A frustrating game that saw Dunfermline fail to defeat Alloa at East End Park for a fifth consecutive match. After the morale-boosting win at Firhill last week, the Pars were looking to build momentum with a first home League win of the season but had to settle for a draw despite having more of the game.
Stevie Crawford made 2 changes to the starting 11 that faced Partick Thistle last time out: Gabby McGill (confirmed as injured ) and Paul Paton (presumably injured) were replaced by Lewis McCann and Harry Cochrane in the same 4-4-2 formation as last week. The loss of Paton brought the average age of the team that began the game down to 21.8, surely the youngest Dunfermline lineup for quite some time.
There was a glorious chance for Dunfermline to open the scoring inside the first minute. A long ball from Lee Ashcroft made its way to Lewis McCann who got past his marker and played a pass to Kevin Nisbet. The striker, 10 yards from an open goal, put his shot wide of target. McCann then almost got his first Pars goal when he cleverly got past 2 Alloa defenders only to see his goal-bound shot headed clear. There was another near miss when Greg Kiltie couldn't divert Kyle Turner's shot beyond Alloa keeper Jamie MacDonald.
Although Dunfermline had more clear cut chances, Alloa were gradually getting into the game and playing the better football. There was a strange lethargy in the Pars' play while the visitors were linking up well but couldn't turn their impressive build up play into chances that might have troubled Cammy Gill in the home goal.
Five minutes into the second half, Alloa took the lead. After breaking up field, the ball fell to Adam Brown and from 30 yards the midfielder scored what will probably be the goal of his career with a great shot that flew into the top corner of Gill's net.
Seven minutes later, Dunfermline equalised. A hand ball by Nisbet in the lead up to the goal was missed by referee Colin Steven. The ball reached Kyle Turner whose well-placed shot from 19 yards gave drew Dunfermline level and gave the young midfielder his fifth goal of the season.
From that point on, Dunfermline dominated possession and ought to have scored at least once more to secure the 3 points the team deserved on the balance of play. Nisbet was having an off-day in front of goal - after his early miss, he had a free header in the 80th minute that hit the bar and then in the final minute, from another cross by substitute Josh Coley, Nisbet was unable to get his head to the ball a yard from goal.
Alloa once again proved to be a difficult opponent and Dunfermline ended the game disappointed not to have broken the winless run at home against the Clackmannanshire side. As I have remarked in almost every report this season, the young Pars team - with yesterday's side the most youthful fielded so far - will inevitable show inconsistency. There were positives to be taken from yesterday's game along with areas where there can, and hopefully will be, improvement, given time. The lack of a clinical edge was the difference between one point and three.
A first League win of the season and a jump of 3 places in the Championship table, with defeated Thistle slipping to the bottom: Firhill, baked in late summer heat, saw Dunfermline record a vital and encouraging victory that will hopefully be the catalyst for a positive autumn and beyond.
Manager Stevie Crawford made 2 changes to the team that played Inverness last weekend: fit-again (or fit enough) Ryan Dow was back on the right wing, and Gabby McGill partnered Kevin Nisbet up front. Tom Beadling and Lewis McCann moved to the bench. The team lined up in a 4-4-2 formation and although hosts Thistle had more of the ball in the opening 20 minutes, finding space in attacking areas, they rarely threatened Cammy Gill's goal and it was Dunfermline who came closest to opening the scoring during this period when Kevin Nisbet's header was saved by Scott Fox.
It was Nisbet who was first on the scoresheet, in the 23rd minute. From an Aaron Comrie cross Nisbet found the corner of Fox's net for his 7th goal of the season. Relief, as much as joy in scoring, was obvious: this was the first time since August 10 that the team had taken the lead in a Championship game.
Nisbet almost got his and Dunfermline's second after 30 minutes when his well-struck shot from 12 yards hit the bar. Three minutes later came a goal for the ages: Ryan Dow picked up the ball just inside the Thistle half, ran across and towards the right side, past 3 Thistle opponents, and placed the ball across Fox and into the corner for a sensational goal, one of the finest individual goals I have seen from a Pars player.
A feature of many Pars' games this season has been an inability to add to a half time lead, allowing opponents back into games. There was no such threat of this yesterday: four minutes into the second half, Kyle Turner shot from 25 yards and with the aid of a deflection, the ball went past Fox and put Dunfermline 3-0 up. If you don't shoot, you don't score!
Lewis McCann, who had come on at half time for Gabby McGill, was unlucky not to make it 4-0 with a well placed shot that narrowly missed the goal. McCann epitomised the spirit in the team with several good runs and some effective tracking back. Captain Paul Paton was also making his presence felt with a few hard, but fair, meaty challenges in midfield. This was Paton's best game in several weeks, the old warhorse leading the team through example, helped by vice captain Lee Ashcroft who also had a solid game.
The team managed the game well as it reached its conclusion: hunting in packs was back, restricting the opposition to an occasional cross but no direct shots on target in the final quarter, with keeper Cammy Gill achieving a first shut out in the League. The determination of all 11 players not to lose even one goal when 3-0 up and with the clock ticking down was pleasing: this was a collective effort, lit up by the excellence of Dow, but very much a team performance. After weeks of struggle the players showed exactly what they are capable of yesterday.
Patience and giving players time to develop was always going to be key this season; the challenge now is to use this performance as a marker. This team may not achieve promotion but neither do they belong in a relegation battle. It could be next season before we see the full benefits of this summer's rebuild but there is still an opportunity to make this season a memorable one if consistency can be found to match the ability within the squad.
Another loss; no attempts on target, 450 minutes since the last Pars' League goal and now more than 6 months since the last win in the Championship: Dunfermline slipped to bottom of the division after this latest defeat in what was a desperately poor game. Inverness came into the game having scored 8 times (all against Morton) in 2 League and Cup matches prior to their visit to Fife. There was no such threat from the Highlanders yesterday and they were marginally the worst of two awful teams.
The Pars lined up with 3 changes to the side that lost to Alloa in the Challenge Cup last week. Josh Edwards, Lewis McCann and Kevin Nisbet came in for Tom Lang (injured), Matty Todd and Gabby McGill. Lewis Martin moved to centre half from fullback. The 4-4-2 formation saw Tom Beadling play the whole game on the right wing, an experiment that will surely not be repeated. Kyle Turner was in centre midfield with Paul Paton, but often playing behind Paton, another puzzling tactic. Lewis McCann was on the left, which clearly the manager believes to be his best position.
There is very little in way of incidents to describe. It was simply a terrible game of football. Crawford claimed post-match that because his side put more crosses into the box, they possibly deserved more than a point. Inverness boss John Robertson was, as always, accurate and honest in his summing up, saying ''from 20 minutes in you could have put your money on a 0-0 draw''.
The game's only goal involved Pars sub Danny Devine, who was judged to have handled the ball in the penalty box with 3 minutes remaining. Inverness sub Sean Welsh shot straight down the middle of Cammy Gill's goal with the keeper diving to Welsh's left.
One point or none, the loss of a point should not be the main focus. The poor quality of play, the lack of a high press that characterised the League Cup group games, the absence of any cohesion in the team's passing: these are all factors that have to be addressed.
Dunfermline as a team, and the club legend, nice guy manager appear to have totally lost their way. It is sad to see such a decline in what appeared to be an exciting new team. Where is the team that played Dundee off the park in the opening League game? Why has the form of certain players nose-dived? Is is lack of confidence? Is it the result of flooding the squad with players in, mainly, an 18-22 age group, who now lack leadership? Is it helped by continually playing the squad's only veteran almost because he is the squad's only veteran, when his hips appear to have seized up?
We want this new approach to succeed, for the good of the club and its future. It is still ''only'' five games into the League campaign. There is ample time to turn this around, starting next week at Firhill. A big result is needed to install belief into the squad. It starts from the dugout.
The decline of the rebuilt 2019/20 Pars continued yesterday at East End Park with a defeat by Alloa in the Tunnock's Caramel Wafer Challenge Cup. For a second consecutive week, Dunfermline lost to part-time opposition and regardless of the merits of the competition just exited, there can be no hiding from how poor this performance was.
A new 4-3-2-1 formation was tested with loan signing Greg Kiltie going straight into the starting 11. Kiltie was one of 5 changes made by Stevie Crawford: in came Cammy Gill, Tom Lang, Matty Todd, Gabby McGill and Kiltie. Out from last week's team went Ryan Scully, Danny Devine, Josh Coley and Kevin Nisbet, plus Lewis McCann, who was absent on international duty with Ireland's under 21s. The line up was a mix of regular starters plus other players requiring game time. The formation was not a success: there was little width; the midfield 3 were either posted missing (Tom Beadling), playing too deep (Paul Paton) or not first team-ready (Matty Todd).
In goals, Cammy Gill was given the opportunity to impress, but failed to convince. Gill may have been selected regardless of Ryan Scully's form - the Challenge Cup being a good breeding ground for squad players - but this game represented a real chance for the second choice keeper to make a claim for a start in the League, given Scully's poor displays of late.
After a scrappy opening period, Dunfermline took the lead in the 29th minute. Gabby McGill broke upfield, released Kyle Turner, who then played a pass across to Greg Kiltie, who shot home from inside the penalty box. The team could not replicate the quality of that move during the hour that followed. Neither could they take advantage of the loss of Alloa keeper Neil Parry to injury a few minutes after the opening goal. Parry's replacement was 20 year old Chris Henry, making only the third appearance of his senior career.
Gill, more vocal than Scully but lacking presence in goal, was largely responsible for Alloa's first goal, which came five minutes before the break. A cross from the left was pawed downwards by the Pars keeper, a rarely seen method of effective goalkeeping. The ball bounced towards Lang, who was caught out and unable to clear, leaving Alloa forward Robert Thomson with a chance to score, which he took. The teams went into the half time break level.
Eight minutes into the second half, a familiar theme returned to East End Park when Alan Trouten scored for Alloa. Last season, Trouten scored more goals at the Pars' stadium (5) than any Dunfermline player. He added another goal yesterday with a well-placed finish to put the visitors 2-1 up.
Substitutions were then made: Andy Ryan and Kevin Nisbet replaced Matty Todd and Gabby McGill. A minute later, there was a third change made but this time not by choice, when Lang was injured and had to be withdrawn. Josh Edwards came on at left back, with Lewis Martin moving to central defence. Stuart Morrison and Danny Devine, who had partnered Lee Ashcroft in the middle of the defence in the previous 2 games, remained on the bench.
The formation remained the same, although more loosely, with Andy Ryan taking a position somewhere on the right side. Just as at Arbroath last week, there was no pummeling of the opponents' goal. Dunfermline had more possession but a series of shots blasted over and crosses played too long or behind the goal meant that the Alloa reserve keeper had a relatively easy time of it, only required to catch the occasional high ball, usually unchallenged.
In injury time the otherwise anonymous Beadling hit a shot that struck Trouten. Appeals for a penalty were waved away by referee Steven McLean. By this point, Alloa were down to 10 men, after Blair Malcolm, himself a 76th minute substitute, had to go off injured, with the visitors having made all their permitted substitutions.
Last season, Alloa knocked the Pars out of this competition on penalties after the game ended 2-2. This time, their 2-1 win saw them record a first victory in 90 minutes at East End Park since 1977. In 35 year old captain and centre half Andy Graham, they had the game's best player, the type of veteran that (including 32 year old Paul Paton) the current Dunfermline team lacks. The drive to play youth, however well-intentioned, is having a detrimental effect on results and performances. One or two older heads are needed to guide the core of young players who have ability and may well go onto have good careers at Dunfermline or elsewhere. As a collective, however, they are not yet ready to compete at this level and to secure positive results against opponents who are little more than well-organised workers. This is not said with hindsight: I have repeated this often, even during the League Cup group games when the team topped their group. I have also urged for patience to be applied and that is still the case. Ultimately, however, results have to improve.
Early season positivity is in danger of evaporating fast if performances like this are to be repeated. After a summer squad revamp, with players mostly under 22 brought in to the Pars first team pool, optimism rose after topping the Betfred Cup group and an excellent first half display against Dundee in the opening League game. Sadly, performance levels have dipped dramatically since then: a drab draw at Queen of the South, a loss without laying a glove on an admittedly good Dundee United side, then yesterday's outing at Gayfield, with the team lacking creativity and often looking completely disorganised. After stating that patience will be required, I am not about to turn on the team or management, but there are several worrying signs that have to be addressed and corrected if we are to avoid a long season at the wrong end of the division.
Three changes were made to the team that lost to Dundee United: Ryan Dow (injured) was not in the squad, while Stuart Morrison and Andy Ryan dropped to the bench. Josh Coley switched to the right wing in place of Dow, Lewis McCann took Coley's left wing berth, and Danny Devine and Kyle Turner came into the starting 11.
The first half saw Dunfermline have the supposed advantage of the strong wind that whipped in from the nearby North Sea, blowing towards the town end of Arbroath. It was the home side that had the game's first goal attempt, Bobby Linn's shot palmed away by Ryan Scully in the 5th minute. With Arbroath unable to launch long balls without the ball hanging in the air and heading backwards, the Pars team had a couple of efforts from the left side - Kevin Nisbet's shot going well wide, and Lewis McCann coming closer with his right footed curler. Kyle Turner then jinked past an opponent before slipping in the act of shooting from 20 yards, his shot easily gathered by home keeper Darren Jamieson.
At the other end, there was a repeat of last week's kamikaze defensive play when Scully received a passback and then kicked the ball to a marked Paul Paton, 25 yards from goal. Paton, never the most mobile, then kicked the ball out for a corner. A mess.
Half time came with the game goalless and devoid of much in the way of quality play or entertainment.
Dick Campbell made a halftime substitution with Luke Donnelly replacing Greig Spence, who had been booked in the first half for a needless foul on Scully. It took the substitute only 5 minutes to make an impact with a shot from just outside the box, headed for Scully's near post. The Pars keeper went to ground like a sack of tatties and allowed the ball to go past him for what turned out to be the game's only goal.
The 40 minutes that followed saw the wind die down slightly but Dunfermline unable to threaten home goal. The closest the game came to an equaliser was when Turner tried to chip Jamieson after the Arbroath keeper did not clear the ball properly but could not get enough on the attempt.
We were then subjected to the sight of Danny Devine repeatedly punting the ball up the park, into the stand and various other places. The defender, making his first start of the season for the first team, had a torrid time and deteriorated further as the game went on.
The game petered out with no late flurries or incidents that might have led to a share of the points. Where was the quality and the enthusiasm of the early season games? This looked like a completely different team. Stevie Crawford claimed in his post match interview that he is ''not concerned'' and said that the fixtures at the start of the season had been difficult, listing the games against the 2 Dundee clubs, which can be accepted, but also the other 2 matches played so far - against Queen of the South (a team whose only League goal this season came against Dunfermline) and yesterday's newly-promoted part time opponents.
Patience is required now, more than ever, but unless there is an improvement in performance, belief will inevitably wither away no matter how well we want the team and management to do.
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