Old rivals meet again in the Betfred Cup
Betfred Cup - Saturday 22 July 2017 - East End Park - KO 3.00pm
The Betfred Cup group stage continues tomorrow, when Dunfermline welcome old adversaries Peterhead to East End Park. Rivals in League 1 between 2014 and 2016, the clubs are now 2 divisions apart after Peterhead's unexpected relegation in 2016/17. Manager Jim McInally survived the relegation, after leading his team to the promotion play-offs 12 months earlier.
Peterhead were among the favourites for promotion to the Championship a year ago but their season got off to a bad start, losing 5 of the opening 8 League games. They eventually gathered 40 points but ended in the 9th place relegation play-off position. A 4-1 aggregate win over Montrose in the play-off semi final set up a final against League 2 Forfar, which Peterhead lost over the 2 legs by 7 goals to 2.
McInally, in charge at the club since 2011, has added goalkeeper Greg Fleming and winger Willie Gibson, both ex-Pars, to his squad. A third former Dunfermline player, striker Allan Smith, will be competing for a place alongside club legend Rory McAllister, whose 26 goals last season could not prevent the club's fall to League 2. McAllister, who has an excellent record of 146 goals in 234 games for Peterhead, has already opened his account for this season, scoring the only goal in his team's win over East Fife in the opening Betfred Cup game last weekend. Peterhead have played 1 game in the competition so far - clubs play 4 times over 5 matchdays, sitting out 1 matchday each, which in Peterhead's case was midweek this week.
Allan Johnston has led his Dunfermline team to 5 points from a possible 6 in the 2 Betfred Cup games so far. The resounding 6-0 win over Elgin last Saturday was followed by a 0-0 draw at East Fife on Tuesday. The competition's format includes a penalty shoot-out after drawn games for an extra bonus point, which went Dunfermline's way after a 9-8 spotkick win.
New signing Deal Shiels made his debut at Methil as a second half substitute. His class and ability was immediately obvious, and he is likely to start against Peterhead. Shiels is an adaptable player but if he is used in the same central midfield role as he occupied at East Fife, one of Nat Wedderburn or Michael Paton will drop out. Big Nat is seen as an automatic first team starter, but to drop Paton would be very rough, such has been the good early season form of the converted winger. Paton has been one of the team's best performers in a more central role.
Johnston, who stuck rigidly to a 4-4-2 formation last season, has already shown a willingness to try different formations this pre-season and during the Betfred Cup game against Elgin. As I have suggested in the line-up graphic below, the addition of Shiels gives more options to the manager, and a 4-1-3-2 formation could be tried, meaning Wedderburn and Paton retain their places, with Joe Cardle dropping out.
David Hopkirk (back running) & Jason Talbot (nearing full fitness) are both missing from the squad this weekend.
With the players available, here is my preferred starting 11:
Dean Shiels photo & Jim McInally edit by Pars Review.
Match report/opinion with photos will be posted here around 9pm tomorrow evening.