The gradual shift of summer to autumn brings the first month of the League season to an end. Just as with daylight, the Pars began bright then dimmed as August came to a close. Two consecutive defeats in the Championship are a setback but a win tomorrow would keep us on the heels of the top sides, at this very early stage of the campaign. Tomorrow's visitors Inverness have similar ambitions to ourselves this season - promotion, having just missed out on a play-off place last term.
Here is the current Championship table:
The manner of the defaet at Ayr last weekend was unexpected, with the Pars defence vulnerable, even after the change of formation after half an hour; too many players had off days at the same time, which was acknowledged by manager Allan Johnston and captain Lee Ashcroft after the game. The team's form has fluctuated wildly from week to week, after the highs of wins at Dundee and Dundee United, and the excellent performance against Hearts in the Betfred Cup, even though that game was lost. If any positive can be taken from the Ayr defeat, it is that the team will not want to repeat that experience and will be well aware of the performance levels required game after game in order to achieve the desired results.
A flurry of signings in the final day of the transfer window could see changes to the Pars line up tomorrow, but predicting the manager's starting 11 would be guess-work. Instead, I have selected a preferred line-up, below, in the hope that some fresh faces will act as a catalyst for a much improved display. Robbie Muirhead would be a certain starter for me as we need to impose ourselves on opposition defences - recently we have looked weak and have been brushed off the ball too easily. I would retain Faissal El Bakhtaoui, still looking for his first League goal since re-joining the Pars, but with the talent to light up a game. The other main issue, as mentioned above, is whether we line up with a 3-5-2 formation, or 4-4-2 or some variant. I would select Devine and Ashcroft as the central defensive pairing in a 4-4-2 formation.
The recent Irn Bru Cup game between tomorrow's teams will not act as a guideline for tomorrow, given the Pars lined up with 11 different players - mostly first team subs and under 20s - compared to the team that played the previous League game. We go into tomorrow's game knowing it will be a tough physical encounter. If we apply ourselves properly, we are more than capable of winning.
Preferred line-up: Out: Durnan, Ryan; In: Higginbotham, Muirhead.
John Robertson's team have not been prolific in front of goal but are yet to experience defeat in the few games played so far in this season's Championship. What they lack in flair, they make up for in endeavour and the ability to boss games physically. Much of their resurgent form in the second half of last season was down to an excellent defensive record and that continued into the first 2 League games with 2 clean sheets. Last week's 2-2 draw against Alloa, however, saw unexpected slackness creep in, much in the same way that Dunfermline's defence allowed Ayr to score so easily on the same day.
In the aftermatch of the draw with Alloa, John Robertson had this to say: "There's no way we should have drawn the game - we should have had it out of sight. We've tried combinations but it's getting to the stage that am I being too loyal to players? Do we need to look to the young lads who have got a bit of fire and adrenaline? I'm looking at the senior players and some of them are not giving us what we want. They're not showing us what they're capable of and are not showing that drive and energy to go and win matches."