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!
Well, that was more like it! Before the game, I tweeted that we needed a performance that was worthy of the black and white - something we have not seen nearly enough of this season. Today, for at least an hour of this game, we got it. In a 4-3-3 formation with one change from last week - Myles Hippolyte replacing Faissal El Bakhtaoui - we overcame the shock of an early Falkirk goal to equalise quickly and dominate the game. Not only in terms of possession, which we have done several times, but also in the way we put pressure on the opposition, playing with an intensity, drive and determination, while also finishing off the good play with goals. There could easily have been more - this could have been 8 or 9 and the scoreline flatters a Falkirk side who were very poor and seemed demoralised by the level of performance that we produced, mixed in with their own ineptitude.
The Falkirk goal, from Joe McKee, was soon cancelled out by Myles Hippolyte, scoring his sixth of the season, which moves him to the top of the Pars' scoring chart. Hippolyte showed strength and skill to make space for his shot that gave Falkirk keeper David Mitchell no chance.
Spreading the responsibility for goalscoring amongst the whole team has been one of Allan Johnston's mantras and today the midfield made a huge contribution. The 4-3-3 formation is by far the most effective way to utilise Joe Thomson, Tom Beadling and James Vincent together without playing any of them out of position. Beadling scored twice, with a 17th minute finish from a Kallum Higginbotham cross and then a 51st minute strike after great work by Higgy. James Vincent was a strong contender for man of the match - his goal was a thing of beauty, smashing a shot across Rogers into the corner of the net to make the score 4-1 in front of a delirious Pars support. For me, Joe Thomson was the pick of the trio - what energy he has, coupled with a fantastic attitude - and ability.
Falkirk's second goal did not spark any type of fightback and although the game fizzled out in the final quarter, the job was more than done by a rampant Pars side who showed exactly what they are capable of, from the kick-off following Falkirk's opener, to the scoring of our fourth. This is the standard they have to maintain. On this form, this is a team capable of climbing this division, for there is nothing to fear when they perform as they did today: hunting down the opposition in packs of 3, pressing, winning challenges, and allowing the more creative players to flourish in a flexible formation that brings out the best of the players selected.
Well done to the players and the manager for getting it exactly right today.
A frustrating goalless draw which should have ended better but could easily have been worse - a game that reflected the season so far for a Dunfermline side that must have had 'a goal' on their list for Santa, but just like the Pars strikers, the fat man in the red suit did not deliver.
Leaders Ayr were a shadow of the side that destroyed Dundee United at Tannadice 3 weeks ago. Whether that was due to the Dunfermline team's performance, or whether they simply under-performed, we will never know. What should be noted is that despite being second best for much of the game, Ayr had the clearest goalscoring chances - one falling to Michael Moffat, clean through on Lee Robinson's goal in the first half only for the Pars keeper to block his shot; and then, at the very end, Lawrence Shankland missing a sitter with the goal at his mercy. It would have been an outrageous smash and grab win had it gone in but it would also have been a familiar sight for everyone involved with Dunfermline - failing to score and then being robbed by the opposition.
This was not a bad performance but the fact remains, we cannot score a goal. Kallum Higginbotham was a creative spark on the right midfield and then, after a second half switch of formation from 4-1-3-2 to 4-3-3, on the left of a front 3. Faissal, meanwhile, was the same as in every other game. Nice wee flicks, zero end product, ending with him selfishly trying a speculative long range shot when he should have passed. The team cannot afford a striker who cannot score and a return to Dundee must be considered come January, especially if it frees up space to bring someone else in on loan, or on a permanent deal.
The first half saw Moffat's miss, Aidan Keena almost converting a Higginbotham cross at the other end, and then, soon before half time, an argument between Lee Robinson and Lee Ashcroft. As the halftime whistle was blown, the two players continued their disagreement (see video on the Pars Review Twitter page here) - whatever the issue was, it was unprofessional and did not reflect well on either player.
Dunfermline had the better of the second half but saw shots blocked and one piledriver from Joe Thomson saved by Ayr keeper Ross Doohan. There was no lack of effort and we looked the better team. But no goals is the story of our faltering season. At least we were spared a demoralising defeat when Shankland missed at the end. We now look ahead to Falkirk next week and hope that by then, Santa will have at least arranged a deal for a goalscorer to join up in January when the transfer window opens.
Stupidly, I allowed myself to look ahead with optimism after last week's win over Morton. Perhaps the unusualness of a long overdue home win made me lose a sense of perspective and naively believe that we were about to see an improvement in results. Sadly not. After a decent first half, when we hit the bar twice and dominated possession (heard that one before?), we came out in the second half and put in a dire display - long balls to a striker (Faissal) who can't even time a jump, failure to string 3 passes together, a Pars player (Robbie Muirhead) seemingly inviting a fan into the dugout after hearing criticism from the Dunfermline support after being subbed, the captain (Lee Ashcroft) almost selling a goal after getting flummoxed in his penalty box......all features of a terrible second 45 minutes.
The team lineup was unchanged from last week's win but it was obvious, even in a generally good first half - we played well enough despite going into the break 1-0 down - certain players were operating at a level below the previous game. James Vincent and James Craigen, both subbed in the second half, were empty shirts. On a more positive note, the much-maligned Muirhead had an effort from distance that clipped the bar, and also placed a pin-point cross on Danny Devine's head from a corner that also ended in the bar being skelped. Thistle, meanwhile, were playing on the break, and Lee Robinson had a few good blocks. The home side's goal, in the 12th minute, was a well-drilled shot from around 20 yards by Blair Spittal.
Faissal forced Thistle keeper Jamie Sneddon into a great reaction save from a header and we looked forward to the second half, reasonably confident that on the balance of play we would get ourselves back in the game.
The second goal, disputed by the Pars players, came from Miles Storey, when he flicked the ball inside the 6 yard box. Did it cross the line? Hard to tell, but the goal was given. 2-0 down after 56 minutes. Craigen and Vincent were subbed for Tom Beadling and Myles Hippolyte. The latter ran about tugging at Thistle shirts, eventually booked for doing so, and playing into the opposition's hands.
Then at the end, Lee Robinson did what Lee Robinson does - you will see the clip later this evening on Ben's YouTube channel (link here) - when, after Jai Quitongo and Lee Ashcroft fell over each other, Robbo needlessly got himself involved, leaping onto both players and making himself look very foolish - he just can't help himself. And he was our best player.
For the second time in 3 games, we have lost to the team at the bottom of the League. That was Thistle's first win since September 22. As Christmas approaches, we are the gift that keeps on giving - to our opponents.
Well, that was a much more enjoyable Saturday afternoon! Possession and dominance was, at last, added to by goals, with the team scoring more today in 90 minutes than in the previous 7 home League games combined. From the outset, the players were direct, taking shots from distance, making things happen - a vital component that turned what could have been yet another hard luck story into 3 points.
Credit to Allan Johnston for selecting the best team he had available to him - bringing in James Craigen to right midfield and fit-again Aidan Keena up front. Robbie Muirhead started on the left of midfield and the much-maligned player, who has looked unfit and out of sorts for much of his time at East End Park, had a very good game, having a hand in 2 of the 3 goals, using his physique to great effect, looking like a far more effective player than the one we have seen until today.
The opening goal came after just 4 minutes when Robbie Muirhead struck a shot from 22 yards that rattled the post and came back into Andy Ryan territory, finding Aidan Keena, who scored with ease. This obviously settled the team (Morton had a half chance a minute earlier that went by Lee Robinson's post) and their confidence grew. Joe Thomson had a chance to double the lead; Jackson Longridge's header struck a post and from the rebound, Danny Devine's effort hit the bar; Longridge then hit a shot from distance that went narrowly wide; Muirhead continued to press from the left, intent on making an impression and adding an extra dimension to the team's play.
The second goal came a few minutes before the break. Faissal's run into the penalty box was stopped by a crude challenge from ex-Par Gregor Buchanan. A penalty was awarded. James Craigen took the ball but such was Faissal's determination to score his first League goal of the season, the striker took the ball from Craigen and dispatched the penalty kick into the corner of the net.
The second half was more subdued, although Keena had an early chance to score his second goal but after good play could not add the required finish. Morton offered no threat but credit for that must at least partly go to the pressing game that Dunfermline were employing. Tenacious Joe Thomson had a very good game in midfield and every player was working hard to ensure the win would be achieved.
With 5 minutes remaining, a good bustling run from Muirhead ended with Morton keeper Derek Gaston making a save. The ball ran to an inrushing James Craigen who scored the team's third, marking the goal with an exuberant celebration behind the home goal.
Well done to the players and the manager today; this is the level of performance that we know the team are capable of, with that crucial element added: goals.
Another defeat, partly due to the idiocy of one of our most experienced players. The sending off, after Kallum Higginbotham elbowed Stelios Demetriou off the ball in the 15th minute, came with Dunfermline already a goal behind. Ross County had taken a 9th minute lead, when an unmarked Billy McKay scored his 12th goal of the season. This team do not help themselves at times: the double blow obviously impacting the remainder of the game and although technically remaining 'in the game', a loss is a loss.
The manager had 2 weeks to formulate his plans for today's game and he selected a side that lined up 4-5-1, with Higginbotham and Robbie Muirhead on the wings, and Faissal up front alone. The subs bench was not even filled, with numerous injuries depleting the squad, but that cannot be used as an excuse - Ross County also had injuries and were without several first team regulars.
Muirhead, Faissal and James Vincent came into the team, with Andy Ryan and Aidan Connolly (both presumably injured) not even amongst the subs, and Myles Hippolyte dropping to the bench.
After the early drama, the remainder of the first half was fairly even, with the 10-man Pars side at least showing effort and some element of resolve. As always, lack of a cutting edge when half chances presented themselves was an issue but at least the team did not crumble, as many might have feared.
The second half began with Ross Stewart put through on goal but denied by Lee Robinson. Dunfermline then created two chances - a Joe Thomson shot saved by Scott Fox, and a Muirhead header that missed the target.
The home side doubled their lead in the 61st minute through Jamie Lindsay. It was at this point that the manager may have made changes, to freshen up a side that had given much effort but could have benefited by at least one sub replacing a tiring midfield. A Pars goal was to come before any changes were made, when Ross Draper turned the ball into his own net after Fox had pushed out a cross from Faissal, in the 73rd minute.
At that point, Aidan Keena replaced Malaury Martin. The final 2 Pars substitutions were made in the 86th and 89th minutes, which says it all. It may have made no difference to bring on players earlier but under the circumstances it may have been advisable.
The game ended with a 7th defeat in 14 League games. Is it enough just to avoid a hammering? I'll leave that for you to decide.
Thanks to my friends in Aviemore for the hospitality this weekend. Apologies for lack of photos - my son Ben is in Blackpool (booked when this was supposed to be a free weekend, before a fixture change), so no photos or matchday video diary for this game.
Are you sick of watching the same movie over and over again? Because I am - and hearing the same comments after the film finishes. This disgraceful defeat, to a Falkirk team who we could charitably describe as ''better'' than the previous time we played them, only because they were so terrible then, has to be the final time we have to suffer a Pars performance with this guy in charge. He is NOT A MANAGER. He cannot motivate, he cannot make positive game-changing switches - we have now played 7 games in the League at East End Park and have scored 2 goals! And one of those was a gift from a Partick Thistle defender. The other was a consolation goal in a 3-1 defeat by Ross County. Post-match, it's the same bland drivel from him - better team, have to score, etc, etc.
Yes, we started the game well today. Kallum Higginbotham almost scored with a long range shot that was saved. We then should have scored when the rebound fell to Andy Ryan but he fluffed his finish. Joe Thomson then had an effort blocked by a defender. Higginbotham was to be the team's only leader - and best player - and was subbed with 15 minutes remaining. His replacement, Aidan Connolly, spent part of his time playing up front, with Andy Ryan on the right wing. You could not make this stuff up. Meanwhile, The other like-for-like replacement (2 wingers on, 2 off), Robbie Muirhead, on for Myles Hippolyte, proved again what a waste of money his signing has been.
Falkirk hit the bar early in the second half, their only serious goal attempt until their goal later in the game. The goal came in the 71st minute, a 30 yard effort after every Pars player backed off to allow Zak Rudden to shoot. Lee Robinson was slow to react and was a long way from the ball as it went past him.
Then came the subs, mentioned already.
There was an enforced first half substitution when Aidan Keena had to go off injured. Faissal came on, saw Falkirk keeper Fasan make one good save from a second half shot, but spent the rest of the game running about, looking lost, a sad sight.
We can't score and we have handed our biggest rivals only their second win of the season. Time for the board to make the best decision for the club, no matter how much they admire the manager.