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).
The Pars' resurgence continued last night with a third consecutive win, with second half goals from Bruce Anderson (2) and Danny Devine putting the team within 2 points of a promotion play-off place. Visitors Thistle suffered another second half collapse - after shipping 4 goals to Ross County at the weekend after being 2-0 up, they conceded another 3 last night and rarely looked capable of threatening Ryan Scully's goal. The Pars keeper has now recorded three clean sheets in a row, to make a total of 4 shutouts in 5 games since his return to the club.
James Vincent and Myles Hippolyte were missing from the squad, presumably injured. Jackson Longridge, who until the weekend game game at Ayr had been an ever-present this season, and Faissal El Bakhtaoui were both still injured.
The midfield diamond was replaced by a 4-4-1-1 formation. Louis Longridge made his first start since October, playing behind Bruce Anderson, replacing Aidan Connolly. Kallum Higginbotham came back into the team in right midfield.
Starting 11 and formation:
The first half could generously be described as scrappy: Thistle offered little except for a Scott McDonald header, and after hesitancy in the Pars penalty box, Ryan Scully was forced to make his only real save of the evening from a shot by James Penrice. James Craigen had a shot from distance after 20th minutes that narrowly missed, while Bruce Anderson had Dunfermline's best chance of the half, shooting wide in the 35th minute after good play by Louis Longridge.
Just as in the last home game, against Inverness 10 days before, Dunfermline took a 47th minute lead. Ryan Blair's corner was flicked on by Danny Devine to Bruce Anderson, who touched the ball into the net from 4 yards. Thistle's response was tepid: a few ventures upfield without worrying the Pars defence which. Thh veteran strike partnership Scott McDonald and Kris Doolan were ineffective and both players were substituted in the 66th minute.
Dunfermline went 2-0 up in the 75th minute. From another Ryan Blair corner kick, Danny Devine rose and headed the ball powerfully past Conor Hazard in the Thistle goal for his first League goal of the season. The Irish defender has been the team's most improved player this month and his goal capped another very good performance from him.
The result was put beyond any doubt with 4 minutes remaining. James Craigen overlapped down the left, his cross finding Blair who played the ball onto Anderson for his second and the Pars' third goal.
An excellent second half performance and another vital 3 points.
Ryan Scully 7 Relatively untroubled but made one good blocking save in the first half.
Ryan Williamson 6 Still lacking confidence - not showing what he is capable of when on form.
Danny Devine 9 Another solid defensive display, capped off by a thumping header for the team's second goal.
Lee Ashcroft 8 Did well alongside Devine and kept the Thistle attack quiet.
James Craigen 9 Great run and cross that lead to the third goal. Can fit into almost any role and perform well.
Kallum Higginbotham 7 Back in the starting lineup. Tried to create and worked away on the right before being substituted.
Tom Beadling 7 Broke up play in midfield - does the job required of him.
Joe Thomson 7.5 Never lets the team down.
Ryan Blair 8 Expert deliveries from corners and lined up well with Craigen on the left.
Louis Longridge 7 One good turn and pass to Anderson in the first half but still building up match fitness.
Bruce Anderson 9 A born goal poacher - can go far in the game with this type of scoring instinct.
Subs used: Aidan Connolly (75 minutes), Matty Todd (84), Robbie Muirhead (89).
The type of away victory that was characteristic of Dunfermline sides through the years and reproduced to pleasing effect by the current squad, who have now developed a harder edge to match their ability on the ball. The Pars side, coached actively on the sidelines by the new management team, were able to grind out a win against a higher placed team, in conditions that were not conducive to free-flowing football.
The team was announced with no changes from last week's win against Inverness but shortly before kick-off, Jackson Longridge was withdrawn through injury. Ryan Williamson came into the team at rightback, with James Craigen moving to take over Longridge's slot at leftback. Robbie Muirhead was added to the subs bench.
The formation was the same diamond as last week but with Tom Beadling in the defensive midfield role, and James Vincent at the attacking tip of the midfield diamond. Last week it was Vincent in the defensive role - which he is more suited to - and Joe Thomson as the attacking midfielder. The lineup below shows how Stevie Crawford moved certain players around in the middle of the pitch this week. For part of the game, Ryan Blair and Joe Thomson swapped positions on the right and left.
Starting 11 and formation:
The first half was not one for the football purist, with the weather influencing the standard of play. Anyone who ventured from the relative comfort of the coo shed to the hot dog stand on the terracing would have felt the force of the wind, which was against the Pars in the opening 45 minutes. Ayr United had more of the ball and there were half chances for Lawrence Shankland and the Moff. The best chance, and best save, of the first half was a close range effort from Ayr's Andy Murdoch which Ryan Scully did well to block.
The second half saw the weather improve slightly and Dunfermline enjoy more of the ball. The team pressed the Ayr side at every opportunity and almost took the lead when Bruce Thomson netted, denied by the referee's whistle as James Craigen's cross to Anderson was adjudged, correctly, to have been from behind the goal line.
Aidan Connolly, who had begun the game alongside Anderson and was then moved to a number 10 role in the second half, was unlucky not to give Dunfermline the lead when in a move similar to that which denied Ayr's Murdoch in the first half, saw his shot instinctively saved by Ayr keeper Ross Doohan.
Connolly was replaced by Louis Longridge after 66 minutes and 5 minutes later, the Pars substitute scored the game's only goal. Ryan Williamson overlapped to great effect and his cross was handled by Michael Rose. A definite penalty and Longridge stepped up to send Doohan the wrong way, the ball nestling in the right corner.
The team managed the remainder of the game with encouraging composure. The only worrying moment came when Ayr's Aaron Muirhead sent a header wide with 5 minutes remaining.
A well-earned win and the Pars support left the ground, itself a reminder of a different era, singing the name of the head coach, just like the old days.
Ryan Scully 8 A very important first half save and was assured throughout, recording his third shut out in 4 games since moving from Morton.
Ryan Williamson 7 A confidence player. Tentative at times but showed what he is capable of with a superb run and cross that lead to the penalty award.
Danny Devine 9 The centre half's transformation continued with a no-nonsense performance yesterday. Appears to be more vocal and is developing into a good leader.
Lee Ashcroft 8 Apart from one sliced clearance that thankfully missed his own net, the captain's resurgence in form continued alongside his defensive partner.
James Craigen 7.5 From makeshift rightback to makeshift leftback after Jackson Longridge's late withdrawal: the ultimate team player and a manager's dream.
Tom Beadling 7 Broke up play well in the DM role, quietly effective.
Joe Thomson 7 Harried the opposition and tried to drive the team forward, especially in the second half.
Ryan Blair 7 Continued his good start with the club. Tidy and hard working.
James Vincent 6.5 Played in the forward end of the diamond but not a natural attacker, turning back too often. Better employed in as a defensive midfielder.
Aidan Connolly 7 Denied a goal by Doohan's reflexes. Made a nuisance of himself and did the job asked of him.
Bruce Anderson 7 One half chance in the first half, one disallowed goal in the second (scored after the whistle was blown). Not an easy shift for the young striker but showed plenty of effort before being booked for diving and then substituted.
Louis Longridge 7 Scored the penalty with ease. Had a chance to send Blair through on goal but delayed the pass and the opportunity was lost.
Myles Hippolyte 6 On for the final 8 minutes. Had one nice turn which was not matched by the shot that followed. A good outlet up front as the team saw the game out.
Yesterday brought a much-needed first Pars victory of 2019 and of the Stevie Crawford era. Such is the congested nature of this division that we are still involved on the edges of both promotion and relegation play-off places. Neither a win or a loss yesterday would have moved us out of seventh position but in terms of points, earning all 3 could prove very important in the weeks ahead. A 1-0 win at home to Inverness almost 12 months ago was the catalyst for a promotion push in the final third of the season and with only 5 points separating us from the Highlanders, currently occupying fourth place, there is still hope that the final 12 games this term could see a repeat of last season, while remaining wary of being drawn a battle with the teams below us.
There were 3 changes to the starting 11 that faced Ross County in our last game, 2 weeks ago. Two were by choice - James Craigen moving to right back and Ryan Blair starting his first game for the club, with Ryan Williamson and Kallum Higginbotham dropping to the bench. The third change was enforced - Faissal El Bakhtaoui, who had linked us so well with Bruce Anderson in their only game together, was injured and replaced by Aidan Connolly. This might have seemed a surprise choice but it was to prove to be a very good decision by Stevie Crawford. On the bench among the substitutes after injury absences were Louis Longridge and Murk Durnan.
Starting 11 and formation:
The team lined up in a 4-1-3-2 formation and it was soon apparent that the tall Inverness side were intent on imposing themselves physically, committing a series of rash fouls. Midfielder Darren McCauley, booked after 26 minutes, then committed another bookable foul that led to a lecture from referee Steven Kirkland, clearly not wishing to send the player off. Inverness boss John Robertson then substituted the player with only half an hour gone, an acknowledgement that a red card would surely have followed soon after, if the referee was to do his job properly.
There was little else of note in a fairly drab first half.
The second half was only 2 minutes old when the Pars took the lead. Joe Thomson, a driving force in midfield and always willing to shoot from distance, tested Inverness keeper Mark Ridgers and saw his effort fumbled by the keeper on its way into the net. A classic case of if you don't shoot, you don't score.
Aidan Connolly hit the bar with a well struck shot from 16 yards and there were other half chances for a Pars side that was showing more confidence than in recent games. Inverness came into the match late on but only tested Ryan Scully once, when Joe Chalmers' shot forced the Pars keeper to tip the ball over the bar.
The Dunfermline lead was almost doubled in the final minute when both Bruce Anderson and Joe Thomson fired in shots.
Losing Faissal was a pre-match disappointment but his replacement, Aidan Connolly, did well and made a nuisance of himself to opponents who were almost a foot taller. The formation saw James Vincent in the defensive midfield role - if only Vincent's passing was on the same level as his ability to break up play. It was interesting to see Ryan Williamson come on as a winger when there were players such as Kallum Higginbotham and Myles Hippolyte on the bench, unused. Williamson's time on the pitch coincided with Inverness' best spell of the game and did not give the Pars player an opportunity to attack on the wing. It was an experiment worth repeating before any judgements can be made.
Ryan Scully 7: one good second half save and looked solid and dependable late in the match.
James Craigen 6: did well in another games as an auxiliary fullback. Not a long-term answer for this position.
Danny Devine 6.5: wisely, did not try anything remotely beyond the basics.
Lee Ashcroft 6.5: distribution not great but has learned a lesson after the Raith game - keep it simple.
Jackson Longridge 7.5: a return to his early season form. Pushed up the left wing when possible and no errors in defence.
James Vincent 6: did the dirty work but occasionally wasteful in possession.
Tom Beadling 6: reliable figure on the right of a central midfield trio but can still contribute more creatively.
Joe Thomson 8: perpetual motion, the heartbeat of the team and not afraid to shoot. Man of the match.
Ryan Blair 7: first start for the midfielder. Good delivery from set pieces and will be an even bigger influence with more game time to build up match fitness.
Aidan Connolly 7.5: surprise choice to replace the injured Faissal but showed great determination to battle with much taller opponents. Unlucky not to score when his shot hit the bar.
Bruce Anderson 6.5: great to see a Pars striker make space and give his team mates options with a pass.
Subs used (no ratings given):
Ryan Williamson: played the final quarter of an hour on the wing but didn't see much of the ball.
Louis Longridge: after only 45 minutes of reserve team football, came on to play behind Anderson. His return will be a big boost in the coming weeks.
Mark Durnan: On in injury time to bolster the defence.
Another game lost, this time from a winning position. After an encouraging first half, we lost our way in the second period, with an individual error leading to the winning goal after changing our shape to contain the opposition. Very, very disappointing - we were well on top after new signing Bruce Anderson put us ahead shortly before half time, which gave everyone a huge boost, the first Pars goal of the Stevie Crawford era and the product of good play between our two strikers, something that has been lacking until today.
The team lined up with 2 changes - Tom Beadling was missing, with James Craigen moving into midfield from full-back, and Ryan Williamson coming into the side at right back. Bruce Anderson took Callum Smith's place alongside Faissal El Bakhtaoui in attack. The formation was changed from last week's midfield diamond to 4-4-2, with Kallum Higginbotham and Joe Thomson playing wide on the right and left. We started the game promisingly, with Joe Thomson (twice) and James Craigen striking from distance. Ross County threatened only once in the rarly part of the game, when Ryan Scully saved well from Brian Graham's header.
The defence were clearing the ball in a basic but effective manner, with the exception of a slip from Danny Devine that led to a booking.
Anderson and El Bakhtaoui were linking well together and it was from a Faissal through ball that Anderson was put through, but his final shot was saved by Scott Fox in the County goal. Anderson then had another half chance that he might have done better with. The new striker's time came, though, taking an excellent pass from Faissal and shooting past Fox to put the Pars 1-0 up after 41 minutes.
The second half began with Michael Gardyne replacing Declan McManus for County, in what was to prove a significant change. Gardyne played wide left, and gave Ryan Williamson a hard time, the Pars defender often failing to cut out the danger caused by the County substitute.
Seven minutes into the half, the equaliser came. It seemed as though scorer Billy McKay was offise but it was later confirmed by Stevie Crawford that he was played onside, left unmarked to score from a few yards out. The team lost confidence after the goal was awarded and survived a scare when James Craigen cleared the ball off the line, and then a 64th minute goal from McKay that was ruled offside.
Stevie Crawford then made a double substitution, removing the front pair and bringing on Callum Smith to play as a loan striker and the other new loan signing, Ryan Blair, into what was now a 5 man midfield. It was done to make us harder to break down - clearly - but it also limited our attacking threat. Kallum Higginbotham, whose fluffed clearance in the 72nd minute let in County for a chance that they failed to capitalise on, did the same thing 5 minutes later, only this time Gardyne took full advantage, cutting inside and firing a shot past Scully. Six minutes later, Myles Hippolyte was brought on in place of James Craigen, and we were back with a front two.
This was 3 points lost, and despite a good first half, we are now only 4 points off the foot of the table. We return to League action in a fortnight and need to turn periods of good play into wins. If not, we are in for a very difficult end to the season.
I've probably been at worse games than this but right now I don't remember many. A clean sheet, with defenders obviously keen to clear the ball as quickly as possible so as to avoid any repeat of last week's errors at Raith Rovers, a shut out for our new goalkeeper, and we're also a point closer to the top 4 after today's game. In the name of being balanced and not overlooking small crumbs of comfort, those are the positives.
This game was dire, and devoid of anything that ever drew us to watch football and support a team. If this was your first game, you'd never go back. Both teams were awful. Constantly giving away possession to each other. Failing to control the ball. Wayward shots at goal.
Dunfermline's team had two changes - Ryan Scully coming in for Lee Robinson, who was noticeably absent from the squad, plus Callum Smith replacing Myles Hippolyte up front. Lining up in a 4-4-2 diamond formation - or 4-1-2-1-2 - with Tom Beadling in a defensive midfield role, behind James Vincent and Joe Thomson, and Kallum Higginbotham playing in ''the hole'' behind the front 2, we lacked width but did at least see Higgy get a lot of the ball, as the team's only real source of creativity. There was no doubting his desire to make things happen for the team but there wasn't a lot of support from his team mates and all too often Higgy was left to look for passes to players who simply didn't move into space, except on one occasion when he found Faissal El Bakhtaoui, whose first touch let him down and the chance was lost.
We were powder puff up front. Faissal snatched at a couple of shots, while Callum Smith looked woefully out of his depth. Both were substituted and we ended the game, even more depressingly, with Myles Hippolyte and Robbie Muirhead as our ''strikers''. The sound you can hear is Jesus weeping.
This squad needs a complete overhaul. It clearly can't, and won't, happen in this transfer window. If we continue to produce performances like today's, the season cannot end soon enough and we face yet another summer rebuild but this time born out of necessity.
Referee Alan Newlands was as bad as the players from both sides. Some of his decisions were baffling but there were none of great consequence. Much like the football on show.
That's all I can say about this appalling game.
A disastrous second half saw Dunfermline leave Stark's Park humiliated and out of the Scottish Cup after handing Raith Rovers a passage into the next round. The home side were no threat until the Pars defence collapsed, with captain Lee Ashcroft sent off, his replacement Mark Durnan then conceding a penalty, and the third of the Three Stooges, Danny Devine, guilty of allowing the ball to bounce past him for the third goal. An absolute shambles at the back after playing relatively well in the first half, but unable, as always, to score a goal when dominating.
It's the same old story and there has to be movement in the January transfer window otherwise this season could end in a relegation battle. We have a cushion over the teams below us but until we can score a goal, take the lead and maintain it for a sustained run of games, we will inevitably struggle. There is zero end product with this group of players. Exiting the Cup will not help matters, as the budget for bringing in new players will be impacted. At the very least, we need bodies in to replace the two Hearts loanees who have been recalled to their parent club. Regardless of any budget for new signings, we would still have Keena and Martin in the squad and so whatever money has been saved by their departures (assuming we were paying at least part of their wages) has to be reinvested. That is the minimum requirement. Ideally we would have a complete overhaul - in the same way the Jack Ross gutted St Mirren's squad in January 2016. We may not be bottom of the division as St Mirren were but our results are dire and we have no leaders in the team, along with a chronic lack of goal threat. There's not much creativity in the final third of the pitch either - it's not all on the strikers - there aren't exactly many clear cut chances being created.
Myles Hippolyte should have given the team the lead after 36 minutes but his close range effort was saved by Robbie Thomson. Hippolyte had the whole goal to aim at and should have given the Rovers keeper no chance but that aside, we played well with Faissal El Bakhtaoui lively in the opening 20 minutes. Unfortunately, Faissal's good play was not matched by his weak finishing, fluffing one attempt and then shooting weakly into Thomson's arms in the second half. He was then replaced by Robbie Muirhead, a player who has to rank as the worst Pars signing in living memory. Yes, worse than Noel Whelan, Gavin Reilly and others. He's that bad.
The game turned after Ashcroft allowed the ball to bounce past him and then hauled down Chris Duggan. He was correctly red carded by Bobby Madden and his place in defence taken by sub Mark Durnan, with Hippolyte going off. The first Rovers goal came after 70 minutes. Durnan appeared to swing an arm at Duggan and from the resultant penalty, Lewis Vaughan put the ball past Lee Robinson. The Pars keeper had been booked in the lead up to the kick, pretending to kick dirt from his boots against the post, forgetting that the pitch was plastic. Morons in the home support also seemed to forget that their grass playing surface had been replaced last summer, and threw 3 flares onto the pitch, The stadium announcer spoke over the tannoy, confirming that damage had been caused to the artificial surface.
The second goal, in the 79th minute, saw Duggan cross from the right and Vaughan head his own second with the Pars defence posted missing. Vaughan then completed his hat trick when in virtually the same area of the pitch where Ashcroft was red carded, Danny Devine let the ball bounce over his head, failed to react, and looked on as Vaughan ran past him and slotted the ball past Robinson.
The end of the game saw stand-in captain Kallum Higginbotham ask one of the Pars supporters for a ''discussion'' after some of the players had applauded the away support. Higgy saw something in the away stand and then walked back across the pitch, gesturing to someone to come down and see him. The Police intervened to avoid further embarrassment to the club.
Different director, same movie. No one could reasonably have expected some kind of miracle transformation under the new coaching team, having had a couple of days with the squad prior to today's game. The same issues that plagued Allan Johnston's reign were clearly still evident today - how could they not be? The team played well, especially in the first half, with the same starting 11 that played in Johnston's final match last week. Ironically, one of the main criticisms of the previous manager was his reluctance to make substitutions. Today, we had 3 all by the 75th minute but sadly, they weakened the team instead of adding to it. All 3 players - Callum Smith, Malaury Martin and Aidan Connolly - have barely played for weeks due to injury and/or simply not being selected. So while it is sometimes beneficial to make substitutions, it can also depend on who the players are.
The team's main problem is, as always, goalscoring. The first 45 minutes included a miss from James Vincent that probably should have been converted but that aside, little in the way of clear cut chances were created. Is it the forwards not getting in goalscoring positions, or is it lack of creativity in other areas of the team? We play decent football but we rarely test the opposition goalkeeper, and today became the fourth game out of the last 6 in which we have failed to score.
There was a sense of renewed optimism in the Shed End at Tannadice today. The Pars players clapped the fans pre-match and both Stevie Crawford and Greg Shields had their names sung by the Dunfermline support, who were far more vocal than the sweetie-rustling United support. The team started in a 4-5-1 formation with Aidan Keena as the lone striker. This changed to 4-3-3 and back to 4-5-1 at different points in the game, with Myles Hippolyte on the right midfield and Kallum Higginbotham on the left, with both players taking a more advanced role at times, with the trio of Tom Beadling, James Vincent and Joe Thomson in central midfield in both formations. For me, Hippolyte was our best player today, showing strength and much better ball control than last week.
The game's only goal came in the 81st minute from a very predictable source. Nicky Clark, who has missed the majority of the season through injury, came on as a sub and after missing a good chance at the back post soon after his introduction, did what none of our strikers could do and got into a position to score and finished. A free kick caught the Pars defence sleeping, and from Aidan Nesbitt's cross, Clark was alert and saw his header hit the net. He is just what we need right now. A finisher.
After the new coach made his substitutions, we struggled to impose ourselves in the same manner as we had done for much of the game. Smith ran about a lot, Connolly was frustrating in his inability to be more direct - he had a number of chances to cross the ball into the box as the minutes ticked down but over-elaborated and the opportunities were lost. Malaury Martin didn't see much of the ball during his 15 minutes.
We need to bring in at least one new striker in this transfer window but Stevie Crawford's problem, inherited from Johnston, is that we have too many ''attackers'' that are not out and out strikers. We cannot keep adding to a squad that is already heavy on numbers, and quality goalscorers are obviously hard to find. If there is money available, it has to be spent on someone who can add goals. Without that, every Saturday is just an exercise in frustration.
A result that came as a direct consequence of lack of actions from our manager - his team a reflection of himself - fine when it's going their way but completely unable to react and counter changes made by the opposition, incapable of reacting positively and unable - in the manager's own post-match words - of ''seeing the game out'' - against a team who scored one of our goals and who came out in the second half, at East End Park, with us shooting towards the home end, 2-0 up and cruising, a set of circumstances that in the past would have almost ruled out any thoughts of an opposition comeback.
The Pars team were comfortable in the first half but as soon as Jim Goodwin made changes to Alloa's shape, and brought on attacking substitutes, we collapsed. They hit shot after shot from distance at our goal, we cleared one off the line, yet Allan Johnston said he ''couldn't see them scoring''. He left his subs freezing on the bench, only making a change when it was forced on him - Williamson for Craigen, who had a sore back. The game was crying out for changes up front. Hippolyte's first touch is as bad as I've seen from a professional player, while Higgy was ineffective on the left. Fresh legs running at part time defenders seems so obvious, but not for Allan Johnston. No, he stood there writing something on his wee clipboard, until added on time when he was about to bring on Mark Durnan - a centre half - but Alloa scored the equaliser that he never saw coming (so no need for an extra defender then?).
Aidan Keena scored an excellent opener for Dunfermline, turning and smashing a shot from 25 yards into the corner of Neil Parry's net. Iain Flannigan then turned the ball into his own net to make the score 2-0 to Dunfermline.
Even taking away Alloa's second half goals, our performance in the second 45 was awful. No shots on target, defenders slipping and letting Alloa in, including Danny Devine for Alan Trouten's first goal. Hippo was letting the ball bounce off him but somehow lasted the 90 minutes. Alloa almost equalised while Johnston, ''not seeing'' an equaliser, continued to scribble on his clipboard.
No changes made, through a mixture of stubbornness and, more probably, lack of any ideas. A few yards away in the Alloa dugout, Jim Goodwin was showing Johnston how it was done.
The equaliser that was never coming eventually came at the very end, a shot from Trouten that gave Alloa a deserved point based on the second half.
It's just dire, dire stuff, our expectations reduced to holding on - and we can't even do that - sending the wrong message to the players, but no action taken to correct what everyone else could see was happening.
We are going nowhere except downwards under this guy. Time for action to be taken!