Fifth plays fourth in tomorrow evening's Championship match at East End Park, brought forward a day from its original scheduling so that it can be screened live on BBC Scotland. Dunfermline's run of 5 consecutive wins and clean sheets came to an end in Tuesday's 1-0 home loss to Dundee United but there is still much to play for - a win tomorrow would see us go level on points with our visitors, who would still have games in hand but who have faltered badly in recent weeks.
Here is the current Championship table:
Dunfermline team news, selection & preferred lineup
Tuesday evening saw Dunfermline fail to pick up maximum points in a League game for the first time since 2nd February and a first goal conceded in 497 minutes. There was no drop-off in performance levels on Tuesday - we played the same standard of football when winning - but the limitations of the squad are clear. What they have in abundance is spirit and an excellent work ethic but balanced against that is a lack of real creativity. We are still the joint second lowest scoring team in the division and with that in mind, there could be changes to the lineup for what is a must-win game against Ayr.
Tuesday saw Faissal El Bakhtaoui reunited up front with Bruce Anderson for only the second time. After promising signs in their only previous game - at home to Ross County, when Faissal's pass lead to Anderson scoring, before both were substituted - Faissal's injury absence then gave an opportunity to Aidan Connolly and Louis Longridge to play in the role behind the main striker. There seemed to be more of an understanding in the Anderson/El Bakhtaoui partnership compared with other combinations and I would bring Faissal, who was given the final 20 minutes as a substitute against Dundee United, back into the starting 11 for tomorrow evening's game.
Other changes could include an out-of-form Kallum Higginbotham dropping out - my selection would be to restore James Craigen to midfield and bring Ryan Williamson back into the team at fullback, to provide a greater attacking threat down the right side. Despite being named the sponsors' man of the match on Tuesday, Louis Longridge has been underwhelming in recent games and so he too would drop to the bench in the team I have selected.
Tomorrow is a game we simply have to win. We are 5 points behind Inverness, who we play on the final day of the season in the Highlands, and as noted above, Ayr have games in hand over us. To remain actively involved in the battle for a top 4 place, 3 points are essential under the floodlights tomorrow.
Preferred lineup, in a 4-4-1-1 formation:
Leaders for several weeks and rarely out of the top 2 positions in the Championship table, Ayr's form and results have declined in 2019 and they now face a challenge to remain in the top 4, something that seemed secure for the majority of the season. With only 2 wins in their past 11 League matches, Ayr will be desperate to recapture the type of performance they showed in the 5-0 drubbing of Dundee United at Tannadice at the end of November, possibly the best display by any team in the division all season. December saw Ayr draw all 3 League games, then in January they went out of the Scottish Cup to junior side Auchinleck Talbot, and also won just one League game. Last month brought just one League win from four matches, while their last game - 3 weeks ago - ended in a loss at Falkirk.
Ayr boss Ian McCall spoke to the media about the challenge facing his team:
“The key thing right now is we have a lot of young players whose confidence is down. We need characters and we need to score the first goal in a game.
"We are in the final quarter of the season but we must now replicate the first and second quarters."
Match odds (McBookie):
Ayr United 21/10