THE SPFL spotlight falls on the lower leagues this weekend and top billing goes to some fascinating Championship battles.

The second tier is usually Scotland’s most competitive division and this season has proved no different, with shock troops Arbroath giving title favourites Kilmarnock a run for their money in a thrilling title race.

For a while it looked like Partick Thistle would make it three-way scrap for automatic promotion but three successive defeats to Morton, Hamilton and Dunfermline have put a massive dent in the hopes of Ian McCall’s men.

They now sit fourth, 11 points off the pace, so if the Jags are to have any hope of catching Killie they need to claim all three points at Rugby Park this afternoon.

Games between these sides have been tight all season, with Killie winning 2-0 at Firhill before Thistle got their revenge with a 1-0 victory in Ayrshire in November. They drew 1-1 in Glasgow in the last meeting but Kilmarnock have now hit form under Derek McInnes and that’s why they are McBookie’s 4/5 favourites this afternoon.

It’s hard to disagree with those odds, especially with Thistle shipping four goals in their last two matches.

A defence that was looking so stingy earlier in the campaign is now leaking goals at an alarming rate so Killie appeal at -1 in the handicap which pays 11/4 with SkyBet.

Kilmarnock’s Oli Shaw delivered when I tipped him for a goal last weekend as four of my five main lower-league bets all came up.

He’s 13/8 at McBookie for another goal today but I’m switching to Kyle Lafferty instead (13/10) as he often delivers in the big games.

Arbroath will be looking for Thistle to do them favour and can return to the top with a win over Raith if Kilmarnock drop points.

I thought the Red Lichties might stumble again last weekend at home to Ayr but instead they ground out a 1-0 victory.

That continued their fine form at Gayfield and the bookies fancy them for another home today, with Arbroath a best 11/10 at Unibet.

Goals have been at a premium of late in Gayfield clashes with the last two matches there ending in 1-0 wins for Dick Campbell’s men. That makes under 2.5 strikes a good option but it’s just 13/20 with Bet365 while betting against BTTS pays 20/23 at BetVictor.

Midfielder Michael McKenna was a goal machine for Arbroath earlier in the season but has now gone seven games without netting.

That suggests he might be due a goal and he’s 11/8 at McBookie for anytime scorer.

It’s just as tight at the bottom of the table with Dunfermline now three points clear of Queen of the South after that thumping midweek win.

Ayr, Hamilton and Morton are still not out of the woods and could get dragged back into trouble with bad results this weekend.

Queens have a huge game away to Accies today and victory for Willie Gibson’s men could really make things interesting. But Hamilton are coming off the back of an impressive 4-0 win at Firhill and Stuart Taylor’s side have lost just one of their last eight games.

Even that came away to Killie so you have to fancy Accies for the win today at 5/6 with SBK.

Dunfermline also face a tricky road trip against an Inverness side buoyed by back-to-back victories over Arbroath and Raith Rovers that have moved them up to third place.

Caley Thistle scored three times in both of those games and Dunfermline looked electric going forward against Partick so it bodes well for a decent game.

Over 2.5 goals is priced 6/5 at Paddy Power and I fancy Inverness striker Shane Sutherland to score for a third game in a row. He’s 2/1 with McBookie for anytime scorer.

Ayr desperately need a win at Morton as they now lead Dunfermline by just three points.

But the Honest Men have lost three of their last four while Ton have just two defeats in the last 11 Championship games. So I fancy Dougie Imrie’s men to win at 11/8 with SBK.

With so much at stake I can see it being tight and that makes betting against BTTS a decent option at 20/23 (BetVictor).

Super Singles

  • Kilmarnock -1 handicap (11/4, SkyBet)
  • Over 2.5 goals at Inverness (6/5, Paddy Power)
  • Deadly double Hamilton and Morton to win (336/100, SBK)

League 1 & League 2

AIRDRIE have done well to keep pace with Cove in the League One title race but if they want to overtake the leaders heading down the home straight then they need to win today’s top-of-the-table showdown.

The Diamonds have gone unbeaten in the league since Boxing Day but you have to go back to October to find the last time Cove lost on league duty.

Paul Hartley’s men sit five points clear at the top and a win today would more of less kill off Airdrie’s challenge.

I can see it being tight so the half-time draw appeals at 6/5 with Bet365 while betting against BTTS is 23/20 at McBookie.

Runaway League Two leaders Kelty have seen their last two games end in 0-0 draws but should find their shooting boots again when Stenhousemuir come calling.

Nathan Austin is always worth backing for a goal and he’s evens (McBookie) to score.

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