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Richard Gordon: Exciting finale to the SPFL season in store for every league but Championship could be most intriguing

Billy Mckay celebrates scoring for Caley Thistle against Morton
Can Billy Mckay fire Caley Thistle to promotion?

It has not quite been the hectic festive period we were anticipating across the SPFL – the weather and the pandemic saw to that – but with virtually every club in the lower leagues now into the second half of their campaigns, we are set for an exciting conclusion to the season in the coming months.

The Championship looks like being the most intriguing, and the most difficult to call.

The leaders Arbroath are the form team. Dick Campbell’s men are unbeaten in 12, far and away better than their rivals.

In fact, of those, only Kilmarnock can currently boast a run of more than a single game without defeat.

Killie’s sequence stretches only to a win and a draw, Caley Thistle have lost three of their last six, while Raith Rovers have collected a single point out of nine and Partick Thistle have stalled largely because of postponements.

The Jags have played fewer matches than the others and can close the gap but will have to maintain decent form if they are to do so.

I do fancy Ian McCall to lead his side into the play-offs, and with Derek McInnes now in charge, Kilmarnock can be expected to at least do likewise.

I cannot see either Arbroath or Inverness slipping away, so that would leave Raith Rovers as the unlucky one of the five in contention to miss out.

That would be heart-breaking for John McGlynn, given the advantage they are likely to have over the sixth-place team.

Queens’ place in the Championship under threat

Hamilton currently hold that position, and I would expect them to amass enough points to allay any relegation fears.

The other four sides are separated by just four points, and any one could fill the dreaded bottom spot come the end of the campaign.

Ayr United have been in disarray, have changed manager twice, and right now they would be my tip for automatic relegation.

But I also have concerns about Queen of the South and it would be no surprise to see them having to win through the playoffs to preserve their Championship status.

Cove Rangers heading for another promotion under Paul Hartley

League One looked like being as competitive at the top as the Championship, but the form of Cove Rangers, and to a lesser extent Montrose, has altered the landscape there.

Paul Hartley.

The Balmoral side have been absolutely flying, unbeaten in 13 and just one defeat since late August.

They are showing no signs of slowing up, and although they will keep their heads down and just get on with the job, I fully expect Paul Hartley to lead them to a second SPFL title in three seasons.

Airdrieonians will battle Montrose for second place, and Queen’s Park, despite managerial upheaval and just one win in eight – somewhat bizarrely a 6-0 hammering of Falkirk – will secure the final play-off slot.

East Fife look odds-on for the drop, but the other five sides are tightly bunched, and the head-to-heads between them will be pivotal.

Dumbarton’s home form has been awful, just one victory, and that might be enough to drop them into the end of season shootout.

Don’t rule out a late League Two surge from Elgin

Kelty will stroll to the League Two crown and Cowdenbeath look doomed even at this stage.

As for the play-offs, Forfar Athletic and Annan Athletic should be fine, but the other place is still up for grabs.

I would not rule out Elgin City making a late run to snatch it.

January shaping up to be a quiet month for Aberdeen

Connor Barron has returned to Aberdeen from Kelty Hearts

It has been a slow start to the transfer window for the Dons, the only pieces of business done so far being the new contract awarded to Connor Barron and Austin Samuels’ return to Wolves.

Given that, and his recall from a successful loan spell at Kelty, we can surely expect to see more of young midfielder Barron in the second half of the season.

I know that a few targets have been identified, and there may be activity in the coming days; how much will depend on whether any bids land for the club’s brightest talents.

Barely a day goes by without another team being linked with Calvin Ramsay, Lewis Ferguson is certainly on the radar of several English sides, and Ryan Hedges is another coveted by clubs down south.

There are also squad players who the manager would be happy to let go should there be interest.

January can be a productive month, but often it is quite the opposite, and I’m not sure the squad will look radically different by the time February arrives.