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).
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.