Dunfermline go into tomorrow's Championship game against Alloa on the back of a first League win of the season at Partick Thistle last weekend. It was also the Pars' first League victory since March, when tomorrow's visitors were defeated in an away fixture. Dunfermline's recent record against Alloa at East End Park has been poor, culminating in a 2-1 loss to the Wasps in the Challenge Cup 3 weeks ago.
Here is the current Championship table. Queen of the South play Dundee this evening - the game will be shown live on the BBC Scotland channel, with a 7.05pm kickoff. All other Championship matches are scheduled for a Saturday 3.00pm start.
A long overdue League win was achieved with some degree of comfort at Firhill last Saturday. There was pressure on the Dunfermline management and players going into the game, even at this relatively early stage of the season, as the team were bottom of the table and playing the side directly above them, the only other team without a win at that point. The 3-0 win, achieved through goals by Kevin Nisbet, Ryan Dow with a tremendous solo effort, and a deflected Kyle Turner shot from distance, lifted Dunfermline 3 places up the table and in with a chance of going into the top half of the table this weekend, depending on other results.
Nisbet's goal, his seventh of the season, was also the striker's first after a barren run of 6 games without a goal. The supply to the team's main goal source was improved last week with the return from injury of Ryan Dow, and Greg Kiltie being shifted to the left wing. Having Dow and Kiltie on the wings should see far more chances created in the weeks ahead. It was also pleasing to see Nisbet playing alongside a partner in attack as opposed to the lone striker role he has been asked to occupy in many games, which often left him an isolated and frustrated figure. Gabby McGill, who partnered Nisbet in the opening 45 minutes at Partick, has a niggling injury and may mot be available tomorrow. This should allow Lewis McCann a chance to play in his natural position as a striker, alongside Nisbet, and not the left sided attack role that Stevie Crawford has deployed the player in for much of this season.
There will be no other return from injuries this weekend: Joe Thomson, Euan Murray are still out; there was no update on Tom Lang but the defender would be, at best, on the bench if fit. Andy Ryan has been ill this week and could miss out tomorrow. He would have been unlikely to start against Alloa in any case.
The goalkeeping position and back 4 picks themselves, as does centre midfield plus the wings. Paul Paton had an effective game against Partick, his experience and physicality contrasting and complimenting the attacking thrust and greater mobility of his midfield partner Kyle Turner. Hearts' loanee Harry Cochrane, a central midfielder, will have to wait a little longer for a first team start with Dunfermline, unless Stevie Crawford makes a positional change involving Turner.
A victory tomorrow is essential to build momentum after last week's win at Firhill. A run of positive results would not only offset the poor start made in the opening 5 League games, but would also catapult Dunfermline to the edges of the top 4. The team have the ability as we have seen mainly in cup games this season. Winning breeds positivity and another 3 points tomorrow would give the team a further boost going into the end of the first quarter of League games next weekend, away to Morton.
The Championship's bottom 2 teams go head to head at Firhill tomorrow with both Dunfermline and Partick Thistle looking for a first League win of the season, the only clubs in the division without a victory so far. Partick, who sacked manager Gary Caldwell on Wednesday, go into the game with a temporary management team of Gerry Britton, youth coach Scott Allison and veteran striker Kenny Miller. Britton, who in addition to being an ex-Partick player is also an ex-Par, is currently the Chief Executive at the Glasgow club.
Here is the current Championship table. All this weekend's games in the division are scheduled for a 3pm Saturday kick-off.
There was precious little for Dunfermline fans to get excited about in last weekend's defeat to Inverness but manager Stevie Crawford has, understandably, attempted to draw some positives from the game, while admitting that his players have to pose a far greater attacking threat. Defensively, the Pars team were more solid than in previous weeks, with left back Lewis Martin switching to the central defensive role that he filled for most of the earlier years of his career at East End Park. This was partly due to injuries to other defenders (Euan Murray and Tom Lang) and lack of form of others (Danny Devine and Stuart Morrison). Martin is the fifth player to partner Lee Ashcroft in the middle of the backline this season. Martin played the final 13 minutes of the game against Inverness at left back after an injury to Josh Edward. Substitute Danny Devine then conceded an 87th minute penalty for what proved to be the game's only goal.
With injuries now impacting more each week, the manager has to find the best defensive formula, hoping that Edwards will be fit to play tomorrow so that the same back four who started against Dundee United can line up at Firhill. Goalkeeper Cammy Gill seems set for a prolonged first team run for the first time in his Pars career.
In midfield, Ryan Dow's fitness is still in doubt, along with Hearts loanee Anthony McDonald and longer term absentee Joe Thomson. Whether Tom Beadling continues in the right midfield role he was given last weekend is for the manager to decide but there must surely be a first start for the other Hearts loan signing, Harry Cochrane, who came off the bench last week for the second consecutive game.
In attack, I would still like to see Lewis McCann partner Kevin Nisbet but the young attacker has been played wide left, as a left sided attacker rather than a traditional winger. There are options up front, depending on the formation chosen. Greg Kiltie, who played alongside Nisbet last week, can also play out wide or behind the main striker.
While we would all prefer to see a more attacking performance, Stevie Crawford has also shown in times of poor form and results that he is prepared to be pragmatic and to have his team grind out a draw or a narrow win with a more defensive set up. This was a feature of the five game winning sequence last season and we may see that approach resurface this weekend. Last season, with a fragmented squad, it was a case of needs must. There can be no doubting the attitude of this season's players, but they are displaying all the signs of a group who lack confidence. A positive result tomorrow would inject some much needed belief back into the squad. This is where we are at the moment.
Still searching for a first League win of the season, Dunfermline take on an in-form Inverness team on Saturday at East End Park. The Pars are one of 3 clubs in the division without a win, and play one of the 2 other teams, Partick Thistle, next week, in what could prove a crucial fortnight for the prospects of the team and, even this early in the season, the management. While I am in no way advocating a change in the dugout, preferring to give Stevie Crawford time to allow his squad to - hopefully - develop and progress, the team has to find a way to win, and quickly, to achieve anything of worth this season.
Here is the current Championship table. Arbroath play Partick Thistle this evening. All other games are scheduled for 3pm Saturday kick-offs.
After a promising start to the season, topping the Betfred League Cup group, Dunfermline's form has nose-dived along with results. With an almost entire squad rebuild during the summer, with mainly younger players being brought to the club, patience was always going to be required. The enthusiasm and attractive play in those early games has been replaced by a hard slog and lack of fluency in the team's play. Playing the ball out from the back, the last 3 games have seen various players plus 2 goalkeepers look out of sorts and in danger of gifting goals to the opposition. Creatively, there has been little to enthuse over, with the exception of the good link up play and finish that saw Greg Kiltie score against Alloa last week. Unfortunately, that has been an isolated example of what we all hope the team are capable of.
Team selection for tomorrow's game is impacted by injury to several players. The two central defenders signed during the summer, Euan Murray and Tom Lang, are both injured. Lang made his first start in a competitive match against Alloa last week but had to be substituted with a hamstring injury after an hour and will not be available this weekend. This leaves Stevie Crawford with a decision as to who will partner Lee Ashcroft in the middle of the defence. A possible clue was given last week when left back Lewis Martin (who was, of course, a centre half for most of his Pars career before being switched to full back) was moved to the middle when Lang went off, and Josh Edwards brought on in his natural position of left back. This was despite having Stuart Morrison - dropped after a difficult game against Dundee United - and Danny Devine - dropped after replacing Morrison in the next game at Arbroath - on the bench. I would prefer Martin alongside Ashcroft. Morrison is still raw and Danny Devine is Danny Devine.
In goals, Ryan Scully, himself not in the best of form, should come back in for Cammy Gill, who did not impress against Alloa.
The midfield has been a problematic area in the past month. Paul Paton has been dropping deeper and deeper, leaving gaps in the middle of the pitch. Tom Beadling has been largely anonymous. Matty Todd, given a start against Alloa, is another young player who is not ready for a regular first team start. Ryan Dow is injured, Josh Coley out of form. On the plus side, Harry Cochrane is available and should start but his fellow Hearts loanee, Anthony McDonald, will again miss out with the back injury he sustained shortly before his loan deal began.
Depending on what formation the manager chooses, we have various options up front but need to find the right blend. Andy Ryan has been disappointing this season and I would prefer to see Greg Kiltie, who did well in his debut match last week, play behind a front two of Kevin Nisbet and Lewis McCann. One up front has not been a success in recent weeks and although the coaching staff have used McCann on the left, I would select him in his natural position of striker in a partnership with Nisbet.
Once Euan Murray, Tom Lang, Anthony McDonald, Ryan Dow and longer-term injury absentee Joe Thomson are fit, the manager will have a much more competitive squad to select from. Central defence is a concern in the meantime. My own team selection sees the most experienced player, Paul Paton, drop out. This could be seen as a risk in itself as we lack older players to balance the youthful core of the team. This is the result of going top-heavy with players in the 18-22 age group, and we cannot select any player simply because he is older than the others. This is the time for Tom Beadling, himself hardly a veteran at 23, to step up and lead the midfield.
After a winless start to the League campaign, Dunfermline have a Tunnock's Caramel Wafer Challenge Cup fixture this weekend that, depending on your opinion, is either a welcome distraction from the Championship and a chance to give certain players some game time, or a pointless game that we could do without and instead concentrate on the next League match, at home to Inverness a week on Saturday.
Visitors Alloa, who sit 2 places and 2 points above Dunfermline in the Championship table, knocked the Pars out of last season's Challenge Cup, at East End Park, winning a penalty shoot-out after the game ended 2-2. Since then, both clubs have changed managers for different reasons and both will go into the game tomorrow knowing that no matter the merits of the competition, it does represent a chance of winning a trophy. Alloa won the Challenge Cup in 1999, while the closest the Pars came was in 2007, losing in the final to St Johnstone.
In the build up to tomorrow's game, Stevie Crawford hinted that some squad players could be selected, while also pointing out that the reserve team that lost 2-0 to St Mirren on Tuesday was youthful and did not include any first team fringe players. There is probably a need to freshen up the team in any case; an argument could be made for change even if this weekend's game was a Championship fixture. The past 3 League games have produced less than stellar performances, with some players lacking form.
Of the 3 recent loan signings, the Hearts pair of Harry Cochrane and Anthony McDonald will both return to their parent club to play for Hearts Colts in the Challenge Cup tomorrow. Both were cup-tied in any case but it is disappointing that the terms of their loan deals did not prevent them being risked in such a competition. The third loan signing, Kilmarnock's Greg Kiltie, is available tomorrow.
In goals, I would give much-needed first team game time to Cammy Gill, especially with Ryan Scully being out of sorts recently. In central defence, Tom Lang is surely due a start; with Euan Murray injured, Stuart Morrison benched last weekend in favour of Danny Devine, who went onto have a game littered with blunders, Lang has to start tomorrow.
There has been no word on Ryan Dow's fitness, after the winger missed the Arbroath game through injury. He would go into my starting 11 if fit. Paul Paton would drop out, with Kyle Turner moving to central midfield. Greg Kiltie would start on the left wing.
Up front, had Lewis McCann not been with the Irish Under 21 squad this weekend, I would have given him a start in his natural position - striker, not a converted winger. There is no need to reinvent McCann as a left winger as we now have several of those in the squad. In his absence, Andy Ryan partners Kevin Nisbet in a team designed to attack.