Second plays seventh in tomorrow's Championship match at Somerset Park, with Dunfermline looking to build upon last week's home win over Inverness, while hosts Ayr United could go back to the top of the division with a victory. Somerset had long been a happy away day for Pars fans until the trip their earlier this season when Ayr recorded a resounding 4-1 win, their first home win against Dunfermline since 2009.
Here is the current Championship table:
Dunfermline team news, selection & preferred lineup
Joe Thomson's 47th minute strike against Inverness last weekend gave Stevie Crawford his first win as Pars boss and the team their first home victory in the Championship since December 1st. Despite being without Faissal El Bakhtaoui - who had begun to form a promising partnership up front with Bruce Anderson, and who is likely to miss out again tomorrow through injury - the Pars team more than stood up to their physical opponents, none more so than Faissal's replacement, the diminutive Aidan Connolly, who battled against opponents almost a foot taller than him. Playing with a compact midfield, the team more than deserved their victory and will hopefully build on this tomorrow.
Another positive were appearances from the bench by Louis Longridge and Mark Durnan, both long-term injury absentees. Durnan will provide competition in central defence while Longridge's adaptability will give Stevie Crawford options in midfield, out wide and in attack. Definitely out tomorrow are Faissal and Lewis Martin.
Speaking to the media yesterday, Stevie Crawford did hint that there could be changes to the team as certain players had impressed in training. The back 4 will probably be unchanged - Ryan Williamson's substitute appearance last week was in right midfield and not at fullback, suggesting that James Craigen is very much the preferred option at right back. The midfield of James Vincent, Ryan Blair, Joe Thomson and Tom Beadling all performed well against Inverness and there are no clear contenders to replace any of the quartet, unless a change of formation brings Kallum Higginbotham back in to provide more width. Up front, Louis Longridge could replace Aidan Connolly but may lack match fitness to start the game. Connolly's display last week also merits another start tomorrow.
The game tomorrow provides us with a chance to record a win that would not only be important in terms of league position - fourth place is still within reach, while we must still be wary of the progress being made by the teams below us - but also for squad morale. There is nothing to fear - we will be respectful of Ayr, but they are beatable.
Preferred starting 11, unchanged from last week:
In the top 2 from autumn onwards, Ayr have made an excellent return to the Championship after winning promotion from League 1 via the play-offs last season. With 6 ex-Pars in their squad - Chris Higgins, Steven Bell, Mark Kerr, Andy Geggan, Michael Moffat and Lawrence Shankland - they are familiar opponents in more ways than one. Ayr manager Ian McCall is, of course, another former Dunfermline player. After a drop-off in form and results during Shankland's recent injury absence, which included the defeat to Auchinleck Talbot in the Scottish Cup, Ayr picked up 4 points from 2 away games at Alloa and Morton in their last pair of League fixtures. Shankland's penalty at Alloa was his 30th goal of the season, in his 30th appearance of 2018/19. In total, he has scored 59 goals for Ayr in 62 games.
Shankland's partner in attack, Michael Moffat, remains one of the division's best footballers, more of a creative source than out and out goalscorer these days. A relatively late arrival to the senior game, the Moff joined Ayr a month before his 26th birthday in 2011 after playing in Ayrshire Junior football for Girvan since 2005. He has scored 10 goals this season to take his tally over two spells at Ayr and a 3 season spell with Dunfermline to 115 goals in 309 starts, plus a further 38 appearances as a substitute.
Match odds (McBookie):