In the past month, professional Scottish football has returned at all levels, after the Covid-19 pandemic ended the 2019/20 season prematurely. With the Scottish Championship, League One, and League Two kicking off, fans have been treated to four rounds of scintillating football, with Raith, Cove Rangers, and Queen’s Park leading the race for the title in each tier, respectively. Customarily, however, the Scottish League Cup or the Betfred Cup kicked off before the league campaigns, with the fixtures of Round one being played in the second week of October.
Two rounds of fixtures in the round-robin format were played on either side of the first month of league games, with the most recent games being played during the ongoing international break. Most groups played out as they were expected to, with the top tier’s clubs booking the top spot.
Arguably, the most competitive group on paper, recently relegated Hearts faced off against Raith and Inverness, both Championship sides, in Group A. The games were expected to provide some of the best entertainment as three sides clashed for first place. With 4 wins from 4, the Jambos clinched the top spot after beating the above teams 3-1 and 1-0 at home, in that order. Raith will be upset at not qualifying for the subsequent round, but this will give them a better impetus to win the league, as they find themselves top of the Championship table after four games and the remaining matches coming thick and fast until January.
Group B had no surprises as Hibernian made sure they took the top spot in Round one of the Betfred Cup. However, they were not assured of a place in the knockout rounds until the final game as they took on Dundee FC, who were also on 9 points after three games. The Hibs swept them aside with a clinical 4-1 victory and ended with all 12 points. Dundee, on the other hand, eked into the next round as they finished on better points than other second-placed teams. In a strange turn of events, the teams will play each other in the Round of 16 as they were drawn against each other, giving Dundee a chance at revenge or a fixture which will allow Hibs to assert their dominance in a similar fashion.
Peterhead, Kelty Hearts, and Brechin wouldn’t have been favorites to advance from any group. Taking on 2 Premiership sides would not benefit their chances either. Faced off against St. Johnstone and Dundee United in Group C, one would expect the key match to be between these two sides. However, League One side Peterhead played spoilsport for United as they defeated them by a 1-0 scoreline at Tannadice Park. A penalty shootout victory against Kelty saw them finish on 7 points. With Dundee finishing on the same number of points, the Saints won the group on 10 and progressed into the next round of games.
2016 Betfred Cup winners Ross County certainly had the easiest group in Round one as they took on struggling Championship side Arbroath and teams from lower divisions. They faced their toughest match in the opener against Montrose as they were held to a 3-3 draw, before winning on penalties. Three comfortable victories and nine points later, the Staggies qualified for the second round. The aforementioned Arbroath also made it through on 9 points (more points than other teams finishing second) like Dundee FC, as their sole loss against County didn’t dampen their chances of qualifying.
Groups E to H will be covered in the following piece.