By Colin Byiers
Another exciting season in the lower leagues comes to an end, here’s my thoughts and ratings for each side in League One.
Paul Hartley’s side ended the season as deserved champions, ending the campaign unbeaten in 26 matches, stretching back to 16th October.
Mitch Megginson and Rory McAllister between them scored an impressive 33 league goals, with captain Megginson also assisting 10 times also. Just as effective defensively, Cove stopper Stuart McKenzie earning himself 17 clean sheets in his 30 league appearances. Cove’s free-flowing, attacking play allowed the full-backs Shay Logan and Harry Milne to contribute the scoring, with both getting 7 assists. Left -back Milne himself netting 6 goals.
Overall, after the disappointment of the way last season finished and finishing unbeaten at the Balmoral Stadium, Cove have been worthy winners of League 1, scoring the most goals and conceding the least.
A second runners up spot in a row for Airdrie, they must surely have been cursing their early season form. Ian Murray’s team picked up just 3 wins in the opening 8 matches. A better start may well have had them picking up the League 1 title, or at least taking it to the final day.
Dylan Easton was an inspired signing from Kelty Hearts in the summer, contributing to 19 goals this campaign, with 8 goals and 11 assists. The Diamonds end with a run of 20 games unbeaten, but ultimately failing to beat title rivals Cove was the difference.
No title but they still have a chance at promotion via the play-off’s and will be heavy favourites to move up to the Championship for the first time in 7 years.
After three 4th place finishes since gaining promotion in 2018, The Gable Endies claimed 3rd spot this campaign. Another magnificent year for Stewart Petrie as his reputation continues to grow as one of the best managers in the lower leagues.
Montrose started well and were in the top two for the first half of the season, but inconsistent form with too many draws after the turn of the year saw them slip away from Cove Rangers and Airdrie. Blair Lyons and Graham Webster were the standout performers, with the latter netting 15 goals.
A positive campaign again, the some may look back on with a “what if” perspective. If they fail to go up through the play-off’s, don’t be surprised to see them top 4 again next season.
Optimism was high among the Spiders faithful at the beginning of the season, but it turned out to be a rather flat season. Laurie Ellis took his side to the top of the table, but after a run of just one win in nine, Queen’s had slipped to 4th and Ellis was dismissed.
Results didn’t improve too much after and the Spiders crawled to the final play-off spot. Defensively they did ok, but simply they did not score enough. Bob McHugh top scored with 8 in the league. Many of the squad failed to produce this season, but Luca Connell was a very consistent performer.
Not the campaign many would have expected or wanted back in League, should they fail to achieve promotion, I’d expect a much better season next year under Owen Coyle.
Another team whose supporters’ expectations were not met, as Alloa, relegated from the Championship the previous season, looked like they could compete for a play-off spot. However, things start badly for new manger Barry Ferguson as his side started with a 2-0 loss at Peterhead on the opening day and from there he was in trouble.
Alloa never threatened to achieve a top 4 place, and after a run of 7 games without a win Ferguson’s short spell as manager was over in February. He was replaced by Brian Rice, but all plans put in place had next season in mind.
Not a great return to League One football for Alloa but finished the season in a much better frame of mind under Rice. Should do better next campaign.
What can be said about Falkirk? Another disaster of a season, both on and off the park. The PR catastrophe from the board and management set the tone for what was to come. An air of expectancy was quickly turned into frustration by the fans as results. After the first 9 games the Bairns were 3rd but that was as good as it got.
A 3-0 loss to Airdrie in October saw them slide to 5th where they remained for the rest of the season. Paul Sheerin was sacked in December just 6 months into his reign. A big summer ahead for Falkirk.
Falkirk now face a 4th season in League One and will need to invest heavily and smartly if they are to push for even a play-off spot next season. Very disappointing.
Survival was the target for the Balmoor side, and despite a bad run of form in the new year, Peterhead finished well away from the bottom two places. Some may look at as a season of what ifs, when decent performances didn’t materialise the points, they perhaps deserved.
One win in 12 from January to mid-March had some of the Blue Toon faithful worrying about their place in the league, however, 4 wins in 5 at the right time helped Jim McInally’s side to achieve their survival goal. Brett Long was a standout performer in the Peterhead goal.
A much younger side for McInally this term, he has an eye on building a team for the future. With that in mind, should be aiming higher next season.
Much like Peterhead, could look back on this season as one of missed opportunities. A slow start to the season saw the Bully Wee in 9th place at the start of December, but that was followed by a run of just one loss in 8 which elevated Danny Lennon’s team to 5th.
Clyde didn’t suffer loss often, just 14 defeats, only the top 4 lost less games, but too many draws kept them in the bottom half. Neil Parry was an inspired piece of business as the big stopper made countless big saves during the campaign.
Goals were hard to come by for Clyde as only relegated East Fife scored less, so finding an answer to that issue will surely Lennon’s number one priority for the new season.
New manager Stevie Farrell couldn’t stop Dumbarton ended the season 9th for the second year in a row. It was looking good for the Sons, as after 8 games they sat in 2nd place behind Queen’s Park, but a thumping 5-0 defeat at Peterhead started a run of 10 defeats in the next 12 games.
Things didn’t get any better in the new year as Dumbarton recorded just 4 league wins in 2022. A huge turnaround in the playing staff hasn’t worked out, as many expected them to perform much better than they did.
The relegation play-off will be tough again for Dumbarton, but they may just have enough to keep themselves in League One. Overall, a poor season that started so well.
Dubbed by some East Fife supporters as the worst side they’ve seen, the 2021/22 season started badly and never got any better from there. A 5-0 hiding by Dumbarton in matchday 6, saw Darren Young’s team hit bottom of the table, where they remained for the rest of the season.
Young was gone by Christmas and replaced by Steve Crawford, but results didn’t improve, and the Fifers could only muster 2 victories this calendar year. Last year’s mid-table finish must seem like a lifetime away now as they prepare for life in League Two.
Expected much better from East Fife, but this this will be one that they Methil faithful will want to forget quickly. Hugely disappointing season.