First plays fifth in tomorrow's Championship match at The Global Energy Stadium in Dingwall. Hosts Ross County have a 5 point lead at the top of the Championship with the season about to enter its final month. Dunfermline's promotion hopes are fading - after a 5 game winning run, the Pars have picked up just 1 point from the last 3 games and have fallen behind Inverness and Ayr in the battle for a top 4 place.
Here is the current Championship table:
Dunfermline team news, selection & preferred lineup
Saturday's 2-2 draw at Partick Thistle saw Dunfermline play a more open, expansive game than of late. There was a greater attacking threat with 2 up front and the team took a 2 goal lead inside the opening half an hour. However, after Thistle pulled a goal back through an unfortunate own goal from Ryan Blair, the lack of leadership in the Pars team saw them lose a further goal in the second period and only just survive some very shaky moments in central defence.
Manager Stevie Crawford gave a first start to 17 year old Matty Todd on Saturday, an encouraging sign that youth will be given a chance even in a vital game with important points at stake. Todd will have learned much in the game and although his lack of experience showed at times, I would select him again for tomorrow's match as he has much to offer - always a stand-out in the reserve games I have seen - and to continue his development.
As mentioned above, central defence was a real concern at Firhill, so much so that midfielder Tom Beadling was moved back into defence for the final 20 minutes to support the faltering pair of Lee Ashcroft and Danny Devine. I would bring Mark Durnan, an unusued substitute in recent weeks, into the team tomorrow. Durnan could replace either centre half but I have opted to have him replace Devine, with no other changes form the starting 11 that faced Thistle.
Tomorrow is almost certainly the last chance for Dunfermline to make a realistic push for a top 4 place. A win is essential and even then we would require the teams above us to drop points in the final handful of games. We then move onto the derby with Falkirk on Saturday so there is still much to play for.
Preferred lineup, in a 4-4-2 formation:
The last minute equaliser scored by Jamie Lindsay in Ross County's last outing, at home to Dundee United on Friday, may prove to be the goal that eventually brings the Championshuip title to Dingwall. United were the better team and should have been more than 1 goal ahead before the late County goal. This meant that instead of reducing County's lead to 2 points, the gap remained at 5, with United having played a game more.
County have topped the division largely through digging out results - they lack flair but work hard as a unit. Without injured top scorer Billy McKay, the County forward line of Brian Graham, Ross Stewart and Declan McManus are industrial as opposed to artful but have done just enough to put their team in an excellent position to make an instant return to the Premiership following last season's relegation.
Match odds (McBookie):
Ross County 23/20