Seventh plays first in tomorrow's Championship match at East End Park, with leaders Ayr United featuring a host of former Pars players in their squad. After having the upper hand over Ayr in recent seasons, including in League 1, Dunfermline go into this game as underdogs, and up against the country's second top scorer, Lawrence Shankland, a player we had on loan 4 years ago and who also had an unsuccessful trial with DAFC in the summer of 2017.
Here is the current Championship table:
The season rolls along, with a mixture of the occasional win, a few draws and some defeats, leaving the team in seventh place, 15 points behind leaders Ayr, who have a game in hand. At the start of the season, it would have been unthinkable that come the end of the calander year, we would be - potentially - around 20 points behind an Ayr side that gained promotion from League 1 in May. Just as Livingston did last season, Ayr are proof that having a budget that can't compare to the bigger spenders in the division does not mean that you can't defeat these opponents. Organisation, team spirit, excellent player recruitment and good management are enough to succeed in this division.
Team, formation etc
Injured: Andy Ryan, Aidan Connolly, Louis Longridge, Lewis Martin (ill)
There has been no mention from Allan Johnston of the absence of Robbie Muirhead from last week's squad, or his availability this week. Tomorrow's team will probably not be changed much, or at all, from the 11 that started against Queen of the South. Lack of reserve games is not helping the reintroduction of Mark Durnan into the first team. On a positive note, Tom Beadling completed his first 90 minutes of the season for the first team last week and will hopefully go onto be a big influence in midfield. In a 4-4-2 formation, Joe Thomson may play as an auxiliary left winger with James Vincent alongside Beadling in the middle of the park, with Kallum Higginbotham on the right; another option is to play 4-3-3 with Vincent, Beadling and Thomson in midfield and Higgy, Faissal and Aidan Keena up front. So with no changes from last week, here's my preferred Pars starting 11:
Ayr have been the surprise team of the Championship so far this season, defying odds of being second favourites for relegation before the season began. Currently sitting top of the division, they retained the nucleus of their League 1 winning side of last season, supplemented by a few well-scouted additions including Andy Murdoch, Daniel Harvie plus on-loan Celtic keeper Ross Doohan. Their squad contains 6 ex-Pars - Lawrence Shankland, Michael Moffat, Andy Geggan, Mark Kerr, Steven Bell and Chris Higgins, and of course manager Ian McCall, who had 2 spells as a player with Dunfermline in the 1980s and 1990s. Shankland has scored an incredible 28 goals in 24 games (League & Cup) this season, one goal behind Queen of the South's Stephen Dobbie, whose 29 goals have come in the same number of games.
Last week, Ayr drew 3-3 with Ross County after leading 3-1. McACall had this to say after the game:
“The first half was a great game of football and we were disappointed only to be 3-1 up, we played really well. The toss was vital today and we lost it. In the second half, the wind got up and the rain came and we were kicking right into it. The second half was a nightmare.
''But all credit to Ross County, they changed and went long ball and I have no issues with that and got a couple of goals. After that we changed and defended better. They still had chances but we had the best chance of the second half with Liam Smith - he has got to score from three yards out.
“I am not disappointed with the point. I knew the toss was going to be vital because of the way the weather changed but we will take a point and move on. We are still top of the league with a game in hand.”
Asked about rumoured interest in Shankland from clubs in England, McCall said: "Our chairman has gone on record saying we had received a bid of £200,000 that he immediately turned down. The only way the chairman will change is if someone offers ridiculous money like £500,000 plus for him.”