Few would have predicted that after a combined 14 League games, Dunfermline and Falkirk would have recorded only 3 victories, 2 of which came last weekend. Occupying 2 of the 3 bottom positions in the Championship, both clubs still target promotion this season - Falkirk stated as much when replacing manager Paul Hartley with Ray McKinnon - and the same message is a regular part of Pars boss Allan Johnston's weekly mantra in his pre-game interview, the latest of which can be seen here.
Here is the current Championship table:
Last Friday evening saw the Pars record a League win for the first time since the opening weekend. The game itself - a 1-0 slog against Partick Thistle - was fairly forgettable with the exception of the last 10 minutes when both teams awoke from their slumber and began to attack. Clearly we need to see more of this, spread over the full 90 minutes, for even with an improved defensive return in the past 4 weeks (one goal conceded in 4 games), the entertainment factor has been consistently low.
The reserve game on Tuesday against Dundee saw Dunfermline win 5-0 and a welcome 90 minutes for Tom Beadling - his first full game since returning from injury - in addition to game time for Robbie Muirhead, who has yet to reach match fitness since joining the club at the end of August. Beadling may not be quite fit enough to be considered for a starting place against Falkirk but his imminent return will be a huge boost for the team: the prospect of a central midfield pairing of Beadling and Malaury Martin is very promising for our ambitions this season.
PARS TEAM, FORMATION ETC
Ryan Williamson may come back into the starting 11 after returning to the squad as an unused sub last week, following a spell out injured. That would mean either a shift back to midfield for stand-in fullback James Craigen, unless the manager retains his current midfield selections, with Craigen then dropping to the bench. Midfield is certainly the most competitive area of the team for a starting slot - Joe Thomson impressed when coming off the bench last week and could feature tomorrow. The rest of the defence picks itself, and up front it would be a surprise if the current pairing of Faissal El Bakhtaoui and Andy Ryan did not start the game tomorrow. Faissal, yet to score a League goal, still remains a better option than Myles Hippolyte or Muirhead.
I would bring Williamson back into the starting 11 but change the shape of the team to a 4-3-1-2 formation rather than last week's 4-4-2, with Louis Longridge playing behind the front 2 as opposed to the right wing, where I fell he lacks the speed or aggression to get past a fullback. This would mean a more compact midfield of James Vincent, Malaury Martin and Aidan Connolly.
Here is my preferred Pars line-up:
After jumping ship from Morton in controversial circumstances, Ray McKinnon recorded his first win as Falkirk boss at Alloa last Saturday. His team still sit last in the table but will look towards tomorrow's game as a chance to cut the gap above them to a couple of points. McKinnon signed former Hearts midfielder Prince Buaben this week and had this to say about his new signing and the chances of signing other out of contract players:
“Prince has played at a good level, he is a very good footballer. He has great stature, he’s a big lad who is comfortable on the ball with bags of experience. That is everything we need at the moment. I think he’ll turn out to be a really good signing for us.
“If there are people still available that can make us better, then we’ll certainly be looking at them. There are still a lot of players out there looking for clubs and trying to do certain things, who were maybe looking to go abroad, that could be options.
“We are still looking, we need to. My job is to continually improve Falkirk Football Club and I’ll look at people at any time of the season if I think they can improve us.''