The first leg draw at EEP on Tuesday perfectly sets up the return game at Tannadice tomorrow evening, with the home side desperate for a return to the Premiership and Dunfermline aiming to play top division football for the first time since 2012. Although we have not defeated Dundee United in recent seasons, the gap between the teams has now disappeared and we can go into the game with confidence. After the events of Tuesday - coping with a harsh red card and seeing United's keeper make 3 exceptional saves - we can take encouragement from the tie still being level. It may go all the way to a penalty shoot-out to decide the winner.
THE OPPOSITION: DUNDEE UNITED
Last 6 games:
United's well-documented financial problems mean that Premiership football is a necessity for them, which in a self-defeating cycle only adds unhelpful pressure to the team to succeed. They have the stature of a top flight club but the hiring and firing of a succession of managers (in itself a costly exercise) and the departure of unpopular chairman Stephen Thompson have only added to the instability and lack of continuity within their set-up. Their last yearly accounts revealed an annual loss of £1 million (to June 2017), with revenue 24% down and unlikely to have improved in the months since after another season in the Championship. New chairman Mike Martin commented: "While we remain in the Championship we will continue to incur losses."
On the pitch, manager Csaba Laszlo has continued to insist that Dunfermline remain favourites to progress to the play-off semi final, in a poor attempt to play mind games. Speaking after the first leg, Laszlo said: “Still I think Dunfermline are favourite and it will be a very difficult game on Friday evening. But we didn’t concede a goal so let’s see if we can go to Tannadice and score goals.”
Last 6 games:
Dunfermline have lodged an appeal against the red card given to Lee Ashcroft during the first leg on Tuesday, with the appeal not being heard until next week, thus freeing up Ashcroft to play on Friday. The appeal itself is entirely legitimate - Ashcroft should not have been ordered off - and is not a case of a club making sure their player can take part in the next game by making a spurious appeal. If overturned, Ashcroft would also be available for the play-off semi final games, should we qualify.
The performance of United keeper Deniz Mehmet ensured that the game remained goalless on Tuesday and sets up the prospect of another closely fought contest tomorrow. Pars keeper Lee Robinson also had an excellent game on Tuesday but if Dunfermline can test the United keeper again, it can only be hoped that he fails to pull off at least one of the handful of miraculous saves that he made at EEP. It would also be helpful to have a referee who does not make a game-changing incorrect decision, aided by play-acting from the opposition.
The Pars team should line up with 10 of Tuesday's starting 11 - Andy Ryan looks like missing out through injury and will be replaced by Declan McManus. Ryan Williamson will be fit after going off injured late in the game after suffering a gash on his leg. No other changes are required, although it was noticeable on Tuesday that Nat Wedderburn's physicality and strength in midfield were making a difference during his 12 minute substitute appearance.
The belief and spirit that carried us through our current 11 game unbeaten run, that included salvaging a precious point at Inverness, and ending unbeaten runs by Falkirk and Livingston, can once again help us achieve a positive result tomorrow. Despite the United manager's comments about Dunfermline still being favourites to progress - a failed attempt at trying to take pressure off his own players - we will go into the game as slight underdogs, a situation that will allow us to play without fear and give us a more than decent chance of winning through to the semi final against Livingston. Come On Ye Pars!
Match report/opinion will be posted around 11.30pm Friday evening