This year’s League Cup Group stages are beginning to get really exciting as many of the teams involved pass the half way point. All remaining fixtures are set to be played this week and there is sure to be plenty of battles for spots in the next stage.
Group A hasn’t gone the way Dundee United would have hoped, a 1-1 draw with Alloa this weekend, followed by a loss on penalties (The same story as occurred against Arbroath on the opening day) leaves United with just two points. Csaba Laszlo’s team still have bottom side Elgin to play, so qualification for the next round isn’t impossible, but it would also require Elgin beating Alloa, followed by Ross County defeating both Arbroath and Alloa. Although, while such results could see United finish second on goal difference, they’d quite possibly still not progress as one of the best 2nd placed sides. Elsewhere on Saturday, Arbroath kept their chances alive by beating League Two Elgin City. Dick Campbell’s side will require an upset victory against Ross County on Wednesday (A game we will have camera’s present) and other results to go their way to qualify. Having played three times, Arbroath’s League Cup campaign will come to an end on Wednesday without a positive result. They currently sit third, behind second place Alloa on goal difference – County sit top, a point ahead.
Montrose still top Group B, despite a loss this weekend. Tony Watt scored his first competitive goal for St Johnstone as they ended Mo’s 100% record at Links Park. A 1-1 draw between East Fife and Forfar – Forfar winning the bonus point – leaves Tommy Wright’s side with a good chance of progression, and Montrose will be confident they can beat fellow League One side, Forfar, in order to almost guarantee a place in the last sixteen. A Montrose win will leave them on nine points. St Johnstone could do one better if they beat Falkirk and Forfar in the next week, but nine points would still almost definitely see Stewart Petrie’s side remain in the competition despite finishing second. East Fife won’t progress and Forfar would need two massive wins to give themselves a chance. Falkirk can still also finish on nine points, so it’s a three horse race with it not unlikely for this group to contain two progressing teams.
Group C continues to be filled with plenty controversy and interest off the pitch – meanwhile Inverness are quietly going about their business off of it. Cove Ranger’s travelled to take on Cowdenbeath in a repeat of last season’s pyramid playoff final. While the antics and fiery tempers seemed to be kept at bay on this pitch this time, reports on twitter appear to suggest there was plenty of it on the benches and in the stands. A 1-0 win for Cowdenbeath sees them continue to look good for progression. As things stand, Hearts are now three points behind the League Two side – still to play each other. The outcome of Heart’s punishment for fielding an ineligible player has seen this gap increase for just one point. Meanwhile, a win for Inverness either at home to Raith Rovers on Tuesday, or away to Hearts on Sunday, should complete their journey to the next round. Craig Levein will be confident that Inverness game and the earlier fixture, at Tynecastle against Cowdenbeath should see his team progressing regardless of any punishment for their infringement of the rules despite a 1-1 draw with Raith, followed by a penalties win this weekend, a result Levein is likely to look at as a point lost.
All teams are still in it Group D. Peterhead and Stirling with just a game remaining each – Against Dundee and Dunfermline respectively however – won’t be too confident of progression. After an obsession with losing last season, Brechin haven’t lost yet in the competition, leaving them second. Although, games with Dunfermline and Dundee this week could soon change that. Despite losing 1-0 yesterday to Dunfermline, Neil McCann will surely be confident that both sides will be in the last 16, but both will need things to go to plan against sides further down the league’s this week for that to happen. Stirling’s 2-0 win over Peterhead on Saturday may not make many differences to the League Cup standings, but it could suggest Peterhead aren’t firm favourites to conquer League Two this year, as some may have predicted.
The southern section of the groups begins with Group E. Both Partick Thistle and Ayr United sit on 100% records having played two games each. It’s unlikely any of the sides below them – Stenhousemuir, Morton and Albion Rovers – will progress. Ayr continued their good form with a 2-0 win over Albion Rovers, who are rock bottom. Meanwhile Morton are finally on the board, beating Stenhousemuir 2-0, however, Ray McKinnon’s side are unlikely to qualify for the next stage. They’d have to beat Albion Rovers on Saturday and hope one of either Partick or Ayr do not pick up more points – and make up a goal difference deficit. Even then, six points is still unlikely to secure a last 16 position. Partick are away to Albion, while Ayr host Stenhousemuir on Tuesday, with the two then meeting on Saturday as both attempt to jostle for top position.
Kenny Miller hasn’t gotten off to the perfect start as Livingston manger, but he’s pretty close. Undefeated and his first goal for the club winning the game against Annan Athletic at the weekend leaves Livi top of their group. Airdrie threw themselves into the mix with a 3-0 win over Berwick Rangers, while Hamilton still toils on one point. The Accies will need to pick up all three points in both of their remaining games – away to Berwick on Tuesday and at home to Airdrie on Saturday – for a chance to progress. Meanwhile Livingston host Berwick on Saturday and Kenny Miller will know any sort of points should be enough to ensure progression for his side.
Queen of the South are steam rolling towards the last sixteen with a 100% record and 12 goals scored. Only Motherwell could potentially catch the Dumfries side now, and even then, the nine points racked up by Gary Naysmith’s side should be enough for a place as one of the best second placed sides. Motherwell will host Stephen Dobbie & co on Tuesday night in potentially the game of the group. Stephen Robinson’s side need to win that game, plus beat Clyde on Saturday to finish above QOTS. All three of the other sides in Group G will be hoping two major Motherwell slip ups could allow them into the next round, but that coupled with maximum points for any of them seems unlikely.
Finally, Group G hasn’t particularly went the way either Steve Clarke or Alan Stubbs may have wished, but penalty wins and Kris Boyd respectively are doing their best to help each side out. The Saints had a weekend off (so spent it getting bullied off the park by Jack Ross’s Sunderland) While Kris Boyd’s hat-trick helped Killie to a 4-2 win over Dumbarton, although Dumbarton still sit in first place. Dumbarton are away to St Mirren on the final day and will most likely need a win to secure progression, however, even a draw might end up being enough if Killie slip up against Queen’s Park and Spartans, while the Saint’s themselves slip against Queen’s Park also. Of course on three points themselves, causing upsets against the two Premier League sides could propel the League Two side through. Although, it appears more than likely the two Premiership sides will progress, albeit via a much bumpier road than anticipated.