A tough test for Dunfermline as second place Livingston visit East End Park
SPFL Championship - Saturday 21 October 2017 - East End Park - KO 3.00pm
The Championship's form team, with the best away record in the division, visit East End Park tomorrow in a meeting of the most recent winners of League 1. The Pars go into the game without a win since September 23 and looking to regain the form of the early weeks of the season.
Here is the current Championship table:
THE OPPOSITION: LIVINGSTON
2017/18 League record:
After winning League 1 last season, Livingston have made an excellent start to the Championship, with particular success in away games. They have defeated Inverness, Morton and Falkirk away from home (plus another win at Falkirk in the League Cup) and have also won at home against Dundee United and Dumbarton.
Manager David Hopkin was retained despite being in charge when the club were relegated from the Championship via the play-off system in 2015/16. Hopkin refreshed his squad for League 1, which they won with a total of 81 points (19 points ahead of second placed Alloa). In comparison, Dunfermline's League 1 title of the season before was won with 79 points, 18 points in front of the nearest team, Ayr.
Ex-Pars midfielder Shaun Byrne has been in great form for Livi this season, earning praise from his manager. Shaun agreed to an interview with Pars Review this week, which can be read here.
Livi can rely on the experience of goalkeeper Neil Alexander, while they have a good core of younger players that includes fullback Jackson Longridge, centre-half Craig Halkett (both 22) and on-loan Hearts striker, Nikolay Todorov (21).
Since the second half of the game against Dundee United, on September 30, Allan Johnston has played a centre forward (Declan McManus) on the left wing, retaining his 4-4-2 formation. Dunfermline lost that game. The next week, McManus was again on the left as the team lost to Falkirk in the Irn Bru Cup. Last week, it was Callum Smith's turn, in the goalless draw at Queen of the South. The absence of Joe Cardle briefly gave David Hopkirk a chance on the left before he picked up another injury. Johnston could have switched to 4-3-3, or played Kallum Higginbotham on the left and brought in Fraser Aird on the right (although Aird was unavailable for the Falkirk game). Instead, the manager has played strikers out of position in what is now a stubborn refusal to change "his system". Results show that in the absence of Cardle, and even Hopkirk, this is not a successful policy. Not only have the results gotten worse compared to a few weeks ago, the quality of play has nose-dived.
The team I have selected (after I suggested 4-3-3 last week) has Aird on the right and Higginbotham on the left, in a 4-4-2. Aaron Splaine continues to cover for the suspended Dean Shiels in centre midfield. Up front, I have selected Declan McManus and Callum Smith. I would not be disappointed if Andy Ryan was given, at long last, a chance instead of 8 minutes at the end of games (he too was played on the left wing in the Dundee United game after coming on late in the game as a substitute).
The rest of the team picks itself.
Sadly, I suspect the same formation and starting 11 as last week will be selected by the manager.
Preferred starting 11, based on comments above:
Fraser Aird photo plus David Hopkin edit both by Pars Review.
Match report/option with photos will be posted here around 9.00pm tomorrow evening.
Ben's "DA Talk" YouTube channel will have a video match preview up soon. On Wednesday, Ben posted a video discussing Livingston's form this season which can be viewed here or via this site's Video Zone, which can be accessed on the front page or through the dropdown menu at the top of the page.