Scottish Championship - Saturday 07/01/17 - KO 3.00pm - Somerset Park
Odds (Ladbrokes): Ayr United 19/10; Draw 9/4; Dunfermline 7/5
Dunfermline travel south to Ayr tomorrow for the tenth time in the past 4 seasons, unbeaten in the previous 9 visits in League and Cup games. The Pars recent good run of form and results has seen the team climb to sixth place in the Championship, their highest position since the opening couple of weeks of the season.
Ayr United made a good start to life in the Championship this season with 5 wins in their opening 10 games. Since then, they have failed to win in 9 matches. Promoted via the play-offs last season, Ayr are one of only 2 part time teams in the division. Boss Ian McCall was initially able to overcome this disadvantage. However, as noted above, the past 2 months have seen Ayr struggle, gaining only 5 points from a possible 27, a significant drop compared to their haul of 15 points from the 30 available in the opening 10 games. While Ayr have lost just once in 6 games since mid-November, they have also failed to record a single win in that same period.
Here is the current Championship table:
The tightly packed Championship table has half the division within a few points of both the promotion and relegation play-off places. It was Dunfermline who occupied the 9th place before the win over Raith Rovers on Monday, which catapulted the Pars up to sixth place and within touching distance of the top 4. Unbeaten in 7 League games, Dunfermline top the division based on results in the most recent 6 games. Although there is still much work to be done to move away from the lower positions in the division, there is now justifiable hope that progress can be made moving up the table.
Dunfermline have an excellent record at Somerset Park. Since 1994, the Pars have won 10 times at Ayr, drawn 5 and lost just once in League and Cup games. In even more recent times (since 2010) Dunfermline have had 7 victories, 3 draws and no defeats at Ayr's ground.
Pars line-up: the manager's selection
Injured: Ben Richards-Everton, David Hopkirk
Two absentees from last week's squad may return on Saturday and will be pressing for selection in the starting 11: both Lewis Martin and Rhys McCabe were regular first team picks for Allan Johnston prior to both missing the Raith game through a family bereavement (Martin) and an injury in training (McCabe). Martin could replace Andy Geggan at right back, or take Callum Fordyce's place in central defence alongside Lee Ashcroft. Geggan is the more vulnerable to be replaced, but Johnston may prefer his experience and good track record against Ayr, his former club. Fordyce should retain his place after his tremendous performance against Raith. McCabe could come back in for Nat Wedderburn. The rest of the team is settled and it would be a major surprise if any other changes are made. New signing Callum Morris joins up with the squad on January 9.
I would, marginally, prefer Geggan at right back over Martin for this game. I would also play McCabe, who was in increasingly good form before missing the Raith game.
Preferred starting 11, with squad numbers:
Photo by Pars Review.
Tomorrow: Game Day image, then later in the evening match report/opinion with photos and Pars player ratings.