that later.

League 1 title in the balance

First, the easy bit, which teams are vying for promotion?

Just one point covers Falkirk, Cove Rangers and Partick Thistle at the top end of the third tier.

East Fife currently occupy the final play-off place but Airdrieonians and Montrose are nipping at their heels.

Montrose must beat Cove Rangers on Tuesday and hope there is a winner when Airdrieonians meet East Fife to make the top half.

Forfar, with just two wins all season, looked doomed and that leaves Clyde, Dumbarton and Peterhead battling to avoid a relegation play-off.

All about play-off race in League 2

Queen's Park are pretty much home and hosed at the top of League 2. The big-spending Spiders are unbeaten and will wrap the title up on Tuesday if they stay that way at home to Elgin.

And fifth-placed Elgin need not worry if they lose that one since their place in the top half is already assured. They will fight it out with Edinburgh City, Stirling Albion and Stranraer for the play-off places.

Will Brechin City survive again?

Brechin, with one measly win to their name, prop up the bottom tier, just as they did last year.

The Glebe Park club were spared a scrap to retain senior status in 2020 when the so-called pyramid play-offs were scrapped, while proposals for league reconstruction were also rejected over an acrimonious summer of squabbling.

Brechin City face a nervous wait to discover if there will be a play-off for the team finishing dead last
Brechin City face a nervous wait to discover if there will be a play-off for the team finishing dead last

There could well be a second reprieve for Brechin since the Lowland League and the Highland League have not been able to resume.

Kelty Hearts and Brora Rangers, who topped those leagues last season, have both been declared champions again on a points-per-game basis, although the latter managed just three matches. Kelty played 13 from a planned 32.

Brechin chairman Ken Ferguson has already resigned from the SPFL board, which is taking legal advice on the matter and hopes to make an announcement soon.

Why bother with a split at all?

The top-five and bottom-five matches in both divisions will be squeezed in between 24 April and 4 May, with one team getting a rest in each round. Someone is likely to be grumpy about being idle on the final day.

Having been paused in early January due to a rise in coronavirus cases, Leagues 1 and 2 were allowed to return last month - on the basis players undertook weekly testing.

With no way of reaching the originally planned 27 matches - down from the usual 36 - a new schedule had to be hastily arranged.

The SPFL board suggested simply trimming it down to 18 but the clubs pushed for a 22-game calendar and voted it through.

The clubs argued that an additional split would ensure "a competitive end to the season", while the board thought fewer fixtures would offer "far more flexibility".

We have reached the 17-match mark without any Covid-related interruptions but to get there Clyde, for example, have played 12 games across a 28-day period.

"We've not got the violin out but I just feel like the lower league clubs have been really shafted here," said Clyde boss Danny Lennon after Saturday's Scottish Cup defeat at St Johnstone.

The split is almost upon us but just how big a factor will fatigue be when it comes to the crucial play-offs?

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