SPFL Championship - Saturday 10/02/18 - Tony Macaroni Arena - KO 3.00pm
A game that could define the remainder of Dunfermline's season as we travel to West Lothian needing a win
It's been well documented that Dunfermline have beaten only one team outside the bottom 3 in the Championship since September. Tomorrow, we face that team - Livingston - who were defeated 3-1 at East End Park in October. Since that game, Livi have gathered 21 points from a possible 36, in comparison to the Pars (having played 1 game more in the same period) total of 13 points from a possible 39.
Livi are 6 points ahead of Dunfermline and have a game in hand. A Pars win is vital to prevent Livi establishing a gap between the teams that may not be possible to close, and would leave the fourth and last promotion play-off place as the only realistic target for the rest of the season, with the league table below showing how many clubs are in contention for fourth place and separated by only a few points.
Here is the current Championship table:
THE OPPOSITION: LIVINGSTON
Last 6 League results:
After winning last season's League 1 title by 19 points, Livingston - who had been relegated from the Championship at the end of the season before - have exceeded even their own expectations this season and currently occupy third place in the Championship. Pre-season, manager David Hopkin had said that avoiding relegation was their main objective. They have all but achieved that goal and now sit just a point behind Dundee United, in a great position to seal a play-off place.
Dunfermline can take encouragement from Livi's relatively poor home record this season, winning only 4 of their 10 home League games and having the 7th best home record in the Championship. In contrast, Livi have a very good away record, the joint best in the division alongside St Mirren, with 7 wins from 12 games on the road.
Livi were fairly active in the January transfer window, with 5 players joining up. Two players were signed on loan from Rangers - midfielder Jordan Thompson and striker Ryan Hardie; ex-Par Gregor Buchanan moved from St Mirren and fellow defender Jack McMillan from Motherwell; and forward Lee Miller was signed after his release from Falkirk.
Last 6 League results:
Last week's defeat at Morton saw Dunfermline fall out of the promotion play-off places, with a cluster of teams in competition for what could be one remaining play-off place, given Livingston's current points advantage over the teams below them, and with a game in hand. Tomorrow's game could be the Pars' final chance to catch Livi, with just over a dozen games remaining. A Pars victory would reduce the points deficit to 3, with Livi still to visit EEP again, although we are one of the teams who have played a game more than them.
After benching 2 of his new January signings last week, manager Allan Johnston could bring in either, or both, James Vincent and Daniel Armstrong tomorrow. Central defence might be the area of the team where the manager considers change, with captain Callum Morris out of form. I would select Lee Ashcroft to start the game in place of Morris. The rest of the team would be the same as the Morton game, in which Dunfermline went ahead and were on top for much of the game. That was until certain players began to tire yet no substitutions were made. Tomorrow's game must see the subs being utilised, with players such as Andy Ryan, Fraser Aird or the previously mentioned Vincent and Armstrong ready to replace tiring team mates and give the team fresh legs for the final 20 or 30 minutes.
With no home games this month and tomorrow's game being fairly local to Dunfermline, a good travelling support is anticipated. Hopefully the team will respond to the support from the stand and bring home a much needed 3 points.
Preferred starting 11, based on comments above:
Nat Wedderburn photo and David Hopkin edit both by Pars Review.
Edits by Ben Crawford.
Match report/option with photos will be posted here around 9.00pm tomorrow evening.