Dumbarton v Stirling Albion
Dumbarton were relegated from League One at the end of last season but should kick the new campaign off with a win over a Stirling Albion side in total disarray in the Scottish League Cup.
The Sons have retained a fair portion of the squad that played last season, including key figures Stuart Carswell, Joe McKee and Ross MacLean, while their recruitment also looks like it has been pretty solid.
Their pre-season friendlies have not been against opponents of any particular standing, but they have swept their rivals away, recording wins over Gretna and Workington without too many problems. It bodes well for them starting their League Cup campaign on a positive note.
The same cannot be said for Stirling. With the fans and the board in open warfare, recruitment has been slow and the squad presently looks in a ramshackle state. There have been no signings of note and there is little cause for optimism for Binos fans, who watched their team lose comfortably to Airdrie last weekend before going down 2-1 against an Albion Rovers outfit that had been beaten by a non-league opponent the previous day.
It promises to be a long season ahead for the Forthbank side if they cannot add to their squad. The League Cup having a ‘no trialists’ rule, and manager Darren Young has indicated that he will not recruit for the sake of the competition.
This should be a comfortable home win, so odds greater than evens look excellent value.
East Fife v Dunfermline
A Fife derby will kick off the League Cup campaign for two sides that suffered relegation last season, but it is Dunfermline, who dropped from the Championship to League One, who look better primed to bounce back.
The Pars were a side that many thought were too good to go down in the first place and they have retained a strong squad to work with ahead of their tilt in League One. With the likes of Craig Wighton, Graham Dorrans and Kyle Benedictus, they have both experience and quality in abundance in their ranks.
East Fife, on the other hand, are going through a transitional phase. The Methil club have seen the long-standing core of their squad allowed to depart in the summer, with journeyman lower league players replacing them on the whole. They look like a team that should fare OK defensively in League Two, but there are questions to be asked over their attacking capabilities.
Certainly, they were dismantled by Hearts in a friendly last weekend, with the Premiership team overcoming them 6-0 at New Bayview with some ease. In their only other pre-season friendly, they drew with junior side Hill of Beath 1-1 at home – that was a thoroughly disappointing outing and one that highlighted their lack of firepower.
By contrast, Dunfermline have impressive in pre-season, winning away against Championship side Cove Rangers 2-0 and hammering likely League Two playoff candidates Forfar 6-0 on the road. Expect this match to have a similar story.
St Mirren v Arbroath
Arbroath were one of the greatest stories in British football last season as they came within a whisker of promotion to the Premiership, despite part-time status. It’s fair to say that no-one is expecting such heroics of Dick Campbell’s men once again, but by the same token, they have shown themselves to be a side who cannot be underestimated.
They have retained all of their key players from last season with the exception of a handful of loan signings, and broadly have the team that conceded only 28 goals in 36 matches in a league that is notoriously competitive.
Furthermore, their results in the League Cup last season showed they can match Premiership teams. They lost to Dundee United only 1-0 and were only beaten on penalties by St Johnstone after a 2-2 draw, which was 1-1 after 90 minutes.
Against a St Mirren side that only scored 33 times in 38 matches in the league last season – the second lowest in a low-scoring division – they will be optimistic that they can make this game another battle.
The Paisley Saints were well beaten by Northampton Town in a Tuesday friendly, conceding two late goals after making a string of changes. While they will start this match as favourites to get a victory, expect it to be a hard-fought match to open the season, with both sides looking stronger defensively than they do going forward.
Kelty Hearts v Inverness
Those trying to pinpoint upsets on the opening weekend of the season should look no further than Kelty Hearts hosting Inverness at new Central Park.
Kelty were promoted to League One last season off the back of their excellent home record. They were undefeated in front of their home support in the league and actually only suffered a single defeat all season – a 1-0 loss against Premiership side Dundee United in their opening match of the campaign.
They made a habit of upsetting higher-ranked opponents at home, hammering East Fife 3-0, securing a scoreless draw with Montrose in the Scottish Cup and, memorably, overcoming defending Scottish Cup champions St Jonhstone 1-0 after extra-time.
Having retained all of their key players from their promotion campaign, they will be optimistic a similar outcome is possible against ICT. One thing counting against them, however, is losing talented young manager Kevin Thomson, much to the frustration of the board of the club. However, positive pre-season result, including a home draw against Raith Rovers, suggest they are still in a good place.
Inverness finished a comfortable third in the Championship but were far weaker away from home, winning only six times in 18 matches. What’s more, they were wretchedly slow starters in the League Cup. Aside from a victory over League One side Peterhead, they lost to lower league opponents in the form of Stirling Albion and Cove Rangers in the group stage. Kelty are more than capable of a repeat if they are not quickly out of the blocks this time around.
Written by an Andy verified content writer
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