Two teams with similar objectives but wildly different circumstances meet at EEP tomorrow. Dunfermline need a point to qualify for the play-offs at the top end of the division, and can even qualify with a defeat should Inverness fail to win at Morton. The Pars team will have only a victory in mind, against a team we have an excellent recent record against, and who are already looking past this game to their own play-off battle, to remain in the Championship.
Here is the current Championship table:
THE OPPOSITION: DUMBARTON
Last 6 League games:
Dumbarton face a game tomorrow that they would happily not have to play, with a depleted squad and a play-off semi-final on Tuesday against Alloa or Arbroath from League 1. As one of only two part time sides in the Championship (already-relegated Brechin being the other), Dumbarton have endured a poor run of results and form in the past few months. At one point ahead of Falkirk, they are now isolated in ninth position, having won just 3 of their last 20 League games (two of those victories coming against Brechin) and currently on a run of 7 defeats in their past 8 games. They also have no clean sheets in 9 games.
Not surprisingly, Dumbarton manager Stephen Aitken chose to look ahead to the play-offs in his comments this week, saying: "Saturday's game is meaningless. Our big game is on Tuesday and that's what we have to be ready for. We've played 9 games in the space of a month and it's killed us. I have 5 full backs at the club and they are all injured. I'm sure the players can come off the canvas again and give one big effort to try and keep us in this division."
Last 6 League games:
The dramatic end to last week's game at Inverness has set up tomorrow's game almost perfectly for Dunfermline. Had Nicky Clark not scored the 95th minute equaliser, Inverness would have gone into their midweek game against Livingston knowing that a win would have moved them ahead of the Pars, with the final round of games to play this weekend. Inverness did get the win they needed at Livi, but still need to win at Morton tomorrow and hope that Dunfermline lose to a team that are on a dreadful run, and who have injury problems and almost zero interest in their final league game, preferring, naturally, to focus on their play-off games next week.
Dunfermline, in contrast to our opponents tomorrow, are unbeaten in 9, have the second best attacking and defensive records in the Championship and last failed to score 8 games ago. Complacency could be our biggest barrier, or nerves if the game remains level for a lengthy period. Manager Allan Johnston was keen to emphasise that nothing has been achieved yet in his preview of the game. With that in mind, the starting 11 will remain largely on familiar lines. I would bring in Callum Morris for Jean Yves M'Voto, with Big Jock not enjoying the best of games at Inverness last week. In midfield, Tom Beadling - now apparently recovered from the injury that has kept him out of the past 2 games - could return. I would also start with Joe Cardle on the left wing. There will be no wholesale changes - had we already qualified, the team would have looked much different, but it makes no sense to rest players for something that we have yet to actually qualify for.
The required result should be achieved, with a professional performance against a weak opponent who have more important matters to contend with.
The Pars have put themselves in a tremendous position to achieve a top 4 place. Nothing will be taken for granted but the team will be determined complete the job with the minimum of drama.
Match report/opinion will be posted tomorrow evening.