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!
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