Well if they do, they’ve got a funny way of showing it!
Matchday 21 in the Scottish championship saw the leading pack continue to stumble as Ross County were hammered 4-0 at Palmerston by a Queen of the South side now looking towards the leaders. Elsewhere Ayr United continued their poor run of form as they failed to capitalize on the chance to go top with a 1 nil defeat to an Inverness side who themselves have closed the gap to the top of the table. Dundee United also closed the gap to the leaders with a Nicky Clark inspired 1 nil victory over Dunfermline at Tannadice. With Ross County and Ayr floundering in recent weeks and Dundee United, Inverness and Queen of the South gaining ground with Important
Ayr have now one just one of their last six games and continue to struggle after a great start to the season. With Lawrence Shankland injured and the constant topic of transfer speculation, it is really showing how much Ayr rely on their star striker. The honest men have been heavily tipped for back to back league titles and a return to the top flight of Scottish football, however with their dreadful recent form it seems that perhaps they might not be cut out for an historic back to back promotion. The remainder of January will be vital for Ayr, if they can keep hold of Shankland and and regain some of their early season form they could still make a successful promotion push.
Ross County remain top of the league after Saturdays results, however two defeats on the bounce means that the Dingwall side have failed to take the chance to extend their lead at the top and now sit only 3 points ahead of Ayr who have a game in hand. County are looking to bounce back after relegation from the top flight last season and are still the favourites with the bookies to win the championship title despite failing as of yet to pull away from the chasing pack. The board at county and the supporters will expect the team from the Highlands to return to the top flight as they have the largest budget in the league and they will be determined to not spend an extended period in this division as it is so notoriously difficult to get out of, just ask Dundee United. Ross County owner came out publicly this week and said that failure to get promoted straight back to the premiership would cost the Staggies around 600k, so he will be determined to ensure his side make a swift return to the top flight. The owners willingness to see his side win the league title this season has been evidenced by Ross county joint managers, Stuart Kettlewell and Steve Ferguson adding to the squad again with Lewis Spence and Kenny Van der Weg joining already in January with perhaps more on the way. County remain in pole position to seal the league title but will need to avoid more blips such as defeats in the last 2 games to Morton and Queens if they want to return to the premiership at the first attempt.
Season 2018/19 is the third successive season in the championship for Dundee United. The Arabs have failed to seal a return to the premiership with defeats in the playoffs in each of the last 2 seasons. United had a very poor start to the season as early indications were that the Terrors would struggle once again to mount a successful title challenge. However United have picked up since parting company with Csaba Lazlo and replacing him with Robbie Neilson in October. Following Saturday’s one nil victory over the Pars at Tannadice, United have moved 3 points off the top despite being very poor this season by their own supporters admission. Neilson has added to his squad 3 times already in this transfer window with Aidan Nesbitt, Morgaro Gomis and Cammy Smith signing up at Tannadice. Neilson will be hoping his new signings can help his side string some good results together and propel them to a title challenge. United will have to sort out their form which has been far to inconsistent this season for a team who’s supporters will be expecting them to seal promotion this time round.
Slightly further back from the front 3 are Inverness and Queen of the south. Inverness sit 9 points behind their Highland rivals at the top of the table with a game in hand. On paper that might seem like a comfortable lead for county however in reality it could just as easily be a lot closer. Inverness have suffered the least number of defeats in the championship with 3. However despite the fact Caley have been very difficult to beat this season, they have been unable to string together a solid number of wins and instead have a remarkable 11 draws so far this season. The Caley Thistle fans will be bemoaning their inability to turn some of those draws into victory’s. However should John Robertson find that winning formula in the remainder of the season there is a decent chance Caley could push towards the top of the table. Queens on the other hand will be full of confidence following a 4 nil victory of leaders County at Palmerston on Saturday. The Dumfries side sit 10 points off the top, however they will be hoping that star striker Stephen Dobbie can rediscover his outstanding early season form to help propel Queens towards a title challenge.
It seems clear at this point that the title race in the championship is going to be very hard fought and will probably be contested down to wire. At the moment it would seem that Ross County are probably still favourites to go on and claim the championship title although with the emergence of Dundee United under Robbie Neilson the Tannadice side will be hoping they can seal the league title and it would be silly to rule out Ayr at this stage especially if they keep a hold of Shankland. The teams below them such as Queens and Caley Thistle will be hoping the lack of consistency amongst the top 3 will pave the way for them to scale the league table. No matter what happens its sure to be an entertaining ride.