SPFL Championship - Saturday 24/02/18 - Palmerston Park - KO 3.00pm
Pars head south seeking first win of the month to boost top 4 chances
The congested area in the middle of the Championship table offers several clubs a chance of achieving the fourth (and final) promotion play-off place, including both teams in tomorrow's game at Palmerston. With the top 3 places seemingly taken (barring a collapse by Dundee United and/or Livingston), all teams from fourth to seventh will have hopes of ending the season in the top 4. A consistent run of form in the last dozen or so games will be enough and for that to happen, both Queen of the South and Dunfermline will have to improve on their recent run of results, which are of a mid-table standard.
Here is the current Championship table:
THE OPPOSITION: QUEEN OF THE SOUTH
Last 6 League results:
Inconsistency has been a heavy component of Queen's season, as the above 6 results show - their last 6 League games resulting in 2 wins, 2 defeats and 2 draws. They have won only 3 games since early November (one of which was their 5-2 win at East End Park) yet still have a chance of achieving a top 4 finish. They have several players returning from injury which was highlighted by manager Gary Naysmith in an interview last week, although they will be without first choice goalkeeper Alan Martin. They may also be without their third choice keeper Sam Henderson, who was their substitute keeper last week, after he was injured by a cow in his family's farm, surely a first in Scottish football.
Queen's main problem this season has been their home form. Only Dumbarton and Brechin have worse home records, and Queen's recent home win over Brechin was their first victory at Palmerston since 28 October last year. Last week they drew 1-1 at home to Morton, a decent result but also a missed opportunity to close what is currently a four point gap to the fourth-place Greenock side.
As always, Queen's main threat will come from veteran striker Stephen Dobbie, who has 24 goals this season and who scored a hat trick the last time tomorrow's teams met. Even at 35, Dobbie is an excellent footballer in addition to being an instinctive goalscorer. His career tally of 172 goals is second only to Dundee United's Scott McDonald for highest career goals of any player in the Championship.
Last 6 League results:
The facts have been well documented: no away wins against any full time club this season, and no wins against any team outwith the bottom 3 sides since October. Tomorrow represents a chance for Dunfermline, with a new-look midfield, to win 3 crucial points and begin looking back up the table before it is too late to make a sustained bid for a play-off place. With a 2 week gap between games, this will be the second game that the 3 man midfield of James Vincent, Tom Beadling and James Craigen (assuming all are selected) will play together. There were very promising signs in their previous game at Livingston, and with athleticism and skill the 3 new signings have the ability, collectively and individually, to give Queen of the Sooth a totally different game compared to the midfield that Queens walked through at EEP in December.
Dunfermline have a decent record in Dumfries, winning one and drawing two of the three games at Palmerston in the past 2 seasons. Prior to that, the teams had last met back in the 2010/11 season, with the Pars winning one and losing one of the two away games against Queens.
I would not make any changes to the starting 11 that faced Livingston. The defence is solid enough, and up front Andy Ryan needs a run of games (as has been afforded to his striking colleagues) and not benched after one appearance.
Preferred starting 11, based on comments above:
Match report/option with photos will be posted here around 11.00pm tomorrow evening.