Pars aim to bounce back after Greenock second half shocker
SPFL Championship - Saturday 16 September 2017 - East End Park - KO 3.00pm
The Championship's top 2 face each other tomorrow, with St Mirren having leapfrogged Dunfermline into first place following the Pars' second half goals giveaway at Cappielow last week. St Mirren go into the game full of confidence, while Dunfermline's players will have to show far more resilience than they did in the second 45 minutes against Morton. With fellow promotion hopefuls Falkirk and Dundee United playing each other - Falkirk are still included in that category despite a poor start to the season - there are 3 highly significant points to be won tomorrow at East End Park.
"We have a winning mentality. We're just going to keep coming at teams relentlessly - if we defend well, then we have the ability to devastate teams. We have quite a few flair players who can really damage teams. We know to give them the ball and let them work their magic. There's definitely a ruthless attitude among the lads."
Those are the words of St Mirren defender Adam Eckersley, speaking to the Evening Times on Tuesday. Football history is full of strong statements that often back-fire in the next game, resulting in the old saying, "do your talking on the park". However, there is clearly a great deal of confidence in the St Mirren squad, formed out of an escape from relegation last season that at one point seemed highly unlikely, followed by going top of the Championship last week.
The 3-4-2-1 formation used by manager Jack Ross has been very effective this season, with Lewis Morgan and Cammy Smith playing just behind Gavin Reilly. Morgan and Smith are highly rated, while Reilly, such a flop in his season-long loan at Dunfermline in 2016/17, has scored 8 goals in 11 appearances this season, 4 times as many as he managed in 28 games for the Pars.
Tomorrow's game will be Dunfermline's biggest test of the League campaign so far. Another challenge will be how the Pars players react to the second half collapse at Cappielow last week. Gifting goals to Morton, and losing the game in added on time after being 2-0 ahead at half time, seemed to rattle the players and they need to approach tomorrow's game with the same attitude that they showed at Tynecastle in the League Cup, and against Falkirk in the first half of last month's League game. Allan Johnston must also get a full 90 minutes from his team - a familiar pattern in recent weeks has been a quick start followed by a sluggish second half, which, until the Morton game, did not impact on the result, despite warning signs.
With Michael Paton the only injured player, Johnston will probably give the same team the chance to redeem themselves. Jason Talbot, who had to be substituted with a head injury when the team were winning at Morton, is fit to return. Most of the team still virtually picks itself, with the exception of the forwards, which was covered at length in last week's match preview (goo.gl/yxxHv4). I would keep the same starting 11 but would definitely bring on both Callum Smith and Andy Ryan in the latter stage of the game. Ryan, who was an unused sub last week when Johnston preferred to play David Hopkirk as the final substitute, is a natural goalscorer and is a complete waste left on the bench.
Preferred starting 11, based on comments above:
Allan Johnston photo and Jack Ross edit by Pars Review
Match report/opinion with photos will be posted here around 9.00pm tomorrow evening