This weekend's game sees the division's top 2 sides on current form meet in what is, almost, a play-off for a play-off. A Pars win will secure a top 4 place regardless of other results and give an outside chance of claiming second position, and so avoiding an extra round of play-off games between third and fourth. Both teams are on 8 game unbeaten runs and will be equally confident of getting the result they need.
THE OPPOSITION: INVERNESS
Last 6 League results:
The 1-0 loss at EEP last month seemed to signal the end of any realistic chance that Inverness had of being involved in the promotion play-offs. It was their third consecutive defeat and saw them fall 12 points behind the top 4, albeit with games in hand. Since then, they have gone on an 8 match unbeaten run, winning their last 5, conceding just 1 goal in those past 5 matches. They have played 1 game less than Dunfermline and after Saturday have 2 away games, at Morton and Livingston, to complete their league campaign.
Inverness go into tomorrow's game without the suspended Ian Vigurs and the injured Gary Warren, 2 of their most influential players. Vigurs' suspension was already confirmed before the midweek win at Dumbarton when he scored the only goal of the game, and it was a double blow for the Highlanders to lose Warren to injury during the game, with the player ruled out for tomorrow's game.
Inverness manager John Robertson issued a plea to the club's fans to get behind his team against the Pars: "I appeal to all the Inverness fans who can get along to the game, to get right behind the team. We're trying hard to prove that we're worthy of your support. We're trying to recover as a club after the devastating effects of relegation. We'd really love for you to come along on Saturday because we need your help and we need your support."
Last 6 League results:
As noted above, a Pars win tomorrow would guarantee a play-off place with one game to spare. A draw would mean Dunfermline would maintain the current 5 point gap and would only have to avoid defeat at home to Dumbarton next week to finish fourth, unless Inverness were able to score enough goals while defeating Morton and Livi to wipe out Dunfermline's superior goal difference (currently 9 better than Inverness).
During the Pars' recent winning run, opposition unbeaten runs have been ended with wins over Falkirk (7 games undefeated prior meeting Dunfermline) and Livingston (11 matches unbeaten, a run that ended with the Pars recording a 1-0 victory). A win tomorrow would be by far the most significant and most important 3 points of the final quarter and the season itself. Recent results have shown that we are more than capable of winning this game; to still have our fate in our own hands is all we could have hoped for.
Last week's injured duo of Callum Morris and Tom Beadling are now fit and available. This provides Allan Johnston with an interesting selection dilemma: in defence, Morris might be expected to return, although Jean Yves M'Voto once again did well when required last week after the captain was injured in the pre-match warm up. It is the midfield where the manager has a big decision to make. For several games, the January signings Tom Beadling, James Vincent and James Craigen started, until Fraser Aird was brought into the team when Vincent was injured. Aird has kept his place ever since, deservedly so after some good performances. Beadling's absence last week saw Vincent start the game. Craigen has been an ever-present since joining the club. Tomorrow will be the first time that Beadling, Craigen and Vincent are all available since Aird came back into the starting line-up. Does the manager name the same midfield as last week, or bring back Beadling? And if so, will Vincent or Craigen then drop out? Aird (on the left) and Kallum Higginbotham (right wing) will almost certainly start. I would prefer to have Beadling and Vincent start in the centre of midfield. Craigen has done well but does not impact on games in the way that Beadling and Vincent have.
After the vital and morale-boosting win at Falkirk in the last away game, Dunfermline have the chance to record another big win that would ensure that the pre-season target of achieving a top 4 place is met. We will all make the journey up the A9 to get right behind the team for the whole 90 minutes. Someone can write their name into Pars folklore tomorrow - the scene is set for a great game in a Cup Final atmosphere.
Match report/opinion will be posted on Saturday evening