A poor season ended in a predictable whimper yesterday with the Pars team going down to yet another defeat, saved from automatic relegation by 3 points, having gained 1 point from the final 8 League games. No one will be sad to see the back of this season, which began with much promise but had fallen apart months ago, with a collection of empty shirts taking the field, playing a style of football that was awful to watch. Even with nothing to fear yesterday, we played with one up front, with only Kallum Higginbotham emerging with any credit.
Line-up and formation
Ryan Scully (virus) was replaced by Cammy Gill, starting a League game for the first time for Dunfermline. Also making his first League start was Stuart Morrison, in a defensive midfield role (where he has played the past few reserve matches), as James Vincent had picked up an injury in training during the week. Morrison, who has played mainly as a centre half for the reserves, was joined by Lewis Martin, making his first start in a competitive game this season. Danny Devine was deployed at right back, meaning we began the game with 5 central defenders on the pitch, 3 of them playing out of position. Kallum Higginbotham came back into the team on the left wing, with James Craigen and Ryan Blair in central midfield, and Louis Longridge on the left. Bruce Anderson, whose previous appearances as a lone striker have seen him isolated and ineffective, was up front on his own, a tactic destined to fail.
Starting 11, in a 4-1-4-1 formation:
Hosts Inverness were already secure in the top 4, but looking for a win to overtake third placed Ayr United and so gain home advantage for the second leg of the play-off quarter final. Not surprisingly, the game lacked any real competitive edge, with one set of players looking ahead to the play-offs and the other towards a beach. Kallum Higginbotham has had a frustrating season but can never be accused of lacking effort, and he was by far the team's best performer yesterday, playing to a higher standard than in recent months, and unlucky not to score when his shot from the inside left position was tipped round the post by Inverness keeper Mark Ridgers. Higgy also showed some effective trickery on the wing, sending in crosses that no one took advantage of.
In stark contrast, Ryan Blair in midfield looked completely disinterested. Louis Longridge was another figure who contributed nothing. Even the squad of 2014/15, who finished seventh in league 1, provided more effort and goals than this collection of hoaxers. They have not been aided by the negative approach from the dug out, and we end the season with less goals scored at home than any other team in the whole SPFL. We have failed to score in 6 of our last 8 games.
The game's only goal came in the 35th minutes after errors by Morrison and Gill. Morrison's pass back to his keeper was at chest height and Gill's attempt to chest the ball down fell to Nathan Austin, who had the simple task of shooting into an unguarded net.
I take no pleasure in writing critical reports. Football is something to look forward to all week, a break from real life, win, lose or draw. The standard of play this season will surely not be repeated in 2019/20. We need spirit and attacking intent and a new set of players with a stronger mentality. The manager has to set his team up to win, not to contain. His summer rebuild will dictate his future, and that of the club.
The latest in a long line of non-performances. This season cannot end quickly enough - there is nothing left to expect from this group of players and it is only through other results going our way yesterday that prevented next week's final game, at Inverness, becoming a relegation decider.
This type of football will drive people away - it is not worth the time or money. We can only hope that Stevie Crawford has different tactics in mind for next season, and even with a new group of players never reverts back to this eye-gouging approach to the game, trying to grind out results, and largely failing.
Line-up and formation
With a point required (if results in other games were not favourable) to avoid finishing in ninth or tenth place, the team lined up with 3 central defenders and James Vincent restored to midfield. Myles Hippolyte replaced Faissal El Bakhtaoui up front.
Starting 11, in a 3-5-2 formation:
Myles Hippolyte had a couple of first half chances, crated mainly through his own efforts, but his final shot on both occasions were wayward, one ending up at the corner flag. Morton, meanwhile, were offering no threat, with nothing to fear in attack, and struggling to put 3 passes together.
The first half ended goalless, as has been the case far too often at East End Park this season.
The second half was no better in terms of quality. Both teams, plus the officials, were awful. A point seemed to be enough for both sides, and although the half time scores would have seen both Alloa and Partick move to within a point (in Alloa's case) and go above (Partick Thistle) both Dunfermline and Morton, the second half saw both those teams go onto lose their games, and secure Dunfermline's place in the division. Morton would also have remained 2 points ahead ahead of Alloa and Queen of the South, and 5 clear of Falkirk, even if they had lost. In a rare attack, they were awarded a penalty in the 84th minute after Hippolyte pushed Greg Kiltie in the back. Kiltie scored from the spot to lift his team into fifth place and safety.
Ten minutes before the game's only goal, Jackson Longridge received a second yellow card to end the season ingloriously with an early walk back to the dressing room.
There was no hint of Dunfermline getting an equaliser, despite the importance of the players doing their bit and getting the result that they needed, not being aware that other teams were doing them a favour.
The team trudged off at the end - this was the final home game of the season but there was no traditional trading of applause to and from the fans. No one was in the mood and it would have been farcical.
We have no right to expect success but we have every right to expect better that this.
A youthful Pars reserve team played their final SPFL Reserve League match of the season yesterday afternoon, losing 3-1 to Hibernian. The game was a home fixture for Dunfermline, played at Kelty Hearts' New Central Park ground. The team lined up as follows:
Cammy Gill, Josh Robertson, Thomas Bragg, Gregor Jordan, Paul Brown; Lewis Crosbie, Stuart Morrison, Paul Allan, Lewis Sawers; Callum Smith, Lewis McCann.
The young Pars team had captain Stuart Morrison in midfield instead of his more familiar central defensive role, with no players aged over 21. Hibs' line up included striker Oli Shaw, who had featured as a substitute the day before in the Premiership game against Celtic, and Lewis Allan, who played 8 games for Dunfermline in season 2014-15, on loan from Hibs.
Hibs went ahead with a goal just before half time, when Ryan Shanley nutmegged Pars keeper Cammy Gill. The Pars equalised in the 51st minute when left back Paul Brown struck a well-placed effort beyond Maciej Dabrowski in the Hibs goal. You can see the Pars' goal on the Pars Review Twitter page - link here.
Hibs went onto score a further 2 goals to retain their place at the top of the reserve league. They have completed their fixtures and are level on points with second placed Rangers and third placed Celtic, both of whom play their final games next week.
This was a good test for Greg Shields' young team. Without any experienced first team fringe players, it was always going to be a difficult test against a strong Hibs team. The reserves play their final game of the season on Tuesday next week, travelling to Stark's Park to take on Raith Rovers in the Fife Cup Final.
Here are some photos from yesterday's match:
A disjointed display with no drive, inventiveness or energy. A win, would (almost laughably) have kept us in with a chance of fourth place but the defeat means we can still be drawn into a relegation battle. Did anyone tell the players?
Already missing Joe Thomson and Tom Beadling through injury, the Pars squad was also without Danny Devine and James Vincent, both of whom were injured in training during the week. Robbie Muirhead also dropped out of the squad, to the disappointment of no one.
Ryan Williamson was brought back into the starting 11 at right back with James Craigen shifting to right midfield. Mark Durnan replaced Devine in central defence, while fit-again Louis Longridge started in left midfield. Lewis McCann was back in the squad on the subs bench.
Starting 11; Craigen and Todd alternated positions until Todd was substituted.
As noted above, there was a slim chance of still being involved in the promotion play-offs prior to this game, and with fourth place Inverness losing their game, a Pars win would have kept the faint hopes of a top 4 place alive. Points were also required to stave off any relegation fears. It would take a particular sequence of results for Dunfermline to be overtaken by the clubs below us, or at least all but one meaning a relegation play-off. This is a quite ridiculous situation for the team to find themselves in - the direct consequence of a run of results that has now extended to 1 draw and 5 defeats in the past six games.
Hosts Queen of the South had also been on a poor run, with just 1 win and 3 draws in their past 12 League games, losing 8. They were also without 40 goal striker Stephen Dobbie. Despite this, Queens began the game in attacking mode, forcing Ryan Scully to make an excellent save from a Josh Todd header. The Pars defence looked hesitant but Queens were unable to take advantage. By the midway point in the first half, the game had descended into one misplaced pass after another, punts up the park, and very little quality on display.
Just as it seemed as though the game would be goalless at the break, Queens midfielder Iain Wilson struck a shot beyond Scully to put the home side ahead. The halftime whistle blew seconds later.
The second half began with the home side pressing for a second goal. Josh Todd had an effort that went just wide but the same player was more successful in the 52nd minute, running through the middle of the Pars defence and placing the ball past Scully. Non-existent defending but a well-taken goal.
The hoped-for reaction never came from a dispirited looking Pars side. Faissal El Bakhtaoui was replaced by Myles Hippolyte and although there were half chances for Bruce Anderson and Matty Todd, Queens also came close to extending their lead with efforts from Lydon Dykes and Josh Todd.
With the referee finding a sixth minute of injury time, the Pars scored what was to be a consolation goal when Jackson Longridge headed in from a Ryan Blair corner. As soon as Queens kicked off, the final whistle was blown. Longridge's goal means that the left back is now our joint top scorer in all competitions this season.
One word summary: lifeless
Ryan Scully Helpless with either goal and made a good first half save. Let down badly by his defence. 6
Ryan Williamson Constantly allowed his opponent to get past him, booked, no threat going forward. 4
Mark Durnan Back in the starting 11 for the injured Danny Devine. Marginally the better of our two central defenders on the day. 5
Lee Ashcroft No pace, poor positional sense, sclaffing clearances. 4
Jackson Longridge Given a hard time by former Par Andy Stirling, eventually being booked. Late goal but not one of his better games. 5
James Craigen Anonymous. 4
Matty Todd More energy than the rest of the midfield combined. Shows promise. 5
Louis Longridge Slows play down by his inability or unwillingness to take players on and run with the ball. 4
Faissal El Bakhtaoui A sad sight. Ineffective and a shadow of the player he used to be. 3
Bruce Anderson Lacked a clinical finish with a couple of decent half chances. 5
Myles Hippolyte Started up front then moved left late in the game. Made little impact . 4
Kallum Higginbotham At least showed some enthusiasm which was lacking from almost all of his team mates. Played one excellent pass down the wing which Williamson allowed to go off his shin and out of play. 5.5
Lewis McCann On for the final quarter of an hour. 5
Even with almost a full day between the final whistle yesterday and writing this article today, I still feel completely disillusioned with the current squad and style of football that we are witnessing. The players let the club, the fans and themselves down yesterday. This is not revisionism - during the 5 game winning run of a few weeks ago, I praised certain elements of each game but also said that the quality of football was poor. What we are seeing now is awful football with no end product.
There has to be a complete clear out this summer and while I realise it's not as simple as just ''getting rid'' of players, there has to be something done, for to go into another season with more than half a dozen of this squad is just asking for a repeat of what we have seen this season.
I apologise for the briefness and reduced format of this report but I have had enough of caring about this shower. I will be at the next game and hope to see a better performance. I could write a lot more but what does it achieve?
After a series of games that were characterised by dour, defensive displays with little to enthuse over, yesterday's match at Firhill produced a much more open contest, with Dunfermline adopting a more attacking formation than of late and going 2 goals ahead, but eventually having to settle for a point. Both teams had much to play for at different ends of the table - the Pars aiming for a late charge at the top 4 and a promotion play-off place, while hosts Thistle require points to avoid taking part in the wrong set of play-offs at the lower end of the Championship.
James Craigen started at rightback, with Ryan Williamson dropping to the bench. 17 year old Matty Todd made his first start, after 3 appearances as a substitute. Ryan Blair replaced the injured Joe Thomson in midfield, while Faissal El Bakhtaoui started a game for the first time in over 2 months, up front with Bruce Anderson, with Louis Longridge - last week's secondary striker - moving to left midfield in place of Kallum Higginbotham.
The team lined up in a 4-4-2 formation, with much more attacking intent than last week's 4-1-3-1-1.
Starting lineup & formation:
The last time the Pars surrendered a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2, manager Allan Johnston was sacked 2 days later. There will be no such repercussions for Stevie Crawford but he will have seen much that has to change and improve in his team if we are to achieve promotion next season. The opening half hour was almost entirely dominated by Dunfermline, and the team were able to convert their domination into goals. The first Pars goal was scored in the 10th minute by Tom Beadling, who took a pass from Louis Longridge, and skillfully out-thought 2 Thistle defenders before lashing the ball past Conor Hazard in the Thistle goal.
Bruce Anderson made it 2-0 after 24 minutes, hooking a first time shot from a Louis Longridge corner kick beyond Hazard, for his 5th goal in 9 appearances for the Pars since joining on loan from Aberdeen. Anderson could then have made it 3-0 after excellent play from Faissal El Bakhtaoui, who outpaced his marker and laid the ball on for Anderson, who unfortunately underhit his shot.
Thistle gained a foothold in the game in the 31st minute when Scott McDonald's hard-driven cross hit Ryan Blair a yard out and found the net. It was an unavoidable own goal and gave Thistle hope when it seemed as though the game was slipping away from them.
There were opportunities early in the second half to regain the 2 goal lead - Lee Ashcroft missed a sitter when heading wide, then Ryan Blair's 30 yard free kick, bound for the top corner, was tipped over by Hazard.
What followed after that was sadly typical of much of Dunfermline's season. Lack of leadership and disorganisation in central defence lead to Thistle putting a series of balls into the Pars' penalty box, with no one taking charge, causing Ryan Scully to block a couple of attempts and then concede an equaliser when a ball from Miles Storey took a slight deflection off James Craigen, leaving Danny Devine floundering and Scott McDonald the grateful recipient, scoring from the inside left position into the corner of the net. Tom Beadling then almost scored an own goal when he skelped a clearance just wide of Scully's goal. Ashcroft and Devine were then joined by Beadling in a 3 man central defence, a change which told its own story.
Substitute Myles Hippolyte then had a chance to win the game, but he couldn't get enough contact on a flighted free kick from Ryan Blair to trouble Hazard.
A win would have kept our promotion hopes alive but in truth, we are nowhere near ready for top flight football. There were positive aspects in moments yesterday but the need for a summer overhaul was once again confirmed during the second half. On-field leadership is needed.
Ryan Scully 6 A couple of good blocks but looked vulnerable at times.
James Craigen 6 Decent game at fullback before moving to midfield during the second half.
Danny Devine 4 Indecisive performance and looked very nervy.
Lee Ashcroft 4 Not a captain: missed a chance from a few yards out and floundered in defence.
Jackson Longridge 6.5 The best of the back 4, strong in the tackle.
Matty Todd 5.5 Enthusiastic debut but lack of experience showed at times.
Tom Beadling 6 Expert finish for his goal and ended the game helping out in defence.
Ryan Blair 5 Dead ball expert but needs to show similar quality in open play.
Louis Longridge 5.5 Two assists yet was otherwise poor, giving away possession regularly.
Faissal El Bakhtaoui 6 Opening half hour was man of the match quality but faded as the game went on.
Bruce Anderson 6.5 Scored a very well-taken goal and looked much more of a threat with a striking partner playing alongside him instead of 15 yards behind.
Subs used: Ryan Williamson, Myles Hippolyte, Lewis McCann
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A week that began with so much promise ended with a second consecutive 1-0 home defeat to a top 4 rival. As in Tuesday's loss to Dundee United, the team performed much to the same level as in the recent 5 game winning run. Those victories lifted us briefly into fourth place but could not be sustained due to a basic lack of quality.
Ryan Williamson and James Vincent replaced James Craigen and Ryan Blair in the starting 11, with Kallum Higginbotham moving from right to left midfield. The formation, with Louis Longridge playing behind Bruce Anderson, left the main striker isolated, a poor choice of tactics playing at home in a must win game. There was insufficient support from midfield and we rarely looked like scoring.
The formation switched to 4-4-2 in the second half, with Higginbotham playing alongside Anderson, before Faissal El Bakhtaoui came off the bench to add some spark to our attack. Other subs used were James Craigen for the injured Joe Thomson - we can only hope his injury was not as serious as it appeared - and later in the game, Matty Todd for James Vincent.
Starting lineup & formation:
With the exception of a late flurry of activity in the Ayr penalty box, this was a must-win game that lacked any attacking thrust from a Pars team that will now see out the season safe from relegation but now highly unlikely to be in contention for a promotion play-off place. There is an argument that we are nowhere near ready for top division football - we will require a squad overhaul this summer for next season's Championship, never mind a rebuild for the Premiership.
Ayr United began the game with only 2 League wins in 2019 but looked the better of the 2 sides in the opening period. Michael Moffat missed a chance to capitalise on poor Pars defending and then Lawrence Shankland failed to convert a half chance inside the penalty box. The game's only goal came after 31 minutes, and just as with Dundee United's goal 3 days ago, the Dunfermline defence allowed an opponent to run, unchallenged, and finish. This time it was Declan McDaid who took advantage, with his shot finding its way past Ryan Scully who seemed distracted by Shankland.
Joe Thomson, who seemed to run off an injury early in the game, then fell to the ground near half time and had to be stretchered off, a very sad moment for the popular player.
The second half formation change, mentioned above, did not lead to any goal chances but the introduction of Faissal El Bakhtaoui, replacing Kallum Higginbotham, at least gave the Pars' attack some much-needed energy. Faissal flicked on a ball for Danny Devine to hook over the bar, and also had a chance himself but chose to shoot from a tight angle instead of passing.
Late in the game, there were a handful of chances for Dunfermline, two of which fell to Louis Longridge, whose first touch let him down and then who got a shot in a minute later but hit the keeper. Other chances came and went but it was too little, too late.
We now have six games for the manager to continue to assess the group of players and perhaps give game time to fringe players. Summer recruitment is vital and we must bring in players with more creativity and attacking prowess. Stevie Crawford has utilised the current squad in the best way he sees fit but the defensive approach is often awful to watch and will surely not be repeated next season once many of the present squad are gone and replaced.
Ryan Scully 5.5 Not entirely blameless for the goal.
Ryan Williamson 5 Poor defensively, culpable for the goal, some good overlaps in the second half.
Danny Devine 5.5 A mixture of a goal saving block and showing great desire to get a goal, to moments of shaky defending.
Lee Ashcroft 5.5 Solid enough but not the inspirational figure we need as captain.
Jackson Longridge 6 The best of the back 4 and a player we need to hold onto this summer.
Tom Beadling 5 Needs to have a much bigger influence in games.
Joe Thomson 6 Suffered what appeared to be a serious injury, a real shame for the team's driving force from midfield.
James Vincent 4 Desperately poor game.
Kallum Higginbotham 4 Misplaced flicks, no goal threat, no assists. Could be Higgy's final start.
Louis Longridge 4 Failed to take 2 great chances late in the game and was ineffective for most of the game.
Bruce Anderson 5.5 Left to fight a lone battle for much of the game.
James Craigen - one of our better players, came on and did reasonably well in right midfield.
Faissal El Bakhtaoui - made an impact but lacked end product.
Matty Todd - given the final 15 minutes and could be set to feature more in the coming weeks.
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Dunfermline's five game winning run ended with old foes Dundee United once again coming out on top against us, in a game that saw the Pars start brightly but fade after the only goal was scored, before rallying towards the end but failing to find the net.
The disappointment felt at the final whistle was a consequence of the team's progress over the past few games and how expectations have risen. This loss, while a setback, makes Friday's match against Ayr United all the more important as we enter the final few weeks of the season.
Stevie Crawford selected the same team that started last time out against Alloa 2 and a half weeks ago. One significant change on the substitutes bench was the return from injury of Faissal El Bakhtaoui.
The team lined up in a 4-1-3-1-1 formation, with Tom Beadling in defensive midfield. Kallum Higginbotham, Joe Thomson and Ryan Blair formed a midfield 3 - occasionally becoming 4 when Louis Longridge dropped back from his left sided role, playing behind lone striker Bruce Anderson.
The solid run of results that spanned 5 matches, all won with no goals conceded, was built on a strong defensive foundation but after a positive start to the game - Ryan Blair fizzing a cross into the box that had no takers, which was followed by a few other half chances that lacked either a killer final pass, or a clinical finish - the Pars defence showed signs of vulnerability. James Craigen gave away possession and was fortunate not to be punished for the error, while centrally, United were testing Lee Ashcroft and Danny Devine, who both looked uncomfortable. The game's only goal came in the 24th minute when Peter Pawlett was allowed to run, unchallenged, and slot the ball past Ryan Scully. ''Goals change games'' is an old adage and this was certainly the case after United scored. The visitors took great heart from their goal while the Pars' play became increasingly disjointed. Scully made 2 good reaction saves and there were other chances for Pavol Safranko and Calum Butcher.
Halftime came as a relief, a chance to regroup and regain the composure that had been such an important facet of the team's displays of late.
The second half was an improvement over the final 20 minutes of the first period. The team pressed continuously for an equaliser but too often some good build up play ended with an overhit cross, or a ball being played into a dangerous area with no one on the end to convert. United were still a threat on breakaways but as the minutes ticked by, the team's old failing of lack of goals proved to be the barrier between deserving an equaliser and actually getting one.
Frustration greeted the final whistle; this was an opportunity missed and was a game that highlighted how far we have come, and also how far we still have to go to fully realise our ambitions.
Ryan Scully 7 Two excellent first half saves and a solid game from the keeper, despite his long period without conceding coming to an end.
James Craigen 6 Shaky defensive work in the first period but improved in the second half in an attacking sense.
Danny Devine 5.5 Battled away but was well below the standard he has set in recent games.
Lee Ashcroft 5.5 Lack of pace was evident at times and will not be happy with his part in United's goal.
Jackson Longridge 7 One of the team's best attacking outlets and has is returning to his early season form.
Tom Beadling 6 One crucial first half interception to save United breaking through after a Craigen error.
Kallum Higginbotham 5 No denying how keen he is to impress but this was another game when little went right for Higgy.
Joe Thomson 5.5 Joe's least effective game for a while. Energetic as usual but did little of note creatively.
Ryan Blair 5 Disappointing performance. Dead ball delivery decent but didn't offer much in general play.
Louis Longridge 5 A couple of good runs but generally looked heavy legged.
Bruce Anderson 6 Isolated up front and failed to get on the end of balls played into the box. Not his best game.
Subs used: Faissal El Bakhtaoui, Matty Todd, Myles Hippolyte
Another win, another clean sheet - our fifth consecutive winning game with no goals conceded, with 4 of those victories coming with a 1-0 scoreline. It's a testament to the organisation installed in the team by the manager and his assistants. As Sir Alex Ferguson said in his book 'Leading': ''We had to be sure our system was deeply ingrained. Before you can field a great team, you have to be organised.'' Organised is exactly what we are - the players work tirelessly for each other and are patient in the belief that a chance will come. Thankfully, Stevie Crawford identified and was able to bring in a natural goalscorer in Bruce Anderson, who just as in previous games was there to score the required goal. 1-0 wins are becoming our trademark and long may it continue.
There were 2 changes to last week's starting 11: fit-again Jackson Longridge at left back, while his brother Louis replaced injured Aidan Connolly in the number 10 role. The midfield diamond was replaced by 4 across the middle. This is how the team lined up, in a 4-4-1-1 formation:
Pre-match weather forecasts predicted hail and while that did not materialise, the game was played in high winds and a chilly temperature. Alloa's ridiculously narrow pitch, combined with the wind, was not conducive to good football, and the first half - as is the norm in our games these days - passed by with barely anything of note happening. Alloa did have an early penalty appeal when an uncharacteristic error from James Craigen - his header back to Ryan Scully lacking strength - saw the Pars keeper collide with Alloa forward Dario Zanatta, whose appeals were waved away by referee Euan Anderson. Occasional Pars' efforts were high and wide of the Alloa goal.
The second half was an improvement on the opening 45 minutes. The team's discipline and shape was solid enough in the first half but they added a little more creativity after halftime, which saw the only goal being scored by Bruce Anderson in the 53rd minute. Alloa centre half Andy Graham, who had an otherwise solid game, was flummoxed by Anderson's movement in the box, with the Pars striker quicker and nippier than his opponent, finding space and slotting the ball coolly past Alloa keeper Neil Parry. Anderson is a born goal poacher, a huge asset for any team.
The wind continued to chill the bones of the fans inside the old ground. It was largely pointless playing with any width due to the narrowness of the pitch. The manager, who is proving to be a master pragmatist, replaced Kallum Higginbotham with James Vincent, moving Louis Longridge to left midfield, flooding the centre of the park and squeezing out the opposition. Alloa pushed for an equaliser - Louis Longridge had to head away an Andy Graham header that could have brought the game level, then Ryan Scully was required to save a shot from Zanatta.
Myles Hipployte was brought on in place of Anderson but in his brief cameo seemed cumbersome, not taking advantage of 2 breakaway opportunities.
The win keeps us in the top 4 and with Dundee United up next, at EEP on Saturday, the momentum continues to build. This report began with a quote from Sir Alex Ferguson, who I will also give the final word to; his thoughts seem to be shared by our own management team, proving that regardless of the club, or level, the same principles apply:
''Often our victories came after we had drained the life from our opponents. Games are all about waiting for chances and then pouncing on them. I always felt that our triumphs were an expression of the consistent application of discipline. The work of a team should always embrace a great player but the great player must always work.''
Ryan Scully 7.5 Rarely called upon but did produce one good, instinctive second half save.
James Craigen 7 A little sloppy early on but settled down into his usual steady game.
Danny Devine 8 Very vocal, first to almost every challenge. My man of the match.
Lee Ashcroft 7.5 Solid and determined - looking much more like the player from last season.
Jackson Longridge 7.5 A quality player who makes the game look easy, as all good players do.
Joe Thomson 7 Used in right midfield, and along with the central defenders is our driving force.
Tom Beadling 7 An important part of Stevie Crawford's system: works hard for the team.
Ryan Blair 7 Had a quieter game after his man of the match display last week but was tidy in possession and always handy at set pieces.
Kallum Higginbotham 6.5 While Higgy's discipline has improved, his creativity has waned. We need more out of him.
Louis Longridge 7 Still appears to be building up match fitness. An intelligent player who also did his bit defensively, heading away a goal-bound Alloa effort in the second half.
Bruce Anderson 7.5 One real chance=one goal. Bruce has a goalscorer's instinct and has been a crucial addition to the team.
Fourth place, 4 consecutive wins and 4 cleans sheets in a row: the Pars' revival continued yesterday with another 3 points, in a game that the team truly did earn their victory. This was the epitome of grinding out a win: a determination to secure a positive result saw us through, surviving multiple stramashes in the final 10 minutes. This was teamwork at its best even when the quality of football wasn't always what the players are capable of.
Stevie Crawford brought Aidan Connolly back into the starting lineup, replacing Louis Longridge, whose brother Jackson was a substitute after missing the last 2 games through injury. The initial formation was a diamond with Joe Thomson at its attacking tip and Kallum Higginbotham playing just behind Bruce Anderson up front. However, this soon changed to the 4-1-4-1 formation shown below, which solidified the midfield but left Anderson isolated.
Starting 11 and formation:
Stevie Crawford's January transfer dealings continue to impress, together with revitalised performances from players inherited from the previous manager. After Bruce Anderson's 2 goals against Partick Thistle in midweek, this time it was Ryan Scully and Ryan Blair, the other 2 players in the trio of January arrivals, who made telling contributions to this victory which was the definition of hard fought.
In a strong wind and with rain whipping round the stadium, Dunfermline had the first chance of the game when Kallum Higginbotham was unable to convert from close range after 3 minutes. Opponents Queens had Stephen Dobbie orchestrating play, and ex-Par Fraser Aird on the left wing. It was Aird who came closest to scoring for the away side in the first half when, after 16 minutes, he cut inside and had a shot from distance that was well held by Ryan Scully.
Seven minutes later, Dunfermline almost took the lead when Ryan Blair's perfectly executed free kick brought out an excellent save from Alan Martin in the Queens' goal. Blair's next involvement saw him yellow carded for pulling back Aird in what could otherwise have been a dangerous breakaway. Bruce Anderson then had a chance but didn't connect properly with his shot. The half ended goalless and without much for the purist to enthuse over.
The second half began with both teams battling hard but with little guile on display. The Pars' chance to record a win that would move us up to fourth place on a day when no other Championship games were taking place seemed to be ebbing away until, with 16 minutes remaining, the game's only goal came. Substitute Jackson Longridge played the ball to Ryan Blair and from 20 yards the midfielder drilled a shot past Martin. The ball was struck with pinpoint accuracy and the scorer was mobbed by his team mates in front of the Norrie McCathie stand.
Referee Gavin Duncan then made a strange decision, only booking Darren Brownlie when the defender put a forearm across Bruce Anderson just when the Dunfermline striker was about to get past him and have a run in on goal. It seemed a certain red, for the foul itself plus the use of the arm but a yellow card was shown.
Queens then made 3 substitutions and threw everything into attack. Former Par Andy Stirling hit a shot over the bar and Lyndon Dykes' on target effort was booted away by Louis Longridge. Bruce Anderson then had a chance to double Dunfermline's lead but headed straight at Martin. With the visitors pressing, the Pars broke upfield and from Anderson's pass, Louis Longridge ran in on goal. From a few yards out, a goal seemed inevitable but Longridge's attempt at dinking the ball over the out-rushing Queens' keeper went wide of the post.
Only a few minutes remained and the home goal was now under siege. Scully came out to claim a high punt into the box, taking out opponents plus Danny Devine in the process of making sure the ball was his. The Pars keeper then made a superb save from Barry Maguire's header. Stephen Dobbie had a shot deflected over and there were a few stramashes inside the Pars' penalty box. The final few minutes were nerve-shredding and the has rarely been a more welcome sound than that of referee Duncan's final whistle.
For someone who was such a cultured attacking player, Stevie Crawford is proving to be a supreme pragmatist as a manager. We are becoming adept at winning games through sheer hard work as opposed to playing open, expansive football. The manager is working with what he has, in addition to the good signings he made in January. Ultimately, he has found a recipe for achieving positive results, in much the same way as Livingston did last season. Long may it continue.
Ryan Scully 8 Became more involved as the game went on, proving his worth in a hectic last 10 minutes with one excellent save and several confident catches, including a plow through a ruck of players to grab the ball when the team were under pressure.
Ryan Williamson 6 A few heavy touches when in good attacking positions characterised his afternoon.
Danny Devine 7 Part of a backline that stood up to late Queens' pressure. Continues to impress, doing basic defending more than capably.
Lee Ashcroft 7 Aside from a continuing tendency to slide attempted clearances, the captain combined with Devine to block and clear several opposition attacks as the game went on.
James Craigen 7 Never lets the team down and proved his versatility again by starting at left back and ending the game in midfield after Jackson Longridge was brought on.
Tom Beadling 7 A good shift in the defensive midfield role, doing a lot of work that often goes unseen.
Kallum Higginbotham 6 Briefly played in attack before a formation switch saw him move to the right wing. Full of good intentions but it's not really clicking for Higgy these days.
Joe Thomson 7 Great attitude and a real team player. Continued to chase the opposition down even in injury time.
Ryan Blair 8.5 My man of the match: a first half free kick that was tipped over, top quality delivery from corner kicks, and a very well taken goal.
Aidan Connolly 6 Did a job for the team. A determined wee character.
Bruce Anderson 7 Had two chances to score, one in each half, and was crudely taken out when about to run through on goal; needs more support however - too often isolated.
Subs used: Louis Longridge (59 minutes), Jackson Longridge (68), Mark Durnan (89).