19 days ago, I wrote an article on this blog titled "Don't Panic", referring to the lack of new DAFC signings at that point. Since that date, 2 further new players have joined the club - Declan McManus and Aaron Splaine. Manager Allan Johnston has also confirmed that he is still looking to add "4 or 5 players" to his squad, which is currently imbalanced and light on numbers in some key areas. With the first pre-season friendly (not including a closed-doors run out against Partick) due in 7 days - at home to Hibs - the squad still has just 1 senior player in central midfield - Nat Wedderburn), 1 right back - Ryan Williamson - with fourth choice centre-half Lewis Martin as cover, and 1 left-back - Jason Talbot, with Martin again as his cover.
A winger is required to replace Paul McMullan, who this week joined Dundee United. While Joe Cardle is still under contract, and so is available as a replacement for McMullan, it would be strange for a player not deemed good enough last season to replace the player who was keeping him out of the team, with the top 4 this season's target. Strange, but not unprecedented - Johnston gave Rhys McCabe a new contract a year ago, while at the same time released Josh Falkingham, whose form had kept McCabe out of the team in the season that had just ended.
While it would be foolish to advocate signing anyone (within reason) to simply fill the squad, another lesson from last season must be learned: the time taken to finalise the squad led to 3 defeats from the opening 4 League games, plus an early exit from the League Cup. The last player to be signed before the summer transfer window closed, Nicky Clark, was to prove to be a successful signing, but had he not fallen out with the club he had only joined weeks before (Bury), it has to be wondered what Johnston would have done, as he already knew by that point that his other 2 strikers - Gavin Reilly and Michael Moffat - were misfiring in the opening few weeks of the season. This is another scenario that cannot be repeated this year. Another striker to supplement the current pairing of Clark and McManus is required. David Hopkirk is the only other option up front, and his return of 7 goals for Dunfermline since signing in January 2015 suggest that he is not the answer either, if a promotion bid is to be made. Hopkirk also has a tendency to suffer recurring, small, niggly injuries, which also underlines the need for at least 1 other option up front.
Pre-season training is now well underway and the importance of integrating new players into the squad, assessing and improving their fitness levels, and allowing them to settle into a new club, is clear and has to be highlighted. Sean Murdoch mentioned in an interview last week that trialist players have been involved in training - we could expect some of these players to be included in pre-season games. This, plus the hours that Allan Johnston will be spending talking to agents and other managers on the phone, demonstrates that he is active in his pursuit of new players, but were are now entering the time frame where negotiations have to be turned into concerted moves for players' signatures. There is still time, but the clock is ticking.
Yesterday evening, Dunfermline Athletic revealed the new home kit for season 2017/18. A throwback to the Pars kit of the late 1960s, including the 1968 Scottish Cup winning team, the response from fans, including Pars Review, was overwhelmingly positive. It is a classic Dunfermline kit, with candystripes, round neck and a fresh, crisp appearance - a perfect mix of retro, tradition and the present day. One of the images released showed Callum Morris wearing the kit with the captain's armband - a subtle way to announce that Callum will be the new club captain for the forthcoming season.
Callum is now in his second spell with Dunfermline and was in impressive form in the final months of last season, after he returned to East End Park in January. Often looking a class above his opponents in many Championship games, his decision to stay with the Pars after his contract expired was a huge boost. Together with fellow centre-half Lee Ashcroft, Callum will be a key member of the Dunfermline team in the coming months. Goalkeeper Sean Murdoch would also have made a good choice as club captain, but it could be, like many managers, that Allan Johnston prefers an outfield player to wear the armband. In any case, what ultimately matters is that the team contains as many leaders as possible, and players such as Callum, Sean and Lee all fall into that category.
Reaching his peak years (now 27 years old), Callum is an excellent choice as the new club captain to replace previous captains Andy Geggan and Callum Fordyce, both of whom left this summer.
For more information, photos and a video of the new home kit, please visit:
3rd May 1998: title-chasing Celtic came to East End Park looking for 3 points that would secure the Premier League championship and prevent their rivals Rangers from winning a record 10th title in a row, Celtic also having won 9 titles in a row during the 1960s and 1970s. For Dunfermline, this was the last home game of the season and the final game to be played with East End Park as a terraced stadium. The East Stand had already been changed from terracing to a stand, but the photos I took that day, seen here, show the home end of the stadium as it was, before reconstruction.
Fans start to fill the home end before the game (above) for the final time.
Minutes before the game started, Sammy the Tammy can be seen walking round as the home end terracing is now packed.
After Simon Donnelly had given Celtic a 35th minute lead, the Pars (playing in their away kit) equalised through substitute Craig Faulconbridge's looping header in the 83rd minute, ensuring that Celtic would not win the title that week. Here is the goal celebration with Faulconbridge leading the way.
That summer, with the terracing behind both goals now removed, work began on the stands that would complete the look of the new East End Park. The away stand would be completed first, and would house home fans for the opening games of the 1998/99 season, until what is now the Norrie McCathie stand was completed. I took the photo above showing the home end in rubble and the away stand being constructed.
Photos in article (except for edited image): Pars Review
Graphic edit: www.instagram.com/thedunfermlineway/
DAFC General Manager Mikey Mlotkiewicz together with the Pars board have given Dunfermline fans a range of sponsorship options for the coming season that expands greatly on the familiar home and away kit sponsorship packages. In a wide range of creative initiatives, fans now have the chance to sponsor a player or a member of the management team for items such as playing kit, training kit, boots, social media (more of that later), PA announcements, teamsheets, goalkeeper gloves, sponsorship of the backroom staff, and more.
I am delighted to confirm that for the first time since Pars Review was launched in July 2015, we will be sponsoring a player, in this case Kallum Higginbotham, in the new area of social media sponsorship. Every time Kallum scores, the club will release a goal update on their various social media platforms, and as the sponsor, Pars Review's name will appear in the image, in addition to each matchday programme. This is an entirely new venture, and is a great example of the innovative work being done by Mikey and the club.
Sponsoring a player is another step forward for Pars Review: the volume of site visitors continues to increase every week, as does the number of views/visits in total. Daily site updates are guaranteed during the season. In addition to blog articles, the site's Facebook and Twitter pages are updated daily.
For more detailed information about DAFC sponsorship opportunities, please visit the following links:
Pars Review social media links:
Photos & edit: Pars Review
Pars fans of a certain age may remember the exploits of Gordon Stewart, fictional goalkeeper and a regular in the Roy Of The Rovers comic, from 1977 to 1982. His ability in goals earned him the title "the safest hands in soccer" and he was the reason why his team, Tynefield City, kept so many clean sheets and won more often than not.
The news today that Dunfermline keeper Sean Murdoch has extended his current contract by a further year will please every Pars fan, for his performances have almost elevated him to the same lofty pedestal that children of the late 70s and early 80s once held Stewart in, as they thumbed through the pages of their favourite comic. The value of a good goalkeeper cannot be overstated. Sean Murdoch has made a huge contribution to Dunfermline's progress in the past 2 seasons - being part of a defence that set a club record for minutes played without conceding a goal, in 2015/16; and then last season winning most of the club's (and this blog's) player of the year awards. He has as assured manner, is a confident figure, very consistent and is also one of the team's leaders. He was given the team captaincy in a handful of games last season when Andy Geggan and Callum Fordyce were not in the starting 11. He is the leading candidate and the obvious choice for the club captaincy for the coming season, with the departures of Geggan and Fordyce.
Surprisingly, the past 2 years have been the first time in Sean's career that he has been an established first choice keeper at any of his clubs, which includes his first spell at Dunfermline (2005-2008). The Pars have had a long list of excellent goalkeepers since the 1960s, and Sean is now joining the elite group of the very best that includes Eddie Connachan, Ian Westwater, Andy Rhodes, Marco Ruitenbeek and Paul Gallacher, and others. While the title of the safest hands in soccer in 2017 may belong to Gianluigi Buffon, Manuel Neuer or David de Gea, Sean Murdoch is certainly the best goalkeeper in the Scottish Championship, as evidenced by his inclusion in the SPFL's 2016/17 Championship team of the year. Still just 30 years old, he has many good years in front of him, the next 2 of which will be at East End Park, and hopefully many more beyond that.
Photos: Pars Review
On a warm day in Cumbernauld, 30 out of contract players took part in the PFA Scotland Player Showcase Exit Trial game. Two teams including 4 substitutes per team were given 3 periods of 30 minutes, with all outfield players being given a minimum of 60 minutes game time. The teams were coached by Ryan Stevenson, John Rankin and Lee Miller, and the crowd at Clyde's Broadwood Stadium included managers, coaches, youth team coaches and senior players moving into coaching, including Darren Young, Jon Daly, Barry Smith, Darren Jackson, Stephen Craigen, Darren Barr, Craig Beattie, Frazer Wright, Stevie Farrell, Gordon Dalziel and Jim McInally. Ex-Par Paul Gallacher was also in the crowd but I did not see any of the Dunfermline management team.
Three former Dunfermline players took part - Ciaran Lafferty, Ross Drummond and Cammy McClair. The remainder of the squads were also mainly young players, alongside more experienced players including Mark Miller (ex Falkirk and Dundee United) and Smart Osadolor (fomerly of Annan Athletic).
From a Pars perspective, there was no one who appeared to be of first team quality if we are to compete at the top end of the Championship. For me, the game's best player was Red Team number 14 Dwayne Coultress (pictured below) who, in addition to scoring, did not waste a pass in midfield and looked a strong, skillful player. Perhaps worth a trial if we still had an Under 20s team, or if this was 12 months from now when we will take part in the new reserve league. He should certainly be a target for League 1 teams, in addition to Miller and the ex-Hearts full back David Banjo, who had a good game.
The event was well organised, led by PFA Scotland's Michelle Evans, who did an excellent job. Let's hope these players are able to find new clubs for the coming season and will look back on the hot day at Broadwood as their first step back into the game.
The number of ex-Kilmarnock players who worked under Allan Johnston at Rugby Park and are now working with him at Dunfermline rose to 3 this week when Aaron Splaine joined the Pars on a 1 year deal. The 20 year old midfielder has been out of senior football for a year but showed enough early promise for Johnston to add him to the 2017/18 DAFC squad. Clearly the manager has great belief in the player, as the club have stated that the first team squad will be tighter on numbers this year, so every player will be expected to contribute.
Spanish-born Aaron Splaine grew up in Ayrshire and signed a youth contract with Queen of the South at the age of 13, in 2008. Allan Johnston would first have become aware of Aaron when he joined Queens in 2010 as a player, before becoming manager at Palmerston in 2012. When Johnston moved to Kilmarnock as manager in 2013, he signed Aaron to his first professional contract. After Johnston left Kilmarnock, Aaron made his first team debut and went onto make 8 appearances for the club in the Premiership.
While on holiday in the summer of 2016, Aaron broke a bone in his right foot and as a result was without a club for the majority of last season. He played for the Stranraer Under 20s to regain fitness and also had trials with Leeds United and Burnley. One game he featured in was the Leeds United Under 23s match at Shamrock in February (team sheet below).
Aaron is a left-footed central midfielder and could fit into a 4-4-2 or 3-5-2 formation. There will be an article on the blog on Monday looking at possible formations for the coming season.
Pars Review partner, The Dunfermline Way Instagram page, posted this image on Thursday, using Tweets about Aaron during his time at Kilmarnock. Hopefully he can show the same form with Dunfermline and become an important player in the season ahead.
Above image by www.instagram.com/thedunfermlineway/
Two years ago, the signing of striker Declan McManus would have been seen as something of a coup for Dunfermline, following the player's highly successful season with League 1 champions Morton. Declan, still just 22 years old, signed for the Pars yesterday and despite his patchy form over the past 2 years, will see the move to East End Park as a chance to re-establish himself as one of the best young strikers in Scotland outside the Premiership. He joins Nicky Clark as only the second established striker in Allan Johnston's squad and has signed for 12 months.
Declan McManus signed his first professional contract with Aberdeen in January 2012 at the age of 18. He remained under contract to the Dons until July 2015 and was twice top scorer in the Youth league but did not establish himself in the first team squad, making 12 appearances. To continue his development, Aberdeen decided to send him on loan, firstly to Alloa, where he scored his first senior goal, against Morton, in December 2013. The following season, 2014/15, saw Declan score 23 times in 2 loans spells at Morton, helping the club to win the League 1 title and winning the League 1 Player of the Year award. His form attracted interest from clubs in England, and he signed for League 1 side Fleetwood Town in the summer of 2015.
After scoring on his debut for Fleetwood, he then endured a 9 game goalless run. He was given the option of returning to Morton, once again on loan, in January 2016 and despite his barren run in front of goal extending to 14 games - after failing to score in his opening 5 Morton appearances - he went on to score 5 times, ending the season with 6 goals in 30 appearances. He remained in Scotland for season 2016/17, this time on loan to Raith Rovers.
Declan did not enjoy the best of seasons in Kirkcaldy. He scored in just 1 of his first 12 League games (a double in a win over St Mirren). His next League goal came 8 games later, in October, after which he played a further 21 League games without scoring. He was to score a last minute winner in Raith's last League game at home to Ayr, which then led to a further 2 goals in both legs of the relegation play-off final against Brechin. This was not enough to prevent Raith being relegated, losing a penalty kick shoot-out after the second leg of the final. He scored 9 goals in League and Cup games for Raith but the season was a huge disappointment.
Declan has undoubted ability and it has to be remembered that he is still a relatively young player, and as such will suffer dips in confidence. His excellent season on loan at Morton in 2014/15 showed that he can score goals in the right environment. He has also been recognised at international level, winning Scotland caps at Under 18, 19 and 21 levels. Moving to Dunfermline will give him another chance at Championship level, and it is to be hoped that he will flourish in a team that is at the right end of the table.
On Wednesday 14 June, DAFC released images of the new 2017/18 away kit. The lit features a red and black striped shirt, with white shorts and black socks, plus a change of club badge to a version that older Pars fans will remember. Reproducing official club photos is not permitted, so here is a graphic edit of the new away kit:
The away shirt is almost a replica of the 2015/16 home shirt, including the collar design. The 2017 away stripes "switch" with the sequencing of the 2015 home shirt stripes (compare the black central stripe in the graphic above, to the photo of Shaun Byrne below, in the 2015 home kit), but is otherwise almost identical.
The most recent Pars kit to have red and black stripes was the 2004 away kit, although it had thicker stripes (as seen in photo below of Noel Hunt).
The most famous red and black striped kit is that worn by AC Milan. The new Pars away kit is very similar in style to the current AC Milan home kit (seen below), with the width of the stripes being almost the same.
One very noticeable change on the new Pars away kit is the use of the club's badge. Gone is the triangular club crest, replaced with the letters DAFC, as used between 1977 to 1985. It can be seen here in this photo of 1970s Pars star Bonar Mercer:
The away kit will be a popular item when it goes on sale (along with the as yet unseen new home kit) at the DAFC Open Day on 16 July.
After relegation from the Premier League in 2011/12, Pars boss Jim Jefferies revamped his squad with a host of new players, including defenders Stephen Jordan and Callum Morris, midfielders Andy Geggan and Stephen Husband, and striker Ryan Wallace. One of Jefferies' most astute signings was 21 year old midfielder Josh Falkingham, Leeds-born and a product of the Leeds United youth team, who had moved to Scotland to rebuild his career after his boyhood team released him in 2010. The diminutive Falkingham became a regular in the Dunfermline team that led the First Division (now Championship) before financial mismanagement and eventual administration led to most of the senior players in the first team squad being released, and the club being deducted 15 points. Relegation followed, and it was not for a further 3 seasons that Dunfermline would return to Scottish football's second tier. During that period, Josh had been club captain for a period, and was a virtual ever-present in the team, making a total of 151 appearances for the club.
Seemingly not offered a new Pars contract in the summer of 2016, to the surprise and disappointment of many, including the player himself, Josh was to be 4 months without a club after his Dunfermline contract ended.
His next move was back to England, with Darlington, on a 1 year part-time contract. The club were in English football's sixth tier, the National League North, 2 divisions below the bottom rung of the Football League. Promotion was the club's aim and a fifth place finish should have been enough to enter the promotion play-offs. However, Darlington were refused entry to the play-offs due to failing to meet ground size regulations. This, combined with a wish to return to full-time football, saw Josh move to another club in the same division - Harrogate Town, closer to his Leeds base and more importantly, back to full-time football. He was quoted in the local media after signing in mid-May, saying: "I sat down with the manager and the chairman and heard what they both had to say. From that first chat the ambition of everyone at the club was clear and was a massive factor when it came to making my decision.
“Everything that they said were things that I wanted as well and this is a perfect fit for me. First and foremost, going back full-time is something that I’ve been striving for so I'm looking forward to that. I want to do the right things on the pitch because at the end of the day my ambition is to play at as high a level as possible. By performing well for Harrogate and pushing for promotion, hopefully we'll all progress together.
“I want to start by making a good impression and I want to obviously repay the faith that the manager has put in me. The manager, the chairman, and everyone around the place has spoken about the ambition of where we want to be, so personally, it’s all about getting my head down now and coming back for pre-season fit and ready to go.”
I am sure all Pars fans will wish Josh every success with Harrogate. He is a player who will always be fondly remembered for his time at East End Park. Personally, I wish he was still a Dunfermline player.
Photos: Daily Record & Darlington FC.
Today, St Mirren, in an extraordinary act of self-sabotage, have signed "striker" Gavin Reilly on a 1 year contract. Reilly was Dunfermline's most disappointing signing of last summer, his season characterised by a miserable goal return and lacklustre all-round displays. The player had previously worked with Allan Johnston at Queen of the South, scoring a respectable 15 goals in the Championship season of 2014/15. This won him a 3 year contract with Hearts, but his return of only 4 goals in 32 appearances in his first season with Hearts led to him being loaned to the division below and reunited with his former boss Johnston.
Two goals in a pre-season victory at Livingston seemed to suggest that Reilly was an effective penalty box goal poacher, and he began the season upfront with Michael Moffat. Moffat's double against Arbroath in the Betfred Cup was the only game in which either player scored in the opening six League and Cup games. Reilly then scored against Hibs at Easter Road with a well-taken finish. A second goal of the season, 3 weeks later in the Challenge Cup win at Brechin, gave Reilly a record of 2 goals in 7 games.
And that was that.
Reilly was unable to score another goal, finishing the season with 2 goals from 16 starts and 12 substitute appearances. Both his goals came in away games and so the majority of Dunfermline fans did not witness the player scoring a goal. He was an unused substitute for the majority of the second half of the season, with Nicky Clark the team's main goalscorer, and Reilly unable to displace the Moff, whose creativity ensured that he kept his place in the team, despite only scoring 4 League goals all season. Reilly's minimal contributions saw him run around but have next to no impact on the game. He was not even guilty of missing chances - he was so ineffective that it was a rarity to see him touch the ball.
Reilly looked a despondent figure, hardly surprisingly, but did not endear himself to fans when he was the only Pars player not to celebrate the New Year win with supporters at Stark's Park, making a bee-line for the changing room at the opposite end of the ground as soon as the final whistle sounded.
St Mirren have now given the player another chance at Championship level, after he was seemingly released from Hearts after 2 years of his 3 year deal had passed, according to reports today. Saints manager Jack Ross must see something in the player that was missing during his season in Fife. The player will need to up his game drastically to have a future at this level, and will not be fondly remembered by Dunfermline fans.
With just one new signing so far this summer - former Wee Team centre half Jean-Yves M'Voto - there has been a marked lack of transfer activity around East End Park. The exit door has been far more active, with Callum Fordyce, Andy Geggan, David Hutton, Rhys McCabe, the Moff, Ben Richards-Everton and Lewis Spence all leaving the club since the end of the Pars' season 5 weeks ago. Loan players John Herron, Paul McMullan and Gavin Reilly have either returned to their parent clubs or are now out of contract.
The following players were already contracted to May 2018:
Joe Cardle, Nicky Clark, David Hopkirk, Lewis Martin, Sean Murdoch, Ryan Williamson.
Allan Johnston has since extended the contracts of Lee Ashcroft, Kallum Higginbotham, Callum Morris, Jason Talbot and Nat Wedderburn.
Former Under 20s players Paul Allan, Cammy Gill, Conner Duthie, Scott Lochhead, Brandon Luke, Stuart Morrison and Callum Smith were also given new deals (some before the end of last season), although Johnston has stated that some of them may be loaned out to build up first team experience in League 1 or 2. The majority of those players are still teenagers, but Dunfermline have decided against having an Under 20s team next season. The SPFL have announced the return of a reserve league but this does not begin until season 2018/19.
Johnston admitted that he had made enquiries about Simon Murray and James Keatings. Murray signed for Hibs after rejecting a new contract with Dundee United - it would have been a major surprise had he decided to join Dunfermline even without Hibs' interest, while Keatings, surprisingly freed by Hibs, joined Dundee United and also appeared to be a player outwith Dunfermline's realistic transfer radar. While it is pleasing to see the manager target such players, the other side of that argument is that time should not be wasted on players who, barring a major shock, are not realistic targets.
What should not be a doubt at this stage is Johnston's awareness of his squad's threadbare nature, especially in midfield and forward areas. The danger in waiting too long is starting the season with players who subsequently become unused substitutes, or are replaced by better quality when it eventually becomes available. Last season was a perfect example of that: until Nicky Clark was signed - weeks into the season, on 31 August - Dunfermline struggled up front with no League goals from strikers in the starting 11. If a promotion play-off place is to be achieved in 2017/18, the team cannot make such a slow start, and signings have to be embedded in the starting 11 at an earlier date than in 2016.
There should be no panic at this stage, however - while other Championship clubs have made some early signings, no players so far have been of the standard that would cause a Pars fan to believe that we missed out. Two clubs who finished just below us last season, Queen of the South and St Mirren, have signed ex-Pars Callum Fordyce, Shaun Rooney (both QOS) and Gregor Buchanan (St Mirren), while Morton have signed another ex-Dunfermline player, Robert Thomson, plus former Ayr midfielder Gary Harkins. None of these players would significantly improve the current DAFC squad. While there have been other signings for Championship clubs this summer, these moves are indicative of the standard of player being added to other teams' squads.
Pre-season training starts next week, and while at the moment Dunfermline would seem better equipped to compete in a revamp of the Tennants Soccer Sixes rather than the Scottish Championship, there are still 5 weeks until the first competitive game of the season, the Betfred Cup game against Elgin on 15 July. It is 8 weeks until the League season starts. Ideally the squad would be completed by then, 3 weeks before the end of the transfer window at the end of August, to give the team the best possible chance to start the season positively. Until then, in the words of Dad's Army's Private Jones, as played by the great Clive Dunn (pictured above): don't panic.
Although the Dunfermline Press reported last week that Rhys McCabe was due to sign a new contract with the Pars, the midfielder has instead joined Irish Premier Division side Sligo Rovers, as confirmed on Sligo's Facebook and Twitter pages. McCabe, whose Pars contract ended on 31 May, signed for Sligo yesterday.
Rhys McCabe spent 2 seasons at East End Park with mixed success. He was unable to secure a regular place in the League 1 winning team of 2015/16, but was given a contract extension last summer for the following 12 months. 2016/17 did not begin well for McCabe, with both he and his partner in central midfield, Andy Geggan, struggling for form. Geggan eventually moved to the right back position and McCabe lost his place in the team. He was, however, to regain some of his best form as the season progressed, initially in early winter when he scored an equalising penalty against Falkirk and turned in a series of good performances before illness meant he again dropped out of the team in the New Year period. The good form of both Nat Wedderburn and John Herron in midfield meant that McCabe had to wait for his next chance, which came after an impressive substitute appearance at Morton, then a return to the starting 11 for the final 6 matches of the season. He scored twice in those final games, displaying a willingness to shoot from distance (something that was lacking in the team) and playing well in midfield, erasing memories of his poor early season form.
McCabe's departure leaves the Pars squad with just 1 central midfielder - Nat Wedderburn - with former Under 20s player Scott Lochhead as the only other current option. I would have been happy for McCabe to extend his stay with Dunfermline. He was comfortable on the ball, had a good passing range, could shoot from distance, and was able to take a long throw in that was a useful weapon. Sligo have signed a player coming into his peak years, and he goes with Pars fans' best wishes.
Photos: Pars Review
Last week, the Pars were drawn in the Betfred League Cup against Hearts, Peterhead, East Fife and Elgin, in a group where 4 fixtures would be played over 5 possible dates (3 weekends and 2 midweeks). The unwanted scenario of 2 potential midweek visits up north lingered until yesterday, when the schedule for the opening round of the competition was announced. Given the opposition and the proposed dates, it could not have worked out better for Dunfermline: only 1 midweek game, and 2 home games against Peterhead and Elgin. The 2 away games are a local derby with East Fife and the short trip to Tynecastle, an attractive proposition. The Hearts game is live on BT Sport but will still be played on the Saturday at 3pm, another bonus, as it was anticipated that it might have been switched to the Friday evening.
Here are the details for all 4 games:
Saturday 15/7: Elgin City (home) 3.00pm
Tuesday 18/7: East Fife (away) 7.45pm
Saturday 22/7: Peterhead (home) 3.00pm
Saturday 29/7: Hearts (away) 3.00pm
While a home game against Hearts could have been advantageous in terms of progressing to the next round, financially splitting the gate at Tynecastle will bring in more revenue for Dunfermline. As stated above, it also means we have just 1 midweek game, in Fife, while Hearts have been given 2 midweek games, the second of which is at Peterhead, on the Tuesday prior to Dunfermline's visit to Tynecastle.
The Betfred Cup groups involve 32 teams. The 8 group winners plus the 4 best runners-up move into the next round.
A look back at one of the best Pars games from last season, and the match report from Pars Review.
Game: Hibs 2, Pars 2
Date: 25 February 2017
Venue: Easter Road
Pars Review match report (link: www.parsreview.org/blog/match-report-hibs-2-pars-2)
For long periods in this game, this was as good a performance as I have seen from a Dunfermline team. Given the huge lift that Hibs went into the game with, after their midweek win over Hearts, and backed by a big home support, the fightback after going 2-0 down and the way the game was taken to the home side, was great to see, and has set a standard that these players are capable of reaching, and possibly exceeding.
There was one change to the starting 11 that lost on a penalty shoot out to Hamilton in the Scottish Cup - captain Andy Geggan replacing the injured Lewis Martin, a change that was anticipated even had Martin been fit. The sixth minute saw Hibs take advantage of space left by Geggan on the wing, with the ball then played over the Pars central defence and met by Martin Boyle who ghosted in past a static Jason Talbot to score.
Hibs second goal was also the result of slack defending, Talbot pulling down Boyle for a definite penalty. Jason Cummings scored the kick with ease, with 24 minutes gone.
At this point a drubbing looked on the cards but 2 minutes later Dunfermline were given a lifeline when Nicky Clark flicked a pass to Paul McMullan that was missed by Hibs' David Gray. McMullan took full advantage and scored his first League goal for the Pars, on his 21st birthday. McMullan then brought out a great save from Hibs keeper Ofir Marciano with a well struck shot that was heading for the top corner. Halftime came with Dunfermline showing signs of getting something from the game, which had earlier seemed highly unlikely.
The Dunfermline equaliser came a minute into the second half with a piece of Kallum Higginbotham brilliance. The winger received the ball inside the penalty box and placed his shot firmly past Marciano.
From this point onwards, for at least the next 20 minutes, Dunfermline took a firm hold of the game, and created multiple chances, with Moffat, McMullan and, especially, Clark seeing shots cleared off the line and saved by the excellent Hibs keeper. Some of the Pars' efforts on goal seemed certain to go in, and it was with a sense of disbelief that the scoreline stayed 2-2. Sean Murdoch was assured and made one save of significance, tipping a header over following a long punt upfield from the home side. Geggan was having a very good game, while Talbot recovered from his poor start to have a storming game up the left side, linking with McMullan. Ashcroft and Morris in central defence were dominant and restricted Hibs to long range efforts. Wedderburn was the main presence in midfield, and on the right Higginbotham showed the maverick ability he has, frustrating at times but capable of great skill. In attack Clark will wonder how he did not score. Moffat had one of his best ever games for the club, showing his intelligence and being a focal point of most of the Pars' attacks. Both strikers worked tremendously hard for the team.
The final 15 minutes lacked the drama that had preceded, but the despicable antics of Neil Lennon on the touchline, ranting and raving and waving imaginary cards, showed how rattled the League leaders were.
A great game, and as stated above, for a long period this was as good a performance as any Pars fan has witnessed in recent years.
Starting 11, with marks out of 10:
Photos & edited image by Pars Review.
DAFC have a business partnership with Kelty Hearts Juniors, with the Pars Under 20s team playing their home games at Kelty's New Central Park in 2016/17, and the first team training at the same location, in addition to other activity between the 2 clubs. This blog, plus the blog's Twitter page, has supported Kelty throughout the season, including an article from November that included a contribution from Kelty player/manager Thomas Courts: www.parsreview.org/blog/the-kelty-connection. This article looks at the end of a fantastic season for Kelty Hearts, with photos and a video. Thomas Courts has once again made a big contribution, supplying commentary for the video. Many thanks to him - a class act on and off the pitch.
Here is the video, which was edited and uploaded today by my son Ben on his Pars YouTube channel, "DA Talk":
DA Talk YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/channel/UC1BVIChsK6v-iTyJnKNf7Eg
The final League match of the East Super League seemed to be set up for a winner takes all clash between Kelty and Bonnyrigg Rose, until Rose's surprise midweek home defeat to Linlithgow, which was their final game in hand over Kelty, and which meant that the Hearts were confirmed as title winners prior to the weekend game between the teams. This did not impact on Kelty's desire and determination to win yesterday's game, which they did convincingly: the 3-0 scoreline was an impressive way to end a superb season, with goals from Scott Dalziel, Brian Ritchie and Archie Campbell. Captain Shaun Greig lifted the trophy at the end of the game. Greig is a Kelty stalwart, forming the backbone of the team alongside player-manager Thomas Courts, ex-Pars midfielder Stephen Husband, Craig Thomson and others including Stuart Cargill, who scored his 100th Kelty goal this season before injury prevented him taking part in the final weeks of the season.
The 78 points that Kelty won this season is a record for the competition, beating every other previous winner, and continues a golden period in the club's history, following their title win in 2015 and a second-placed finish last season. The club is moving forward off the pitch too, with continual upgrading of their ground, and a new stand planned for next season. They are a true family club, and it was great to see a big crowd of all ages inside New Central Park to enjoy the game and the trophy presentation.
All content (written, photos & video) by Pars Review/DA Talk.
Other photos from yesterday's game:
Dunfermline's Betfred Cup group stage opponents were revealed today: the Pars will face Hearts, East Fife, Peterhead and Elgin in Group B (North). As confirmed earlier this week in this Pars Review article (http://www.parsreview.org/blog/key-dates), the 4 group games will be played on 4 of the following 5 dates in July: 15, 18/19, 22, 25/26 & 29. Details, venues etc are still to be confirmed.
There are 8 groups in this stage of the competition, with the group winners plus the best 4 runners up progressing to the next round.
Let's hope we avoid a midweek visit to either Peterhead or Elgin!
Jason Talbot became the latest Pars player to sign a contract extension when he agreed a new 1 year deal yesterday. The forthcoming season will be Talbot's third at East End Park, and is a reward and acknowledgement for his consistency and reliability. The left-back arrived at Dunfermline in 2015 with a reputation for hard tackling, which was soon demonstrated when a crunching challenge in the 18th minute of his home debut, a pre-season friendly against Hibs, resulted in a red card. On his return from suspension, after missing out on the opening League games, he was booked only once in his first 16 games. He was a regular in the League 1 winning team and signed a new contract in the summer of 2016 to remain at the club for the next year.
Another red card, this time against Queen of the South in August 2016, saw Talbot lose his first team place for the following month. On his return to the side, he went onto play a further 33 games, during which he was booked only 3 times. After 2 sendings-off in his Dunfermline career, which were both followed with long periods of more subdued behaviour, there was to be no repeat, as he became a steady, dependable figure in defence and eradicated the rash, reckless side of his game for the betterment of the team and himself. His one goal last season was for many people, including this blog, the Pars' goal of the season, a piledriver from 20 yards away to Queen of the South in December.
Jason Talbot is a player who, at 31, goes about his business efficiently, and is currently the most experienced player in the first team squad. He provides a high degree of stability and can be relied upon to deliver solid performances with a minimum of errors. He has a steely, determined focus on doing his job that makes him an excellent team player.
Photos: Pars Review