Scottish Championship - Saturday 01/10/16 - KO 3.00pm - Somerset Park, Ayr
Odds (Skybet): Ayr 29/20; Dunfermline 6/4; Draw 13/5
Saturday's game takes Dunfermline to a venue that has been the scene of 10 victories, 4 draws and only 1 defeat in the past 15 visits, in all competitions. The most recent 5 League games between the teams in Ayr have all been Dunfermline victories. Confidence can be taken from the excellent record at Somerset Park but a good performance will be required to take a positive result back to Fife.
Ayr United followed the Pars into the Championship via the play-offs at the end of last season, and are currently 1 point and 1 place higher than Allan Johnston's team.
Ayr have retained the majority of the squad that won promotion last season, adding Gary Harkins and Conrad Balatoni, two players with years of Premiership experience, plus 4 other permanent signings and 3 players on loan, to add more depth to the 2015/16 squad. Unfortunately, one of their key loan signings, Motherwell's Craig Moore, is injured. Moore was on loan at Ayr last season and the deal was extended this summer. Ayr boss Ian McCall has a full squad to choose from with the exception of the injured Moore.
Ayr were most bookies' favourites for relegation before the season started. As 1 of only 2 part time clubs in the division (Dumbarton being the other) they have, so far, won twice and currently occupy sixth place. Goalscoring has been their major problem this season - with 6 League goals, they are the lowest scoring team in the division. Their recent 2-1 win over Hibs at Easter Road showed the quality they have in their squad, and even in a late defeat at Falkirk last week they were said to have been the better team.
The League table below shows the start the both clubs have made this season.
For the first time this season, Allan Johnston has a full squad to choose from. There are no injuries or suspensions, although the returning Nat Wedderburn and David Hopkirk could be a week or so away from being match fit to start a game. Hopkirk, who was so impressive in the Under 20s game in midweek (http://www.parsreview.org/blog/under-20s-match-report-pars-2-hearts-3 ) could be a good option as a substitute in the final quarter of the game.
The central defence is still an area that is causing concern. Callum Fordyce, subbed at half time last week against St Mirren after a poor first half display, will likely lose his place, possibly to Lewis Martin, who moved from full back to centre half for the second half of last week's game. Ben Richards-Everton, who was not selected for the squad last week, could return but a central defensive partnership of Martin and Lee Ashcroft seems likely. In midfield, the 4 players who started against St Mirren should retain their places. Michael Paton (pictured below) had his best game of the season and John Herron will be alongside Andy Geggan in the middle of the pitch, with Joe Cardle on the left.
Up front, Farid El Alagui scored his first Pars goal last weekend. He could replace Gavin Reilly from the start on Saturday, unless Johnston decides to use the French-Moroccan from the bench again.
Prices for the game have been reduced to £5 for everyone and donations will be made to Alzheimers Scotland by Ayr United - see story on Ayr's official site at http://www.ayrunitedfc.co.uk/prices-slashed-for-dunfermline-game/.
Pars Review preferred line-up, with squad numbers:
Photos by Pars Review.
Tomorrow: Game Day image and full match report/opinion, photos and Pars player ratings.