Seventh plays fourth in tomorrow's Championship match at East End Park, with Dunfermline looking for a much-needed victory to prevent dropping into the bottom 2 in the division. Opponents Inverness are the Championship's draw specialists and are clinging onto a top 4 place that now seems out of the Pars' reach.
Here is the current Championship table:
Dunfermline team news, selection & preferred lineup
Tuesday's reserve game away to Ross County saw a Pars team that was a mixture of youth plus first team squad players including Myles Hippolyte, Robbie Muirhead, Callum Smith and Louis Longridge, the latter making his return from a 4 month injury absence. Mark Durnan was not involved, although Stevie Crawford, talking to the club's website yesterday, mentioned the defender had returned to training this week. Definitely available is Tom Beadling, who missed the most recent first team game through injury. No word on Lewis Martin, who has had a series of injuries this season.
Taking into account Durnan's lack of match fitness, and Longridge only having just played 45 minutes of one reserve game, neither player will be in contention to start tomorrow's match. There are clear lack of options in central defence, with Durnan and Martin unavailable and no other challengers to Danny Devine and/or Lee Ashcroft. In midfield the manager has more players to choose from and a decision to make on the formation, having fluctuated between a midfield 4 with 2 wide players, a diamond, and a sitting midfielder behind a compact 3 man central midfield throughout his month in charge.
The back 4 almost selects itself. I would make one change from our last game - James Craigen, who played in his natural midfield position, could be once again utilised at right back. Ryan Williamson was unimpressive defensively against Ross County and Craigen is a more solid option, despite not actually being a right back. The other defensive positions remain as per the last few months. Changes would be made in central defence if there were any viable alternatives to the current pairing.
In midfield there are more choices open to the manager, including which formation to line up with as mentioned above. A diamond formation would leave us with less width but would allow Kallum Higginbotham to play in what I feel is his best position, at the tip of the diamond and as the creative spark in what is otherwise a workmanlike midfield. Ryan Blair would come into my starting 11 in the defensive midfield role, with Tom Beadling and Joe Thomson in central midfield. Plenty of endeavour but requiring a player such as Higginbotham to show creativity. James Vincent had a poor game last time out and could lose his place. Craigen also did very little against Ross County (except for one excellent goal line clearance) and should Williamson be retained at right back, Craigen too would not be in my starting 11 in midfield.
In attack, the opening hour against Ross County gave us the best striking partnership seen so far this season, with Faissal El Bakhtaoui playing just behind Bruce Anderson. The difference in how the 2 players linked up compared with what we have seen with other pairings up front was like night and day. The change in Faissal was noticeable - finally he was playing with a striking partner who was making intelligent runs, creating space for a pass. Lack of match fitness led to Anderson being substituted but with the benefit of a fortnight's training since, both players should hopefully start and finish the game tomorrow.
The Highlanders' latest draw - their fourteenth in all competitions this season - came on Tuesday when they conceded a late equaliser in their Scottish Cup fifth round tie against Ross County. The replay will take place on Tuesday - manager John Robertson will hope it will not be a distraction to his players going into tomorrow's League game.
Inverness have won just one game more in the Championship this season than Dunfermline but have lost only 4, compared to the 10 defeats suffered by the Pars. Inverness have also scored 10 more goals than ourselves in the League, with former Pars youth team striker Jordan White their top scorer with 11 goals. They added 3 players to their squad during the January transfer window - defender Kevin McHattie, midfielder Darren McCauley and on-loan Hearts teenager Anthony McDonald.
Match odds (McBookie):