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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