A Pars win over holders Inverness in the opening round of this season's Irn Bru Cup - with practically a reserve team - was followed up with a weekend away in Hertfordshire and a penalty shoot out win against Boreham Wood. Suddenly, the competition has become relevant, with many top end Championship teams already eliminated and a real chance of winning a trophy developing. Alloa make a second visit to EEP in 4 weeks after the dire goalless draw in the Championship game on 15 September. We can only hope for a much better game along with progression into the next round - even those of us who initially derided the Irn Bru Cup.
The 0-0 draw (followed by success in a penalty shoot-out) against Boreham Wood in the last round of the Irn Bru Cup began a sequence of games where the Pars defence tightened up, after shipping goals with worrying regularity (by the start of September we had the second worst goals against record in all 4 SPFL divisions). After Boreham Wood came a turgid 0-0 slog at home to Alloa, followed by a 1-1 draw at Morton - their goal being completely avoidable, a goalkeeping error - then 1-0 and 2-0 wins over Partick Thistle and Falkirk. The goal conceded at Morton is the only opposition goal in the past 456 minutes of Pars football; and while we have hardly been prolific in front of goal ourselves, the first priority for any team with ambitions to win more games than they lose is to stop conceding goals. That may sound obvious but it was the key to our revival last season and there are signs of a repeat this term.
Pars team, formation etc
Allan Johnston stated yesterday that he would play an experienced team this weekend, with possibly a couple of changes. This would not reflect badly on any players dropping out of the starting 11 that defeated Falkirk so convincingly; the Irn Bru Cup gives the manager a chance to give certain players, including those returning from injury, game time. Who misses out tomorrow is a difficult decision, as to accomodate Tom Beadling would mean 'resting' James Vincent or Malaury Martin; while in defence, Danny Devine could be involved, at the expense of either Mark Durnan or Lee Ashcroft.
Ryan Williamson is unavailable due to international duties with the Scotland Under 21 squad.
I would make just one change - bringing Beadling into the team. Vincent (who I rated our third best player against Falkirk in the 'Ranked' article here) would make way but might expect to be back in next week against Queen of the South in the Championship.
Lack of goals blighted Alloa's otherwise promising start to the season, with too many draws but few defeats. That was until last week, when they raced into a 3-0 lead at Queen of the South until a Stephen Dobbie hat trick meant the game ended 3-3. Another draw; they also achieved a creditable share of the points at Inverness after fighting back with 10 men to get a late equaliser; there have been draws too with Dundee United and ourselves. They were unfortunate not to get another point at Ross County, losing 1-0 to a late goal. So while Alloa have shown they can compete with more-fancied teams, they have still to prove that they can win.
This summer, Alloa signed striker Greig Spence for the fourth time in his career (including loan spells) but after hitting 2 goals on his debut - a League Cup game against Arbroath - he failed to score in any of the following 10 matches and was an unused substitute last week at Palmerston. Lack of firepower may prove to be Alloa's undoing this season; before the 3-3 draw last week, they had scored just 3 goals in 7 League games.