Dunfermline can move within a point of fourth place Morton with a win at Glebe Park this evening. With 8 League games remaining, anything other than a win over the division's last-placed team would be a potential season-ender - if not arithmetically, then certainly in terms of morale and with a trip to Tannadice scheduled for this weekend.
Here is the current Championship table:
THE OPPOSITION: BRECHIN CITY
Last 6 League results:
Promoted to the Championship against the odds last season, after qualifying for the League 1 play-offs in fourth place, and defeating both the Wee Team and Alloa on penalties to win promotion, Brechin have had a weekly struggle this term. A return of 4 draws, no wins and 23 defeats from the first 3 quarters of their season could see them officially relegated within a week. Many of their defeats have come from a single goal, and defensively there have been far worse teams to be relegated. Lack of goals has cost Brechin, averaging just 0.7 goals per game.
Manager Darren Dods has retained the backing of the club's directors despite the season the club have endured. Dods recently brought in on-loan Dundee defender Kosta Gadzhalov. In an incident that summed up a struggling team's luck, the player was injured last week and is now out for the rest of the season, with Dods commenting: “He’d only played one game for us, with all the call-offs. Then, five minutes into the match he gets a nudge from their striker, collides with our goalie and then the post and ends up with a dislocated shoulder. It’s a real blow for him and us. He’d been desperate to play first team football and was excellent in the one game he did play.”
Last 6 League results:
A first League win since 6 January was achieved last Tuesday at home to Inverness but Dunfermline were unable to follow that up with another win at the weekend, drawing 0-0 with a remarkably unambitious Morton team at EEP. Still in contention for a play-off place - due to the good results from the first quarter of the season - the Pars go to Brechin tonight knowing that a win is essential. The lack of goals over the past few weeks (just 2 goals scored in 6 games) is a growing concern, and is in stark contrast to the start of the season when the team scored 21 goals in the opening 7 games. Defensively, there has been an improvement (6 clean sheets in the past 9 games) and while a good defensive record should not necessarily impact negatively on a team's attacking prowess, the fact remains that scoring has become an issue and something has to happen to change this in the final few weeks of the season.
At the time of writing this preview, it is not known if either Joe Cardle or Andy Ryan will be fit enough to be in contention for a place in tonight's squad. Regardless of that, manager Allan Johnston will likely start with the same pairing up front, although both strikers are going through goal droughts: Nicky Clark and Declan McManus both have the same record of having scored just once in their last 10 games.
In an effort to inject more pace and direct attacking play into the team, the preferred line-up I have named below brings Fraser Aird and Dan Armstrong into the starting 11 at the expense of James Craigen and Kallum Higginbotham. Aird and Armstrong both featured as subs on Saturday and both players offer something different from the players they would replace. Craigen has been anonymous in open play - his set pieces are good but he has not impacted games in general. Higgy - who played well against Inverness - was frustrating against Morton and is still trying too many flicks that rarely come off. We need an injection of speed from the wide areas, with players who will put pressure on the opposition defence.
A full match report will be posted here tomorrow morning.