A favourite away venue for many, not least because it provides a nostalgic trip back in time to how most provincial clubs stadiums once were, terracing and coo sheds, Somerset Park has also been a successful venue for Dunfermline in recent years, with the Pars losing just once in the last 16 visits there. While we have improved our squad this season, so too, undoubtedly, have Ayr United. Tomorrow's game may have been overshadowed online this week with all the talk and plans for Boreham Wood but the importance of the trip to Rabbie Burns country should not be underestimated.
An excellent performance against the Premiership leaders last week did not yield the deserved result, as Hearts sneaked through to the next round of the Betfred Cup after being outclassed for long periods of the game at East End Park. There was much to be encouraged by from a Dunfermline standpoint: good football was played, the defence stood firm and only bad luck and outstanding goalkeeping prevented a Pars win. The Dunfermline team may have been lifted by the large crowd, something that won't be a weekly occurrence at some of the smaller Championship grounds, or indeed at EEP when travelling supports number barely 2% of the number Hearts brought through. The team have to lift themselves again, starting tomorrow, to ensure that a good start to the season is maintained and to avoid what would be a second consecutive League defeat, after the loss to Ross County a fortnight ago.
Sean Murdoch, Lewis Martin and Tom Beadling remain injured and I expect Allan Johnston to name the same team that faced Hearts. Whereas last week I posted an expected line-up in the match preview, this week I have listed my preferred line-up. There would be one change from last week's team - Andy Ryan replacing Myles Hippolyte. At the very least, if Ryan is a substitute, I hope he is allocated more game time than the few minutes he is usually given at the end of games.
Betfred Cup group stage: 4 games, 4 wins; scored 12, conceded 1.
Betfred Cup second round: defeated Premiership Dundee 3-0 away.
Championship: 2 games - 1 win, 1 draw, scored 2, conceded 0.
Ayr United, promoted to the Championship after a last-day League 1 title win in April, have made an almost flawless start to 2018/19. Most of the focus has been on top scorer Lawrence Shankland, scorer of 29 goals last season. The striker spent a few months on loan as a Par in 2014 and after a few seasons where his career appeared to be stalling, last season he found the best goalscoring form and has already added a further 11 goals in 8 games this season. Unsurprisingly the target of other clubs, Shankland had this to say about a possible move: ''I’m enjoying my football and playing in a winning team so I don’t see why I should rush out the door. I know what I can do if I get myself into good positions. Playing for Ayr I’ll get chances and hopefully convert them.”
Last summer, the Pars first pre-season friendly took place on the grounds of the University of Glasgow. Lawrence Shankland was a trialist and was played in left midfield, making almost no impression on the game (match report can be found in this site's archives, here). Within weeks, he had signed a contract with Ayr, when it appeared as though his time as a full time player might be over, after indifferent spells on loan with St Mirren and Morton, while still under contract with Aberdeen. How quickly a player's career can be transformed. One to be watched tomorrow, for sure.