Scottish Championship focus: Leading duo battle for top spot in tight title race

The race for the Scottish Championship title is hotting up.

Dundee United currently lead the way, sitting one point ahead of Raith Rovers having played a game more than their title rivals.

With the runaway duo well clear of third-place Partick Thistle, it is now very much a two-horse race to secure promotion to the Scottish Premiership.

We’ve used the Twenty3 Toolbox to take a closer look at what promises to be a dramatic battle for the top spot.

Title race

Statistically, Dundee United are the most impressive team in the division.

They have scored the most goals (57) and conceded by far the fewest (21) after 30 games.

But Raith Rovers have done well to hang onto the leaders’ coat-tails. Despite scoring eight fewer goals and conceding 15 more, they are well in contention to reach the top flight for the first time since the 1990s.

This weekend could well be a decisive one: Dundee United host Raith Rovers in what is the definition of a six-pointer.

A win for the hosts would take them four points clear, but a surprise victory for the away side would put them in a strong position with a game in hand still to play.

Dundee United

Dundee United are looking for an immediate return to the Scottish Premiership after relegation last season.

There is quality throughout the Tangerines’ squad, with the likes of Louis Moult, Tony Watt and Kai Fotheringham scoring regularly.

Jim Goodwin’s side typically line up in a 4-2-3-1 shape and are aggressive out of possession. They have completed more ball recoveries in the opposition half (949) and won more loose balls (539) than any other Championship side.

While Dundee United do look to build from the back, they are more concerned with getting the ball into advanced areas of the pitch.

The league leaders rank first in the division for completed passes into the final third (1,201) and completed crosses (219).

Winger Glenn Middleton has been his side’s primary creator, registering nine assists so far this term.

No player has attempted more crosses (167) and the 24-year-old is a persistent threat in the division’s most potent attack.

Moult, meanwhile, is the go-to man for goals. The former Motherwell and Preston striker has scored 14 league goals, including a stunning effort from close to the half-way line in last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Inverness.

In defence, Kevin Holt is a key man. The centre-back leads the way for aerial duels won (172) and is second in the Championship for passes completed (1,473).

Raith Rovers

Raith Rovers have surpassed all expectations this season, having finished seventh in 2022-23.

Manager Ian Murray has worked wonders with a relatively modest budget, keeping his side in the title race when many expected them to drop off.

Their tactical setup is entirely different to Dundee United’s front-footed approach.

Raith typically allow their opponents plenty of the ball and look to hurt them in transition and on the break. Only Arbroath and Ayr United have averaged less possession than the Kirkcaldy club (47.75%).

That does mean fewer chances created — an xG of 44.75 is some way behind Dundee United’s impressive 57.99.

But Raith have been clinical in front of goal this season, overperforming their xG by 4.25 goals.

Murray’s side are also more vulnerable defensively, with an xG conceded of 39.59. Again, though, they have performed better than the numbers would suggest, only letting in 36 goals.

Based purely on the underlying numbers, Raith would be trailing behind Dundee United. But with just seven league games left, they are showing no signs of going away.

The promotion hopefuls have played to their strengths expertly this season, ranking first for set-piece goals (11) and defensive duels won (1,345).

Striker Lewis Vaughan has been Raith’s main man up front, netting 12 goals in 29 appearances.

Behind him, Dylan Easton has been consistently threatening, ranking third in the league for dribbles completed (98).

At the other end of the pitch, Scott Brown has been impressively resolute, with only three Championship players winning more defensive duels (150).

Raith will need all of their key men to perform at their very best in the final weeks of the season, as they battle with Dundee United for the title.

All graphics in this article were produced with the Twenty3 Toolbox. For more information, please get in touch below.