SPFL Championship - Saturday 2 December 2017 - Tannadice Park - KO 3.00pm
Pars go to Tannadice hoping for first win there in 10 visits
Since Dunfermline's last victory over Dundee United, in August 2011, the teams have met 10 times in League and Cup games, with United undefeated. The Pars have lost 9 and drawn 1 of those 10 games, a Championship game at East End Park. The teams also drew over 90 minutes in a 2015 League Cup game at Tannadice but United won in extra time. Tomorrow represents another opportunity for Dunfermline to end that sequence of results and prevent United moving 7 points ahead of us in the table, and an even wider gap opening at the top of the division, where St Mirren are currently 2 points ahead of United.
Here is the current Championship table:
THE OPPOSITION: DUNDEE UNITED
Last 6 League results:
Promotion is the only acceptable outcome for Dundee United's chairman Stephen Thompson this season, evidenced by the sacking of Ray McKinnon when United were in fourth place in the Championship in October, 5 points off the top. Caretaker manager Laurie Ellis then achieved a 100% record in his 2 games in charge before the appointment of ex-Hearts manager Csaba Laszlo as boss. To date, Laszlo has overseen a win and a draw in his 2 League games.
The draw came last week at Brechin - a disappointing result which led Laszlo to comment on the close proximity of his players to the United supporters standing in front of Brechin's hedge at the side of the pitch: “The spectators were very close to the players on Saturday and they heard everything. The players were thinking: ‘Oh my God, I have to get that right.’ They were getting told to get the ball forward. There are times when that can be a positive thing but it can be the opposite too. I talked to the players and told them that they are professional footballers and should not be noticing what people are talking about. What the people want after 90 minutes is a victory but I am the coach and I have the plan."
United's strength is mainly in their defence - with 13 goals conceded, they have the best defensive record in the division, although they have only had 2 clean sheets in their 7 home games.
Last 6 League results:
As noted above, Tannadice - scene of crucial Pars wins in 1996 and 2005, among others - has not seen a Dunfermline victory for over 6 years. Dunfermline have a poor recent record home and away against Dundee United, and that, coupled with the recent form of Allan Johnston's team, does not give much cause for optimism going into tomorrow's game. Although the Pars have the Championship's joint best offensive record, with 29 goals scored, 21 of those goals came in the opening 7 league games, and only 8 in the past 7 matches. Defensively, Dunfermline have remained fairly steady, conceding 6 goals in the first 7 games, and 9 in the past 7. Despite scoring fewer goals in the past 2 months, Dunfermline have still scored 11 more League goals than United.
Allan Johnston could decide to keep faith with his familiar starting 11 tomorrow, with everyone except Aaron Splaine and Andy Ryan (both regular substitutes) unfit. However, the form of regulars such as Kallum Higginbotham and Dean Shiels has faded, and so while it would have been almost unthinkable at one time to choose to start without those 2 players against Dundee United at Tannadice, I have selected a team (below) with neither player beginning the game. The defence are automatic choices, with no real challenges from the bench; Fraser Aird takes Higgy's place in right midfield, while Michael Paton replaces Shiels in the middle. Big Nat retains his place and I would have Joe Cardle back in the starting 11, after he was harshly dropped last week. Up front, I have selected Declan McManus alongside Nicky Clark.
Preferred starting 11, based on comments above:
Michael Paton photo and Csaba Laszlo edit both by Pars Review.
Match report/option with photos will be posted here around 9.00pm tomorrow evening.