The play-offs begin with 2 games against a Dundee United side who finished two points and one place above us in the Championship table. It has been well documented that Dunfermline have not won against United since 2011 but recent games against Csaba Laszlo's team have seen the Pars leave behind the apparent inferiority complex that often seemed to follow them into games between the teams. The last meeting, at Tannadice last month, should have resulted in a Dunfermline win but for a freak equaliser.
A big crowd is set to witness the 11th meeting between the clubs in all competitions over the past 2 seasons, with the return leg due at Tannadice on Friday evening.
THE OPPOSITION: DUNDEE UNITED
Last 6 League results:
United were pre-season title favourites and topped the table until a defeat at St Mirren in November was followed by a miserable run of just 3 wins in 13 games, including a 6-1 defeat at Falkirk. In danger of missing out on a top 4 place, they finished the season with improved results, winning 4 of the last 5 games to secure third place. Doubts remain about their form despite these recent victories.
Looking ahead to the play-offs, Laszlo commented: “The play-offs are completely different. It is like a tournament. When you play away, you try not to concede first. It’s clear, if you play away, you have to try to avoid conceding goals and try to score maybe one or two to give you the advantage. At the moment, I don’t think that will be very relevant, how many home matches we’ve won or away games we’ve lost.
“We have all suffered at some point during this season when it hasn’t always been easy. But now we have this wonderful chance to try and progress and we really do want to take it. We are happy to finish third and now we have to get our minds ready for Tuesday night.
“We now have two difficult games coming up with Dunfermline and then after that we will see what happens."
Last 6 League results:
A ten game unbeaten run provides the perfect platform in which to enter the promotion play-offs, with the Pars team showing a togetherness and a desire to prolong the season by a further 6 games, into the play-off final games in May. Defensive solidity (keeper Lee Robinson has 10 clean sheets in his 19 games for Dunfermline since joining in January) and goals coming from various sources, not solely reliant on strikers, has seen the Pars end unbeaten runs by opponents Falkirk and Livingston over the past month and also secure a precious point at Inverness with a late equaliser, a goal that ultimately won the right to compete in the play-offs.
Players such as Fraser Aird and Kallum Higginbotham have added goals and flair to a midfield that has been boosted by the January signings of James Craigen, Tom Beadling and James Vincent. Those 3 players have transformed the centre of the Dunfermline midfield, which was a problem area during autumn and early winter. Beadling would be a first choice if fully fit but his availability remains in doubt after he missed the last 3 games of the regular League season.
I do not see any changes being made to the team that started on Saturday against Dumbarton. The bench is strong and there are alternatives should changes be needed in the second half, an option that Allan Johnston has shown a refreshing willingness to utilise over the past few weeks. Just as the team has improved, so has the manager, who has shown that he is now willing to change the formation when required and make effective substitutions (unlike earlier in the season), in addition to making some very good signings during the last transfer window.
This is where we want to be. There is a growing belief and confidence running through the squad and in the stands that, collectively, can push us onwards and through the double header against United. It starts at EEP tomorrow evening. Come On Ye Pars!
Match report/opinion will be posted tomorrow evening.