Ladbrokes League 1 had it all in 2016-17. A final-day relegation tussle, a play-off Final which went down to penalties and even a gripping golden boot race for good measure.
So, with the dust finally settled on the season as Livingston and Brechin City head up to the Championship, and Peterhead and Stenhousemuir are consigned to League 2, it’s time for Ladbrokes News to reveal our seven stars of the season.
Liam Buchanan (Livingston)
While there was plenty of uncertainty over play-off spots and relegation heading into the final games of the season, Livi had the title comfortably wrapped up as early as 8 April, when they beat Alloa Athletic 2-1. But while Jackson Longridge scored the winner that day, it was Buchanan’s goals which helped fire the Lions to promotion.
22 of them in total, and none more crucial than the experienced hitman’s goal during a nervy 1-0 victory at Stranraer back in March. That game was preceded by a run of just two wins in six games, as the side’s title ambitions seemed to be slipping. The man of the moment so often, Championship defences should fear the 32-year-old.
Ally Love (Brechin City)
Albion Rovers’ loss was City’s gain last summer, as they persuaded the versatile 25-year-old to head to Angus, and it’s turned out to be the ideal match. Manager Darren Dods has superbly converted former defender Love into a versatile midfielder and occasional front-man, and the player has reaped the reward of promotion.
Dynamic, endlessly energetic and willing to commit himself in a firm-but-fair challenge, City have looked a cut above since his arrival. A return of eight goals also proved immensely useful, as the Glebe Park outfit returned to the third tier after an 11-year absence.
Jordan Kirkpatrick (Alloa Athletic)
You have to feel for Wasps fans right now. After an impressive campaign, they were denied promotion by the width of a post following a penalty-shoot-out defeat to Brechin City in the Championship Play-Off Final. But if they retain the likes of Kirkpatrick for the coming campaign, you’d fancy another serious promotion push.
The nippy winger proved a thorn in the side of full-backs throughout the division with his fleet-footed runs, tidy passing and eye for goal. And having chalked up 14 league goals in 2016-17 (more than double his previous top tally), there’s reason to believe the 25-year-old will only get better.
Andy Ryan (Airdrieonians)
While Buchanan and co. secured a deserved title triumph, the Livi ace was actually pipped in the personal accolades, with the honour of League 1 top scorer going to prolific Diamonds forward Ryan, following five goals in his last two regular-season games.
Managing 23 strikes and a slew of assists is not bad going on its own, but those stats are coupled with Ryan’s excitement factor. The striker’s goal of the season contender against Queen’s Park, his fleet-footed skill and clinical finishing all saw him become the toast of Excelsior Stadium during the campaign.
Jason Kerr (East Fife)
Having only won promotion from League 2 in 2016, many expected the Methil club to be battling the drop during this campaign. But the likes of defender Kerr ensured that wasn’t the case – with the St Johnstone loanee helping the Fifers to a top-half finish.
A composed and classy performer at centre-back, the loan star rarely looked troubled, even against the division’s most experienced strikers. And not only did he help his temporary employers to the joint-second best defensive record in the league, he also found the net seven times, showcasing his aerial ability.
Ross Stewart (Albion Rovers)
The Wee Rovers’ survival can largely be credited to the best defensive record in the bottom half of the table – and in fact, Brian Kerr’s men conceded three goals fewer than third-placed Airdrieonians.
The Cliftonhill faithful largely have 22-year-old keeper Stewart to thank for that fact. He managed nine clean sheets during the League 1 campaign, including two in victories over Stenhousemuir – who eventually finished in bottom spot, just three points behind the Coatbridge club.
Willis Furtado (Stenhousemuir)
Stenny may have eventually succumbed to the drop, but the joy of watching French teenager Furtado strut his stuff offered a silver lining to the Ochilview faithful this season.
The 19-year-old midfielder tied opposition defenders in knots with his electric pace and outstanding close control. And his finishing wasn’t too bad either, with the youngster’s stunning half-volley in December’s defeat of Albion Rovers one of six goals he contributed in the league campaign.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing