Seventh plays fourth in this Championship game at East End Park tomorrow, with an improved Dundee United side hoping to maintain their unbeaten start under recently-appointed manager Robbie Neilson. Dunfermline are looking for just a second home League win of the season and badly need a positive result to prevent a gap developing under the top 4 teams.
Here is the current Championship table:
Tomorrow's game against United will bring a different type of challenge to a Pars side which was able to dominate possession in the last League game, at home to Queen of the South, last Saturday. United are unlikely to concede the ball as much as a Queens side that were happy to occasionally hit on the break. That their only shot at goal gave them a 1-0 win merely added to the frustration in the EEP stands and put manager Allan Johnston under pressure once again. Recent results may have improved but performances have been well below the standard required of a serious promotion contending team. We need to see a return to the form showed in the second half of the opening day win at Tannadice, or the Betfred Cup game against Hearts, which even in defeat produced a spirited and commendable Pars performance.
Team, formation, etc
Last week's team was unchanged from that which drew and then lost a penalty shootout to Alloa the week before in the Irn Bru Cup. Allan Johnston rarely makes changes, or not to any great extent, but there is a need to refresh the team, which has become predictable and stagnant. Having seen fringe players lose at Falkirk in the Reserve League on Tuesday, very few made a real stake for a first team place, which was very disappointing; while many fans have called for Tom Beadling and Robbie Muirhead to play against United tomorrow, neither player impressed against Falkirk reserves, and if judged on that alone do not look better options than the players currently in the first team. So while there is a need to refresh, options are limited.
Ryan Williamson had a decent game in the reserve match and should come back into the first team tomorrow. Last week we had nothing on the right, with makeshift rightback James Craigen lacking pace to get up the wing, and right winger Louis Longridge continually drifting infield. Kallum Higginbotham has played 45 and 70 minutes in the last 2 reserve matches but is not yet fit enough to start a first team game; the sooner he and Williamson reunite on the right, the better.
If Mark Durnan has fully recovered from his recent injury he should replace Danny Devine in central defence; I would change the wide areas with both Louis Longridge and Aidan Connolly benched and replaced by James Craigen (moving back into midfield) and Myles Hippolyte. I would be very surprised if AJ made those changes.
Up front, I would give Aidan Keena a start alongside Andy Ryan.
Preferred starting 11:
After dispensing with circus clown Csaba Laszlo, United have picked up 4 points from 6 under new boss Robbie Neilson. With 3 ex-Pars in the United squad, including 2 who rejected new contracts with Dunfermline (Nicky Clark and Fraser Aird), there is an added spice to the match. United's form has undoubtedly picked up and they will benefit from having a competent manager in the dugout, something they haven't had for quite some time.
Robbie Neilson had this to say in the lead up to this weekend's game:
“Obviously Dunfermline did well in the Betfred Cup and then they had a great start to the season against Dundee United at Tannadice winning 3-2. I watched a bit of the game before I came in here and it was a great performance. It has been a bit sticky since then.
“I think they have found it a wee bit difficult to get some momentum. But this league is difficult. I watched their game against Queen of the South on Saturday and they probably deserved to win it. But they lost a poor goal towards the end and dropped three points.
“It is going to be a tough game as it always is down there. I would like to think we will take a very good support to East End Park and if we display the same energy as we showed the previous two Saturdays, then there is a good chance of getting a result.”