Pars aim to consolidate place at top of division in what could be a tricky game at Cappielow
SPFL Championship - Saturday 9 September 2017 - Cappielow Park - KO 3.00pm
Morton and Dunfemline go into Championship action tomorrow, with the home side looking for a second League victory of the season. Visitors Dunfermline, top of the division, have lost just 1 game in League and Cup competitions so far this season. Both teams have ambitions to go up to the Premiership just 3 seasons after being rivals in League 1.
Jim Duffy and his players rightly received a great deal of praise for reaching the promotion play-offs last season. Despite securing fourth place in the Championship, Morton had a marked downturn in results as the season went on, with no wins in the final quarter. This sequence began with a March home defeat to Dunfermline, which was the club's first loss at home in just over a year. Since then, and including the opening 4 games of this season's Championship, Morton have played 13 League games, winning 1, drawing 6 and losing 6.
Speaking ahead of tomorrow's match, Duffy told Morton's official site: "Dunfermline are obviously top of the league, firing on all cylinders and playing really well, but it's the type of game my players should really respond to. They know they are going to have to be at their very best to get anything from it."
Manager of the month, player of the month (Joe Cardle), scoring goals and able to make 8 changes in a Challenge Cup game last week and still stroll to victory, everything is positive at East End Park. There are no signs of complacency, however, with Allan Johnston telling the Courier that "We can't lose our focus. We have to make sure we keep on playing with the quality and pace we've been playing with."
Despite those 8 changes last week in the win at Buckie, in which several fringe players did no harm to their chances of getting more game time, the Pars team will return to its familiar lineup tomorrow. The only real decision to make is who plays up front. For various reasons (injury, suspension, international duty, and signings later in the transfer window), Johnston has not yet had to decide on which 2 strikers to play when all 4 are available and fully fit. That changes tomorrow. Nicky Clark will press for a starting position, possibly at the expense of Callum Smith (based on the team that started the most recent League game, at Dumbarton). This may seem unfair on Smith, who missed last week's Cup game at Buckie as he was playing - and scoring 2 goals for - the Scotland Under 19 team.
Andy Ryan may start on the bench, with Declan McManus preferred to him. I could state a strong case for any pairing of 2 from the 4 strikers, and whoever does not start tomorrow should consider themselves very unlucky. I cannot remember a time in my 26 years as a Pars fan when there has been such competition in attack, with all 4 players fully deserving a starting place. I have gone with Clark and McManus, simply because I feel McManus' work rate and strength will be important. Clark is more similar to Andy Ryan - a goalscorer, pure and simple. Smith could come off the bench and run at the home defence to great effect in the final 20 minutes, along with Ryan, who has proved to be an instinctive goalscorer. Johnston's selection will be very interesting.
Preferred starting 11, based on comments above:
Nicky Clark photo plus Jim Duffy edit by Pars Review.
Match report/opinion with photos will be posted here around 9.00pm tomorrow evening.