SPFL Championship - Saturday 25 November 2017 - East End Park - KO 3.00pm
Another home game and another chance for Dunfermline to secure 3 points and maintain a challenge at the top of the division
After the relative disappointment of Tuesday's home draw against Morton, the Pars face Dumbarton at East End Park, aiming for 3 points to stay in the promotion hunt. If the title or a promotion play-off place is Dunfermline's target, this is the type of fixture that simply has to be won. A victory would set the team up for the trip to Tannadice next Saturday.
Here is the current Championship table:
THE OPPOSITION: DUMBARTON
Last 6 League results:
The perennial survivors in Scotland's second tier, this is part time Dumbarton's 6th consecutive season in the Championship, a testimony to astute management and very successful player recruitment. They currently sit in 8th place, averaging just over 1 point per game. Maintaining that average would place them anywhere between 7th and 9th based on recent Championship end of season tables.
Strengths: decent defensive record with 16 goals conceded - 1 less than second placed St Mirren.
Weaknesses: Only scored 9 goals in 12 League games, the second worst record in the division. Top scorer in League & cup competitions is Mark Stewart with 4 goals in 17 games. They have won just once away from home in the League, at Brechin 3 weeks ago.
Ex-Pars: Andy Dowie and Kyle Hutton. Midfielder Dimitrios Froxylias was on trial with Dunfermline during the summer.
Last 6 League results:
The struggle to regain the form and goalscoring form of the early weeks of the season continues tomorrow, with Dunfermline achieving just 1 win in the past 6 League games, a period that includes only 1 shut-out and 6 goals scored, well down on the average of the 6 League first games, when 18 goals were scored. Results against Dumbarton in this decade have been very good, with 7 wins, 1 draw and 1 defeat.
The squad will be boosted by the return from suspension of Declan McManus and Kallum Higginbotham. Aaron Splaine will be missing long-term after his leg break in the Fife Cup game on Wednesday, and every Pars fan will wish the young midfielder a speedy recovery.
Most of the team picks itself (there are only 18 available players - against Morton on Tuesday, with 2 players suspended, we were unable to fill the subs bench). The defence has to tighten up, with slackness creeping back into their play both against Morton and in the Scottish Cup game against Queen's Park last weekend. Michael Paton made a welcome return as a sub on Tuesday, and should be an option both in central midfield and on either wing. It would be a mistake to continually select the same players every week regardless of form, and Paton is one player who the manager should consider as a replacement for any out of form or under-performing current starters. Kallum Higginbotham, back from suspension, has not been in great form recently but still has more goal assists (13) than any other player in Scotland this season, and is likely to start the game tomorrow.
Up front, the area of the team where there is most competition, Declan McManus, also free from suspension, may not regain his starting place after Andy Ryan's goalscoring appearance against Morton. I would retain the Clark and Ryan partnership, with Ryan deserving an extended run in the team.
Preferred line-up, based on comments above:
Kallum Higginbotham photo and Stephen Aitken edit both by Pars Review.
Match report/option with photos will be posted here around 9.00pm tomorrow evening.