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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