The Championship season now enters its final run, with much still to play for in terms of promotion play-off positions. The title will be St Mirren's, and Brechin were officially relegated last weekend. Dumbarton look set for ninth place and the play-offs at the wrong end of the table. Second placed Livingston have all but cemented a top 4 position, leaving up to 5 other teams - all the way down to Inverness, who have games in hand - to fight for third and fourth. Dunfermline and Queen of the South, in fifth and sixth places, have both played 30 games and both need to win the majority of their remaining games to push up the table.
Here is the current Championship table:
THE OPPOSITION: QUEEN OF THE SOUTH
Last 6 League results:
The last time Queen of the South visited East End Park they inflicted a heavy defeat on a ragged Dunfermline side, inspired by a hat trick and great all-round play from veteran striker Stephen Dobbie. Typical of the inconsistent form of many teams in this division, Queens did not capitalise on that win, with the following 14 games producing 4 wins and 16 points. Their home record has let them down, with just 18 points from 15 games, 6 points less than they have won away from home in the same number of games. However, they remain in contention largely due to their goalscoring form, and are the second top scorers in the division. Even without the injured Dobbie, they defeated Dundee United 3-2 at Tannadice on 20 March, and when the veteran striker returned for their most recent game, a 3-3 draw with Livingston, he was not among the scorers, proving that they do not rely solely on him for goals.
Manager Gary Naysmith commented after the draw with Livingston: "We have a young team and their results mirror that. We're scoring goals but we're also conceding far too many, from free-kicks, from throw-ins. We can't afford to be making the same mistakes in every game. The next week will define our season - Dunfermline away, Falkirk at home and Inverness at home. Three big games."
Last 6 League results:
Improved results and performances in recent weeks have given Dunfermline a chance to secure a top 4 place that at one stage seemed to be slipping away. A period of 1 win in 7 games has now been followed by a 4 game unbeaten run, with the team having the best defensive record in the division over the past 6 weeks. Goals remain a challenge, with top scorer Nicky Clark (4 goals) and a free kick from midfielder James Craigen the only goals scored over the past 8 matches.
A win over Queens would put Dunfermline into the top 4, regardless of the outcome of the game between Morton and Dundee United. A Morton win would see us leap-frog United with a win; a draw at Cappielow and a Pars win would put us above Morton on goal difference, as would a United win. It is Morton we have to target as they have played the same number of games as us (30). While other teams have at least 1 game in hand, they are also due to play each other. Our run-in does not involve games against St Mirren, Morton or Dundee United and 4 of our last 6 games are at home, starting tomorrow.
A Pars team containing recent substitutes and some younger players defeated a Manchester United Under 20s team 4-0 in a closed doors game during the week, with 2 goals from both Andy Ryan and Fraser Aird. I still feel that Aird has been greatly under-used this season but there is no case for changing the current starting 11. The re-emergence of the right wing combination of Ryan Williamson and Kallum Higginbotham, so effective earlier in the season, has been a positive factor over the past month. The midfield is an effective unit and, as he showed at Tannadice last week, Nat Wedderburn is more than capable of coming off the bench as part of a midfield 3.
Hopefully the passion showed by the fired-up away support at Dundee United last week will be heard throughout the game tomorrow and can drive the team onto claiming 3 vital points. Four achievable home wins, plus avoiding defeat in the remaining 2 away games, should be enough to capture a top 4 place. It starts tomorrow. Come On Ye Pars!
Match report/opinion will be posted tomorrow evening.