Scottish Championship - Saturday 29/10/16 - KO 3.00pm -
Cheaper Insurance Direct Stadium, Dumbarton
Odds (Skybet): Dumbarton 13/8; Dunfermline 29/20; Draw 5/2
Saturday's game in the shadow of Dumbarton Rock features the 8th and 9th placed teams in this season's Championship, with the hosts occupying the relegation play-off position, 1 point behind visitors Dunfermline.
Dumbarton were pre-season relegation favourites alonsgide the only other part-time club in the division, Ayr United. While Ayr have started the season in good form, gathering 14 points from 10 games, Dumbarton have struggled, scoring only 9 goals at a rate of less than a goal per game. They have won just 1 game in the League, and have not won since the second League game, when they had what was considered a surprise 1-0 win over Dundee United. The week before, Dumbarton had travelled to East End Park to begin the Championship campaign, and were 4-1 down going into added on time at the end of the game. Dunfermline then conceded 2 penalties, both of which were converted by Mark Docherty to make the final result 4-3, a game that Dunfermline should have won much more comfortably.
With the lack of goals mentioned above, Dumbarton's top scorers this season are Mark Docherty and Robert Thomson, with 3 goals each. Thomson also scored in the opening day game against Dunfermline, and is one of 3 ex-Pars in the Dumbarton squad, the other 2 being Gregor Buchanan and Andy Stirling.
Here is the current Championship table:
With just 1 point gathered from 5 away games this season, Allan Johnston has the task of improving that dismal record, and also tightening up a defence that ranks as the second worst of the 42 SPFL clubs this season for League goals conceded. With so many of the goals against being the result of avoidable errors in almost every game this season, Johnston has shuffled the back 4 several times without finding a suitable settled formation. The midfield has also been an area of concern, with 2 central players often being outfought, outclassed and outnumbered by opposition teams, with the regular pairing of Andy Geggan and Rhys McCabe proving inadequate, and Johnston's perseverance with a 4-4-2 formation not helping matters.
Two new injury problems have surfaced during this week, with both David Hopkirk and Ben Richards-Everton posting pictures on their Instagram pages of their legs in a protective casing. Both players seem to be unavailable and could be for some time.
In defence, Richards-Everton's injury could see Lewis Martin move back to central defence, with Ryan Williamson starting at right back. The other option is to have Callum Fordyce alongside Lee Ashcroft in the middle of the back 4, leaving Martin at full back.
In midfield, Nat Wedderburn completed 90 minutes against Hibs last weekend.A change in formation to give the team a more solid spine could see Wedderburn play in front of the back 4, as in the line-up graphic below. But such is Johnston's preference for 4-4-2, it is more likely that the central midfield that was over-run against Hibs will start the game against Dumbarton. John Herron will miss the game meaning Geggan and Wedderburn are almost guaranteed to start.
Joe Cardle is fit after missing the last 2 games through injury. The injury status of Nicky Clark is not known at the time this preview was written, meaning Gavin Reilly could continue up front in his quest for a second League goal of the season. Other options in forward areas, either as wingers or in a tighter midfield, are Kallum Higginbotham, Paul McMullan and Michael Paton.
Preferred Pars line-up, with squad numbers, and based on Richards-Everton, Herron and Hopkirk being unavailable, but with Clark available again after missing the game last week:
Photos by Pars Review.
Tomorrow: Game Day image and full match report/opinion, photos and Pars player ratings.