SPFL Championship - Friday 26/01/18 - East End Park - KO 7.45pm
Friday night football at EEP as top of the table Saints visit
A gap of 15 points separates Dunfermline and leaders St Mirren, with the Pars having a game in hand. Whether the points differential can be closed is debatable but 3 points this evening would help Dunfermline's play-off hopes, with a host of clubs lurking below and little to separate third from seventh place in the table once all clubs have played an equal number of fixtures.
Here is the current Championship table:
THE OPPOSITION: ST MIRREN
Last 6 League results:
Although not the most flamboyant team to have topped the Championship table in the past few seasons, St Mirren have shown a determination to win games, often by the odd goal - of their last 6 wins in the League, 4 have come by one goal and the other 2 by 2 goals. They rarely demolish teams with a a flood of goals but are a very effective unit.
The signs were there last season: a January transfer window clear-out by manager Jack Ross led to his team rising from bottom of the table to eventual safety, gathering points at almost the same rate as they have done this season. Central to Saints' success has been the outstanding form of Lewis Morgan, who signed for Celtic this month and was immediately loaned back to St Mirren for the remainder of this season. Another player who has made a big contribution this season is former Pars loanee Gavin Reilly, who scored 2 goals for Dunfermline last season but who has already scored 21 times for Saints this season. If there was ever a case of a move to a new club reigniting a player's career, it is that of Reilly, who had a woeful time with Dunfermline but who is now the top scorer of the Championship's title favourites.
Some other facts about St Mirren this season:
They are currently on a 7 match unbeaten run and have lost just once since the first week of November
They have failed to score in just 3 of their 21 League games this season
Midfielder Ian McShane has most assists for Saints this season (11)
Last 6 League results:
Dunfermline take on the Championship leaders knowing that a win is essential to retain any faint hope of challenging for the title. With a 15 point gap between the teams, only the most supremely optimistic Pars fan may still be holding onto hopes of topping the division by the end of the season. Dunfermline do have a game in hand and have a further trip to Paisley on 10 March; the gap could be reduced to 6 points after that date but more realistically, a top 4 finish will be Allan Johnston's aim from now until the end of April.
Unbeaten in 4 League games, conceding just 1 goal in that period, Dunfermline have begun the third quarter of the season in the same way they started the first quarter. New signings have been added to the squad - Lee Robinson and James Craigen - while Allan Johnston has stated that he hopes to have at least 2 further new players signed before the transfer window closes next Wednesday.
Craigen will almost certainly start this evening, adding energy to the team and combining in midfield with Nat Wedderburn (who I would like to see in a defensive midfield role), Dean Shiels and Michael Paton. Joe Cardle is suspended. I feel that midfield will be the key to the outcome of this game; St Mirren have the division's best player in midfielder Lewis Morgan, alongside captain Stephen McGinn.
As always on Pars Review, the lead-up to our next game began with the "Onto The Next One" feature, which was posted yesterday.The article goes into detail about the possible team formation, tactics and line up for the game. Rather than repeat the content of that article, it can be read here.
Preferred starting 11, based on comments above and in the Onto The Next One article:
Nat Wedderburn photo and Jack Ross edit both by Pars Review.
Edits by Ben Crawford.
Match report/option with photos will be posted here around 11.00pm tomorrow evening.