Stupidly, I allowed myself to look ahead with optimism after last week's win over Morton. Perhaps the unusualness of a long overdue home win made me lose a sense of perspective and naively believe that we were about to see an improvement in results. Sadly not. After a decent first half, when we hit the bar twice and dominated possession (heard that one before?), we came out in the second half and put in a dire display - long balls to a striker (Faissal) who can't even time a jump, failure to string 3 passes together, a Pars player (Robbie Muirhead) seemingly inviting a fan into the dugout after hearing criticism from the Dunfermline support after being subbed, the captain (Lee Ashcroft) almost selling a goal after getting flummoxed in his penalty box......all features of a terrible second 45 minutes.
The team lineup was unchanged from last week's win but it was obvious, even in a generally good first half - we played well enough despite going into the break 1-0 down - certain players were operating at a level below the previous game. James Vincent and James Craigen, both subbed in the second half, were empty shirts. On a more positive note, the much-maligned Muirhead had an effort from distance that clipped the bar, and also placed a pin-point cross on Danny Devine's head from a corner that also ended in the bar being skelped. Thistle, meanwhile, were playing on the break, and Lee Robinson had a few good blocks. The home side's goal, in the 12th minute, was a well-drilled shot from around 20 yards by Blair Spittal.
Faissal forced Thistle keeper Jamie Sneddon into a great reaction save from a header and we looked forward to the second half, reasonably confident that on the balance of play we would get ourselves back in the game.
The second goal, disputed by the Pars players, came from Miles Storey, when he flicked the ball inside the 6 yard box. Did it cross the line? Hard to tell, but the goal was given. 2-0 down after 56 minutes. Craigen and Vincent were subbed for Tom Beadling and Myles Hippolyte. The latter ran about tugging at Thistle shirts, eventually booked for doing so, and playing into the opposition's hands.
Then at the end, Lee Robinson did what Lee Robinson does - you will see the clip later this evening on Ben's YouTube channel (link here) - when, after Jai Quitongo and Lee Ashcroft fell over each other, Robbo needlessly got himself involved, leaping onto both players and making himself look very foolish - he just can't help himself. And he was our best player.
For the second time in 3 games, we have lost to the team at the bottom of the League. That was Thistle's first win since September 22. As Christmas approaches, we are the gift that keeps on giving - to our opponents.
Well, that was a much more enjoyable Saturday afternoon! Possession and dominance was, at last, added to by goals, with the team scoring more today in 90 minutes than in the previous 7 home League games combined. From the outset, the players were direct, taking shots from distance, making things happen - a vital component that turned what could have been yet another hard luck story into 3 points.
Credit to Allan Johnston for selecting the best team he had available to him - bringing in James Craigen to right midfield and fit-again Aidan Keena up front. Robbie Muirhead started on the left of midfield and the much-maligned player, who has looked unfit and out of sorts for much of his time at East End Park, had a very good game, having a hand in 2 of the 3 goals, using his physique to great effect, looking like a far more effective player than the one we have seen until today.
The opening goal came after just 4 minutes when Robbie Muirhead struck a shot from 22 yards that rattled the post and came back into Andy Ryan territory, finding Aidan Keena, who scored with ease. This obviously settled the team (Morton had a half chance a minute earlier that went by Lee Robinson's post) and their confidence grew. Joe Thomson had a chance to double the lead; Jackson Longridge's header struck a post and from the rebound, Danny Devine's effort hit the bar; Longridge then hit a shot from distance that went narrowly wide; Muirhead continued to press from the left, intent on making an impression and adding an extra dimension to the team's play.
The second goal came a few minutes before the break. Faissal's run into the penalty box was stopped by a crude challenge from ex-Par Gregor Buchanan. A penalty was awarded. James Craigen took the ball but such was Faissal's determination to score his first League goal of the season, the striker took the ball from Craigen and dispatched the penalty kick into the corner of the net.
The second half was more subdued, although Keena had an early chance to score his second goal but after good play could not add the required finish. Morton offered no threat but credit for that must at least partly go to the pressing game that Dunfermline were employing. Tenacious Joe Thomson had a very good game in midfield and every player was working hard to ensure the win would be achieved.
With 5 minutes remaining, a good bustling run from Muirhead ended with Morton keeper Derek Gaston making a save. The ball ran to an inrushing James Craigen who scored the team's third, marking the goal with an exuberant celebration behind the home goal.
Well done to the players and the manager today; this is the level of performance that we know the team are capable of, with that crucial element added: goals.
Another defeat, partly due to the idiocy of one of our most experienced players. The sending off, after Kallum Higginbotham elbowed Stelios Demetriou off the ball in the 15th minute, came with Dunfermline already a goal behind. Ross County had taken a 9th minute lead, when an unmarked Billy McKay scored his 12th goal of the season. This team do not help themselves at times: the double blow obviously impacting the remainder of the game and although technically remaining 'in the game', a loss is a loss.
The manager had 2 weeks to formulate his plans for today's game and he selected a side that lined up 4-5-1, with Higginbotham and Robbie Muirhead on the wings, and Faissal up front alone. The subs bench was not even filled, with numerous injuries depleting the squad, but that cannot be used as an excuse - Ross County also had injuries and were without several first team regulars.
Muirhead, Faissal and James Vincent came into the team, with Andy Ryan and Aidan Connolly (both presumably injured) not even amongst the subs, and Myles Hippolyte dropping to the bench.
After the early drama, the remainder of the first half was fairly even, with the 10-man Pars side at least showing effort and some element of resolve. As always, lack of a cutting edge when half chances presented themselves was an issue but at least the team did not crumble, as many might have feared.
The second half began with Ross Stewart put through on goal but denied by Lee Robinson. Dunfermline then created two chances - a Joe Thomson shot saved by Scott Fox, and a Muirhead header that missed the target.
The home side doubled their lead in the 61st minute through Jamie Lindsay. It was at this point that the manager may have made changes, to freshen up a side that had given much effort but could have benefited by at least one sub replacing a tiring midfield. A Pars goal was to come before any changes were made, when Ross Draper turned the ball into his own net after Fox had pushed out a cross from Faissal, in the 73rd minute.
At that point, Aidan Keena replaced Malaury Martin. The final 2 Pars substitutions were made in the 86th and 89th minutes, which says it all. It may have made no difference to bring on players earlier but under the circumstances it may have been advisable.
The game ended with a 7th defeat in 14 League games. Is it enough just to avoid a hammering? I'll leave that for you to decide.
Thanks to my friends in Aviemore for the hospitality this weekend. Apologies for lack of photos - my son Ben is in Blackpool (booked when this was supposed to be a free weekend, before a fixture change), so no photos or matchday video diary for this game.
Are you sick of watching the same movie over and over again? Because I am - and hearing the same comments after the film finishes. This disgraceful defeat, to a Falkirk team who we could charitably describe as ''better'' than the previous time we played them, only because they were so terrible then, has to be the final time we have to suffer a Pars performance with this guy in charge. He is NOT A MANAGER. He cannot motivate, he cannot make positive game-changing switches - we have now played 7 games in the League at East End Park and have scored 2 goals! And one of those was a gift from a Partick Thistle defender. The other was a consolation goal in a 3-1 defeat by Ross County. Post-match, it's the same bland drivel from him - better team, have to score, etc, etc.
Yes, we started the game well today. Kallum Higginbotham almost scored with a long range shot that was saved. We then should have scored when the rebound fell to Andy Ryan but he fluffed his finish. Joe Thomson then had an effort blocked by a defender. Higginbotham was to be the team's only leader - and best player - and was subbed with 15 minutes remaining. His replacement, Aidan Connolly, spent part of his time playing up front, with Andy Ryan on the right wing. You could not make this stuff up. Meanwhile, The other like-for-like replacement (2 wingers on, 2 off), Robbie Muirhead, on for Myles Hippolyte, proved again what a waste of money his signing has been.
Falkirk hit the bar early in the second half, their only serious goal attempt until their goal later in the game. The goal came in the 71st minute, a 30 yard effort after every Pars player backed off to allow Zak Rudden to shoot. Lee Robinson was slow to react and was a long way from the ball as it went past him.
Then came the subs, mentioned already.
There was an enforced first half substitution when Aidan Keena had to go off injured. Faissal came on, saw Falkirk keeper Fasan make one good save from a second half shot, but spent the rest of the game running about, looking lost, a sad sight.
We can't score and we have handed our biggest rivals only their second win of the season. Time for the board to make the best decision for the club, no matter how much they admire the manager.
A very welcome 3 points and a first victory over Alloa in 3 attempts this season - today's match saw the Pars dominate for long spells but also have a couple of first half escapes when Alloa might have taken the lead. The winning goal was a goal of the season contender from leftback Jackson Longridge, his fourth of the season.
Allan Johnston named an unchanged lineup although James Vincent was fit again and listed among the substitutes. The tight pitch - narrowed to the minimum width under UEFA guidelines - did little to encourage expansive football, which is clearly Alloa's intent this season - to battle and scrap for points.
Dunfermline started well and made Alloa keeper Neil Parry work hard - both Andy Ryan and Aidan Keena forced good saves from Parry early in the game. It was refreshing to see a Pars team have no hesitation in shooting. The home side threatened with a Dario Zanatta header that just missed the target. The Pars continued to press but on a breakaway it seemed certain that Alloa would go ahead after Greig Spence shot towards an open goal, only for Lee Ashcroft to appear from nowhere to block the attempt. Great defending by the Pars captain but a big let-off too.
The dreich weather and darkening sky greeted the teams at the start of the second half. Dunfermline tried to play the better football but the tight pitch and slippy conditions were not helping. Alloa did not have any clear cut second half chances with the Pars defence clearing the ball without frills.
Allan Johnston made a double substitution after 60 minutes, replacing James Craigen and Aidan Connolly with Ryan Williamson and Kallum Higginbotham. The 2 subs combined on the right side, with Myles Hippolyte moving from right to left wing. Eight minutes later, Faissal El Bakhtaoui replaced Aidan Keena in attack.
The game's only goal followed soon after the final Pars' substitution. The ball broke out to Jackson Longridge who hit a rasper of a shot from outside the box into the top corner of the net. A superb strike and on the balance of play, a deserved lead for Dunfermline.
There were further chances: Faissal had a header from a Williamson cross that Parry held; Andy Ryan then evaded a couple of challenges in the penalty box but was unable to finish. Faissal then took a cross from Higginbotham but shot too early when he had time to bring the ball in.
Alloa pressed for a late equaliser but resolute defending by Williamson and then a backtracking Thomson saw Dunfermline through to the end of the 90 minutes with the lead intact.
A satisfying performance.
How much longer does this go on? Just as the manager repeats the same post-match comments week after week (today's gem being ''we need to defend better and score more goals''), his team continue to give the same level of performance, devoid of passion, skill and fight. There's just nothing there.
Three changes were made to last week's starting 11: Ryan Williamson, Tom Beadling and Myles Hippolyte coming in, with James Craigen moving from fullback to right midfield, and Malaury Martin, Aidan Connolly and Andy Ryan dropping to the bench. Hipployte had a good run and shot after 5 minutes that was to be Dunfermline's best piece of play in the entire game. United keeper Ben Siegrist did well to save Hipployte's effort; he was then relatively untroubled until an injury time save from Pars sub Andy Ryan, saving the striker's shot with his legs. Once again we did not test the opposition keeper enough.
The opening goal, in the 24th minute, came after a soft foul was awarded against Faissal El Bakhtoui, apparently for tugging a United player's shirt. From the resultant free kick, Fraser Aird flighted in a ball that was headed in by Paul McMullan, the smallest man on the pitch. It seemed as though Ryan Williamson had left McMullan unmarked and in the seconds after the goal, captain Lee Ashcroft made his feelings clear to the fullback - not for the first time this season.
The second half felt like a repeat of so many other home games this season. We were disjointed in defence and attack. Lee Robinson tried to pick a fight with Aird, doing his familiar brushing past the opponent then stopping to argue - a petulant child looking for trouble. Concentrate on the game!
The second United goal came from Billy King. Jackson Longridge gave the ball away, to McMullan, who passed to King, who worked his way into a shooting position and drilled the ball past Robinson.
Faissal then tried an overhead kick in the centre circle which found a United player. Quite what that was about is anyone's guess.
Ryan Williamson then conceded a penalty in the 81st minute. McMullan took the kick but shot well wide of Robinson's post. Dunfermline, meanwhile, continued to lump balls upfield to sub Ryan and Faissal (Hippolyte had been shifted to the wing by this point). Aidan Keena, given 10 minutes last week, was an unused sub, as was Robbie Muirhead, a player signed for reasons unknown, never used in the first team for weeks, unimpressive in the reserves, a waste of resources.
Surely something has to change.
Dunfermline fielded several first team fringe players in today's SPFL Reserve League game at Falkirk but went down to a 2-1 defeat. There were several positional changes, all in attack, during the game (as listed later in this article). At times it seemed that the switches were being taken to extremes - for example, Robbie Muirhead played in 3 different positions and had a total of 5 switches between those roles throughout the course of the game, moving to and from both wings and as a central striker. Kallum Higginbotham continued his recovery from injury but Lewis Martin (who, like Higgy, made a first start after injury in last week's reserve game against Motherwell) was not in the squad.
Falkirk came closest to taking an early lead when a Tommy Robson shot was saved by Pars keeper Cammy Gill after 7 minutes. In the 16th minute, Falkirk striker Marcus Haber hit the post. The opening goal came 10 minutes later when Stuart Morrison fouled his opponent in the box. Joe McKee sent Cammy Gill the wrong way from the spot.
Ryan Williamson then had a good run up the wing that resulted in a corner after the Falkirk defence cleared his cross. The game was scrappy with the Pars midfield struggling to make much of an impression.
Half time: Falkirk 1, Pars 0.
The second half was barely a minute old when Cammy Gill made a good reaction save to prevent Falkirk doubling their lead. Tom Beadling, who failed to impress throughout the game, was booked for dissent after the referee did not award a foul for a challenge on Beadling just outside the Falkirk penalty box. Soon after , Beadling blasted a shot well over the bar.
Falkirk then hit the post with an O'Hara header after 58 minutes; their reserve team was a much more cohesive unit than their first team. They went 2-0 ahead after 83 minutes when Dennon Lewis finished after some slack play in the Pars defence.
With 5 minutes remaining, Myles Hippolyte took a pass from Robbie Muirhead and scored to cut the deficit to 1 goal. The Pars pressed for an equaliser but were unable to threaten the Falkirk goal again.
On the basis of this performance, Ryan Williamson should be in contention for a first team return on Saturday. Of the younger players, Paul Allan did well at left back. The midfield duo of Beadling and Thomson didn't do enough to make a serious claim for a first team place against Dundee United. Kallum Higginbotham is still regaining fitness, while Robbie Muirhead still needs to do much more to expect a first team start. Myles Hippolyte was the pick of the Pars attack and took his goal well.
Full time: Falkirk 2, Pars 1.
The Pars wingers interchanged positions several times during the game. Striker Lewis McCann remained up front throughout but was partnered by 3 different players, who in turn also switched wings for various periods of time. These are all the switches; I did not record the duration of each change but they are actual changes and not merely players taking up a position and moving back seconds later:
Higginbotham - from right wing to front 2; Robbie Muirhead, who started the game as a striker, moved to right wing.
Higginbotham moved back to right wing; Muirhead back into attack.
Muirhead moved to left wing; Myles Hippolyte moved to attack.
Higginbotham: right wing to left wing; Muirhead in turn moved from left to right.
After Brandon Luke replaced Kallum Higginbotham (on the left wing), he was moved to the right wing five minutes later; Muirhead then moved from right to left.
It's like watching the same mediocre movie on an endless loop. More possession than the opposition but no end product. Urgency only showed when falling behind to opponents who would have been delighted with a point. Manager who is unable to motivate and whose substitutions are detrimental to the team's chance of success.
No changes were made to the starting lineup - another indication of Allan Johnston's limitations, sticking with what he knows. Keeping faith with a striker who hasn't scored a League goal all season and who has 2 goals against Brechin and none in his other 13 appearances this term.
The first half was typical of the turgid dross that we have been served up with in recent weeks. A misdirected shot from Louis Longridge was the best opportunity in the opening 45 minutes. Queens were toothless, Stephen Dobbie a peripheral figure. We had most of the ball and as usual there were some attractive flicks and passes around the area between 30-40 yards from the opposition goal.
The second half began with Lee Ashcroft's header being tipped over by Queens keeper Alan Martin. Then Faissal somehow missed from a yard out, when a perfect cross evaded his head - he was to play some neat football in areas that didn't matter and was eventually substituted.
The substitutions. Just as in the game at home to Queens last season (losing 5-2), when Allan Johnston played several players out of position, he did so again today. Perhaps not as many as in that game, but showing similarly muddled thinking. 71st minute: Faissal off: Myles Hippolyte on. To play on the wing, leading to Wee Aidan Connolly to move from the wing into attack alongside Andy Ryan. This experiment lasted for 8 wasted minutes. Connolly made zero impact in his striker role. 79th minute: Johnston took off Ryan and replaced him with Aidan Keena. We now had the 2 Aidans up front. The minutes ticked by. 84th minute: Queens score with their only shot of the game. Hippolyte was then told to go up front and Connolly returned to the wing, or somewhere near the wing. 'Right winger' Louis Longridge often drifted across to double up with Connolly somewhere near the left wing, while on the right side, James Craigen was the only option, playing at right back but offering no attacking threat. Ryan Williamson was the logical replacement but he remained an unused sub. 85th minute: the manager withdrew the tiring Malaury Martin. Instead of pushing an extra forward on (Robbie Muirhead), Martin was replaced with Joe Thomson, another central midfielder.
It was a mess.
It's time for change - recent results, when we defeated a poor Partick team thanks to a bad defensive error, and then won against the worst Falkirk team ever, should not mask the dire quality of play. The manager repeated the same tired old lines in his post-match interview. Something about working hard, being more clinical, etc, etc.
Tuesday's Reserve Cup game against Motherwell was played at Stirling Albion's Forthbank Stadium. Here is Ben's report and photos from the game.
There is also a short vlog of the game on Ben's Twitter page: twitter.com/1885Ben
Dunfermline exited the Reserve Cup at a dreach Forthbank Stadium against a Motherwell side that exposed defensive slackness to progress into the next round. Fielding several first team fringe players, the Pars (wearing last season's away kit) opened the scoring in the third minute after the ball broke off a Motherwell player to Kallum Higginbotham inside the box. Higgy played it across to Robbie Muirhead at the back post for a tap-in.
Motherwell equalised in the 24th minute. Broque (unusual name) Watson took the ball to the by-line and hit a shot-cum-cross that trickled past Cammy Gill. Motherwell's second goal came after a quick attack, the ball played from their right to left. Muirhead was covering for the out of position Josh Robertson at left back but lacked the pace to keep up with his opponent. A low cross was put over for Connor Sammon to finish at the back post, with 33 minutes gone.
The first half ended with Motherwell on top and Dunfermline restricted to possibly 10 minutes of pressure overall.
Kallum Higginbotham and Lewis Martin, both playing their first games after injury, were substituted at half time. Aside from setting up the Pars' only goal, Higgy offered our best attacking outlet, and was also very vocal - the 'leader' in the team. The two players were replaced by Matty Todd and Gregor Jordan.
Two minutes into the second half, Motherwell went 3-1 ahead. From a corner kick, the ball was played to Adam Livingstone, 25 yards from goal, and hit shot evaded Gill and found the corner of the net. The scorer was given too much time to line up the shot, one of several goals that could have been prevented by tighter marking. Sammon then made it 4-1 in the 61st minute from close range, again unchallenged when in a position to score.
The game's final goal came after 79 minutes. Another corner was squared to the edge of the box, a cross then floated in which Gill came for but was beaten to by Christian Mbulu who headed his side's fifth.
A disappointing performance especially with so many first team squad players in the team. Muirhead, played on the left, does not convince as a winger, while the other fringe players did little to make AJ, watching from the stand, consider them for Saturday's Championship game against Queen of the South.
So we are out of the diddy cup, in which we fielded a reserve team that unexpectedly beat the then-holders in the first round, then began to take the competition more seriously as we progressed through another round. Today's defeat on penalties has no upside: any success has to be welcomed, for team morale and to energise the supporter base. The eventual exit was met with passivity, not anger. There is very little atmosphere at EEP these days.
There was one enforced change to last week's starting 11 - Mark Durnan was injured and replaced by Danny Devine.
After losing the coin toss, we were made to shoot towards the home end in the first half, in front of a crowd of just over 1400. Alloa began brightly but gradually we took control of the game, without actually threatening the Wasps goal. Then Alloa took the lead after 8 minutes - Alan Trouten finishing after a poor pass from Louis Longridge, back covering in defence.
Longridge made amends 20 minutes later when his shot from 20 yards beat Neil Parry in the Alloa goal. Encouraged by this, we saw similar long range efforts from Faissal El Bakhtaoui and Longridge again, both charged down by a solid Alloa defence.
The second half started well for Dunfermline when a penalty was awarded. Louis Longridge sent Parry the wrong way to put the Pars 2-1 up. This signalled another sustained period of Pars possession but little sign of the lead being extended further. Some decent football was being played but with no end product.
Alloa then had two great chances to equalise; firstly, left back Liam Dick panicked when given a glorious opportunity to shoot at goal from 15 yards, electing to pass instead; then Kevin Cawley's goalbound shot was superbly blocked by Jackson Longridge. The warning signs were there. After 70 minutes, the visitors got the equalising goal that they had threatened despite having much less possession. Dario Zanatta took full advantage of awful defending by Danny Devine. The Pars defender failed to clear the ball, then allowed Zanatta to get round him and past, crossing for Trouten to bundle in his and Alloa's second goal.
Dunfermline pressed for much of the final 20 minutes. A constant theme was failure to test the opposition keeper, with crosses into the box that were easily dealt with by the Alloa backline. Other half chances were unconverted.
And so, penalties. Lee Robinson was booked before the first kick for gamesmanship. His antics did not work in the previous round at Boreham Wood (failing to save any of the kicks then) and he again could not keep out any of today's attempts, with Alloa netting all 5 kicks. With the score at 5-4 to Alloa, Parry saved Aidan Connolly's effort and Alloa went through to next month's quarter finals. The crowd dispersed, as flat as a left-open can of Irn Bru.