After being in danger of slipping out of the promotion race a few weeks ago, Dunfermline have put together a 5 match unbeaten run at exactly the right time and can move up a further place in the table, to third, with a win over second-place Livingston at EEP tomorrow evening. Livi are the surprise package of this season's Championship and are heavy favourites to finish second, barring a collapse in the final few games.
Here is the current Championship table:
THE OPPOSITION: LIVINGSTON
Last 6 League games:
Last season's League 1 champions initially set their sights on survival in the second tier, but having long ago banished any worries of being in the wrong half of the table, are now in the midst of an 11 game unbeaten run in the League, with their last defeat coming back on 6 January. Since then, they have defeated leaders St Mirren and briefly narrowed the gap at the top to single digits before a recent spell of 3 draws allowed St Mirren to open up a 12 point lead. Livi have yet to defeat Dunfermline this season, with both games at the Tony Macaroni Arena ending in draws, and the Pars winning 3-1 in the meeting at EEP in October.
Livi boss David Hopkin must be in the running for Manager of the Year given what he has achieved with far less resources than several teams that are below his team in the division. A good defensive record - the second best in the Championship, and having conceded the same number of goals as St Mirren - plus a decent goalscoring return (again, the second best record in the division) have elevated and kept Livi near the top of the table for months and will ensure that they will await the winner of the third v fourth play-off games in a few weeks to contest the right to progress through to a play-off final against the second bottom team in the Premiership.
Last 6 League games:
Momentum is building within a Dunfermline team that has gelled in the past few weeks, with the January signings now fully bedded in and contributing to the upturn in form and results. Goalkeeper Lee Robinson made 2 important saves on Saturday and together with his team mates has the best defensive record in the division over the past 2 months. In midfield, a problem area during the disappointing second quarter of the season, January arrivals James Vincent, Tom Beadling and James Craigen have all been effective in making the team a more solid unit.
Up front, Nicky Clark now has 7 goals in his last 3 games and has reached the 20-goal mark for the season. Declan McManus is experiencing a goal drought but continues to be one of the hardest working players in the team. Fraser Aird, brought back into the starting 11 on Saturday, once again played well and should retain his place for the run-in; he has been massively under-used this season despite impressing in his limited game time.
Barring any unexpected injuries, the team should line up the same as against Queen of the South. Although we have 3 games in a week, there is no need to rest any players, all of whom will be desperate to continue the recent good run and secure further wins to achieve a top 4 finish. There is a togetherness within this group of players and a clear desire to meet the pre-season target of being involved in the promotion play-offs. With 5 games remaining, and teams around us due to face each other, a repeat of the last 5 game sequence of results could be enough to finish in third or fourth place. Ultimately, winning is all that matters now.
Match report will be posted at around 11pm tomorrow evening.