Fifth plays sixth in tomorrow's game at East End Park, with a Pars side that has conceded just 1 League goal in the past 4 Championship games coming up against the player with the best goals to game ratio in all European football this season, Stephen Dobbie. Both teams exited the Irn Bru Cup last week but while Dunfermline's recent League results have shown a gradual improvement, Queens have hit a sticky spell with their last League victory coming back on September 1st.
Here is the current Championship table:
The disappointment of effectively throwing away a victory in last weekend's Irn Bru Cup loss to Alloa, going out after a penalty shoot out following a 2-2 draw in a game we largely controlled, will hopefully act as the catalyst for a more clinical performance tomorrow, securing a win that would keep the Pars in touch of the top 4. After a poor run of results in August and early September, the Dunfermline team have been tighter at the back in recent Championship games. The past 4 League games have resulted in 2 draws and then 2 wins, with the team unbeaten over 90 minutes in the past 6 League and Cup fixtures. Despite this improvement, there are still deficiencies that bubble under the surface: the 2 defensive errors that handed Alloa both their goals last week, plus a lack of clinical edge in front of goal.
Team, formation etc
Ryan Williamson is available again after being away with Scotland Under 21s. Kallum Higginbotham and Lewis Martin both made their returns from injury in the team's midweek Reserve Cup game against Motherwell, with both players featuring in the first half and requiring more game time before being ready for the first team. Mark Durnan, who missed the Alloa game with a groin injury, could be fit for tomorrow, with AJ stating that the player is still feeling "a niggle''. Tom Beadling continued his recovery from a long term injury absence with 90 minutes against Motherwell reserves.
For the game tomorrow, I would select Durnan if fit. Danny Devine, who was at fault for Alloa's second goal last week, would continue in central defence if Durnan has not recovered sufficiently. The only definite change I would make to last week's starting 11 would be to bring in Myles Hippolyte up front to replace Faissal El Bakhtaoui. I have consistently backed Faissal this season but with no League goals, a change has to be made at some point. Faissal has undoubted talent but does not look like a goal threat at the moment. Hippolyte, who has said that playing as a striker is his preferred position, would start in my team alongside Andy Ryan. As noted above, Devine's inclusion depends on the fitness of Durnan.
Preferred Pars line-up:
QUEEN OF THE SOUTH
The incredible goalscoring form of Stephen Dobbie - 24 goals in 16 games this season, with the best scoring rate per game in Europe - has masked Queen of the South's recent poor run of form, with no wins in their last 4 League games and an exit from the Irn Bru Cup last week at East Fife. Dobbie has scored 75% of Queens' League goals and is clearly the team's pivotal figure but when marshalled well by the opposition, as in the East Fife game, the chances of succeeding against the Dumfries side rise considerably. Only 6 players have scored for Queens this season in all League and Cup games - second top scorer Lyndon Dykes has 5 goals, and the team's non-Dobbie goals add up to 13, just over half of Dobbie's own total.
Speaking after the defeat from East Fife last week, and referring to Queens' record against Championship opposition and also against lower division teams in the Cups this season, manager Gary Naysmith had this to say:
"I want them to be hurting as much as I'm hurting. That's 2 weeks now that I've said it - you're not going to win games playing well for 20 or 30 minutes and in the last 2 games that's what we've done. We've only played well for parts of the game and it's not good enough. We need to get it right and get a reaction from the players. We have to start keeping clean sheets. It's a worry - I don't like the fact that we've played against Ayr, Inverness and Ross County - the 3 top teams in the Championship and got 3 clean sheets, yet when we're playing East Fife or Stranraer, or Crusaders or Alloa, that we're conceding twos or threes. It's the same players that are playing and the same formation. Every game's difficult in the Championship but it's more difficult when you're giving away that goals that we are and it needs to stop.''