Outplayed but also making life difficult for ourselves at times: yesterday's defeat to top of the table Dundee United was further confirmation that this season's rebuilt Pars squad are still in the early development stage and will require time and patience in the quest to eventually achieve consistency of performance.
Two changes were made to the team that started against Celtic last week: Josh Coley replaced Josh Edwards and Andy Ryan started up front in place of Kyle Turner. This was a more attacking line up but neither Coley nor Ryan did much to justify their selection; Coley was substituted at half time and Ryan withdrawn during the second half, both ineffective. Their replacements - Turner and Lewis McCann - were arguably the team's best performers during their time of the pitch.
The opening 5 minutes started well enough but soon we began to look vulnerable. After last week's admirable defensive resilience at Parkhead, we looked fragile at the back, playing ourselves into trouble with slack passes involving goalkeeper Ryan Scully and the back four, gifting the ball to the opposition in dangerous areas. In the 10th minute, the first goal came from a predictable source, Lawrence Shankland, who was too strong for Stuart Morrison and released a shot that went through Scully's legs and in. Still we continued to build play up from the back but lacked accuracy and again caused ourselves unnecessary bother with loose distribution and several players looking off the pace of the game.
The game's second goal was scored by Shankland after 30 minutes. Paul McMullen got past Lewis Martin and from his accurate cross, Shankland headed the ball in via Scully's body. We were creating very little at the other end and halftime came with us 2-0 down and hardly having threatened the visitors' goal.
Kyle Turner was brought on at halftime to replace Josh Coley and the team's formation was switched to 4-3-3. Turner almost got the Pars back into the game with a shot that was saved by United keeper Benjamin Siegrist. Kevin Nisbet, who for most of the game cut an isolated figure in attack, then had one clear chance to score but shot wide of goal in the direction he was looking rather than at the target. Aside from a few corners that Lee Ashcroft could not get his head to, that was the total of our attempts at goal and although the second half display was an improvement on the opening 45 minutes, we were still second best in all areas.
United had at least 4 chances to extend their lead: Nicky Clark shot wide after Stuart Morrison's poor ball out of defence played us into trouble; Peter Pawlett had a miss of Chris Iwelumo proportions; Shankland failed to complete his hat trick from the penalty spot, Scully smothering the striker's kick; and Shankland again, with a header, could have done better.
In the match preview for this game I commented that ''expectation should be tempered with realism''. When our best 14 or 15 players are on form, we can produce quality displays such as the opening half against Dundee; when off-form, we play as we did yesterday. I would like to see a couple of more experienced players brought in to prevent relying on teenagers from the bench, some of whom are not far enough along in their development to influence first team games, and to challenge the more established first picks. There is no need for scapegoating or negativity; as noted at the start of this report, time and patience are required, while also eliminating kamikaze defensive sloppiness.
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