SPFL Championship - Saturday 16.12.17 - Paisley 2021 Stadium - KO 3.00pm
Pars hope for Paisley pre-Christmas present of a much-needed 3 points
Two clubs with pre-season aspirations of promotion meet tomorrow, with the Pars desperate to win a first League game since 21 October, and to avoid falling into the bottom half of the division for the first time this season. Hosts St Mirren, currently second in the table, could go top with a victory.
Here is the current Championship table:
THE OPPOSITION: ST MIRREN
Last 6 League results:
Since the first meeting of the sides (September 16), which Dunfermline won 3-0, St Mirren have gathered 20 League points to Dunfermline's 10 in the same period. Saints were unbeaten in Paisley until their last home game, a surprise 1-0 loss to Dumbarton. They then ground out a 2-1 win at Brechin last week. They have the joint best home record in the Championship and are second highest scorers (1 goal less than Dunfermline, who still top the goalscoring table in the division). Saints have conceded more goals than their League position might suggest, and have only the fifth best defensive record, with just 4 clean sheets in 16 games. Three of those shut-outs were away from home, with their only home clean sheet coming back on 26 August, in a 3-0 win over Dundee United. Leading scorer Gavin Reilly has 17 goals in 24 games, and averages a goal every 109 minutes based on total time on the field. Last season during a miserable loan period with Dunfermline he scored just twice in 1468 total minutes playing time.
A major threat will come from the highly-rated Lewis Morgan, who in addition to scoring 10 goals this season, is the team's main playmaker and arguably the best player in the division. St Mirren will also be boosted by the signing this week (initially on an emergency loan, which will be converted to a permament transfer in January) of Danny Mullen, from Livingston.
Last 6 League results:
One win in the past 9 League games and no clean sheets since the middle of October are just 2 of the issues facing Dunfermline before a visit to the division's second top team tomorrow. Last week's humiliation at home to Queen of the South saw the team line up with several players being played out of position and a starting formation that was so unsuited to that particular game, that the manager changed it before half time and substituted his only natural central midfielder, both after 35 minutes. The drop in form of some of Allan Johnston's "mainstays", including Callum Morris, Lee Ashcroft, Kallum Higginbotham and Nat Wedderburn, has resulted in performances and results plummeting. A shallow squad, which was trimmed so much that the subs bench could not be filled in the past month, has insufficient quality to replace the recognised first picks, and so the team has remained largely the same, with some tweaks here and there. The January transfer window cannot come quickly enough and it has to be wondered why the emergency loan system has not been utilised when there is such a glaring problem in midfield especially.
Tomorrow's game calls for a return to a more pragmatic system, and I went over possible formations and line-ups in yesterday's article, which can be viewed here. I would start with Lewis Martin in a defensive (not central) midfield role would expect Nat Wedderburn not to start, after his recent sub standard displays. Fraser Aird is overdue a start, and I have selected him as part of a more compact 3 man central midfield. As noted above, the Pars are still the division's top scoring team, and so if recent defensive errors can be eliminated, there is still reason to believe that the team has enough goals in it to win the game.
Preferred starting 11, based on comments above:
Lewis Martin photo and Jack Ross edit both by Pars Review.
Match report/option with photos will be posted here around 9.00pm tomorrow evening.