SPFL home stretch: Record bids, title tilts and relegation battles

Celtic's Moussa Dembele and Brendan Rodgers celebrate
Celtic could secure their first title under Brendan Rodgers (right) this weekend

League titles are on the horizon for a number of Scottish clubs and nervous chairmen are wearing out boardroom carpets as teams battle to steer clear of relegation.

So, the final quarter of the season is likely to provide us with another exciting climax across the Scottish Professional Football League divisions.

With Celtic cruising to a sixth consecutive championship crown, the focus for the runaway Premiership leaders is on records.

Brendan Rodgers' side remain unbeaten domestically and could wrap things up as early as this weekend, if nearest challengers Aberdeen lose at home to Hearts and Celtic win at Dundee on Sunday.

Nine games remain after this round of fixtures, while the previous best in the top flight has been seven games to spare, done in 1929 [Rangers] and 2014 [Celtic].

Rodgers' team are also well placed to beat the 103 points reached by Martin O'Neill in the 2001-02 season at Celtic.

Aberdeen aim to finish 'best of the rest' for the third term running and enjoy an eight-point cushion over Rangers, with Hearts and St Johnstone all but assured of their top-half places.

Hibernian head coach Neil Lennon celebrates
Neil Lennon's Hibs are in pole position for the Championship title and promotion

The battle for the final spot in the top six looks to be between Partick Thistle and Kilmarnock, who have both found form of late. However, don't rule out Dundee, who are still only three points behind the Jags despite back-to-back defeats.

Inverness Caledonian Thistle prop up the table, one point behind Hamilton Academical, with both sides having managed just four wins. The Lanarkshire side have shipped 10 goals in their last two games - a worrying trend at any time.

Accies, though, are only three points behind both Ross County and Motherwell, highlighting the importance of wins at this stage of the season.

Hibs in pole position in the Championship

Championship leaders Hibernian are long odds-on for a return to the top flight after three campaigns in the second tier.

Neil Lennon's men have lost just three times on league duty and hold a six-point advantage over closest pursuers Falkirk and have a game in hand.

The Bairns, unbeaten in the division this year, and third-placed Greenock Morton both visit Easter Road this month.

Dundee United topped the table at Christmas after a 14-game unbeaten run but a grim sequence of one league win in nine outings means last season's relegated side drop 10 points off the pace.

At the other end of the table, St Mirren, who looked destined for the drop a few weeks ago, are now only one point behind fellow relegation candidates Ayr United, while Raith Rovers are dropping like a stone, with one win in all competitions since the end of October.

Livi Lions roaring to League One title?

Alloa Athletic manager Jim Goodwin
Jim Goodwin's Alloa Athletic are chasing League One leaders Livingston

In League One, Livingston are on course for an immediate return to the Championship with a seven-point advantage over Alloa Athletic.

Jim Goodwin's side are, in turn, six clear of East Fife and Brechin City, who moved into the final play-off spot by leapfrogging visitors Airdrieonians after Tuesday's 3-0 win at Glebe Park.

However, the Diamonds are only two points behind and, with Queen's Park within three points of the Lanarkshire club, this looks like a fight that could go all the way.

At the bottom, only four points separate the bottom four clubs.

Stenhousemuir currently sit bottom, one point below Albion Rovers, with Peterhead a further point ahead. Stranraer are the fourth club involved in the battle to avoid the drop - and the head-to-head matches coming up soon are sure to be pivotal.

League Two tightest of the top four divisions

Gary Locke
Gary Locke has taken over at Cowdenbeath after leaving Raith Rovers

The scrap for the League Two title now looks sure to be fought out by two Angus clubs, with Forfar Athletic being pegged back to a three-point advantage over Arbroath.

Elgin City, who moved into third on goal difference after Tuesday's 1-1 draw away to Cowdenbeath, and Annan Athletic look to have booked their play-off places as they are 10 points clear of Stirling Albion.

But it is the battle to avoid dropping out of the SPFL that catches the eye.

Bottom-of-the-table Cowdenbeath gave new manager Gary Locke hope with a win away to Berwick Rangers on Saturday and then another point against Elgin on Tuesday.

Cowden are now four points behind Clyde, who parted with manager Barry Ferguson after a slump in form during which improving Edinburgh City leapfrogged the Bully Wee.

Battle for the play-offs

To retain their place in the senior set-up, the bottom club will face a two-legged play-off against the winners of a play-off between the Highland League and Lowland league champions.

East Kilbride have a seven-point advantage and a game in hand over East Stirlingshire, who lost last year's play-off final to Edinburgh City, at the top of the Lowland League.

Buckie Thistle and Brora Rangers are tied on points at the top of the Highland League, with Cove Rangers just a point behind. However, Buckie, who lead on goal difference, and Cove both have two games in hand.

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