Scottish Championship - Saturday 22/10/16 - KO 3.00pm - East End Park
Odds (Skybet): Dunfermline 7/2; Draw 13/5; Hibs 8/11
The second quarter of Championship games begins tomorrow with League leaders Hibs visiting East End Park. Despite having gone 4 League games without a win, Hibs returned to the top of the division last week win a draw against Raith. Top scorer Jason Cummings netted 8 times in the opening 7 games in all competitions this season but has now gone 4 games without a goal. Among the other players that Hibs manager Neil Lennon has to select from include John McGinn, who made his second appearance for Scotland earlier this month in the game against Slovakia, plus Scottish Cup hero and club captain David Gray, who scored the winning goal for Hibs against Rangers last season to win the Cup for the first time since 1902. Midfielder Marvin Bartley will also be available following yesterday's overturning of the red card he received against Raith last Saturday - the second time this season that Bartley has been sent off and then had the decision reversed upon an appeal.
Here is the current Championship table:
Dunfermline's total of 7 points from the opening 9 League games has left the team in 8th place, 1 point above the relegation play-off place. A combination of a squad that has too many options in certain areas (wide players) and not enough in others (central midfield) and the poor form of some of last season's regulars - Andy Geggan, Ben Richards Everton and others - means the Pars go into tomorrow's game with hope rather than expectation of recording a home win. Once again, injuries will partly dictate team selection, with Joe Cardle and John Herron definitely missing. Nat Wedderburn played for the Under 20s on Monday evening and at some point must be fit enough to be considered for the first team, although it always seems to be a case of "another week".
Dunfermline will line-up with Sean Murdoch in goal. At right back, Ryan Williamson has struggled for form defensively and as an overlapping full back. Lewis Martin, who has began to form a central defensive partnership with Lee Ashcroft, could be moved to right back, which would then mean Ben Richards-Everton returning to the team alongside Ashcroft. Jason Talbot has been in good form at left back. In midfield, the central duo of Andy Geggan and Rhys McCabe may once again be selected despite being in poor form, simply because there is no one else available - Herron is injured, Lewis Spence is at Brechin on loan, and Nat Wedderburn is unlikely to start. Kallum Higginbotham, who has been played alongside Geggan in the latter part of the past 2 League games, could replace McCabe in the middle of the park, but he is not a natural central midfielder, and with Cardle injured, Higginbotham is more likely to play on the left. Paul McMullan is another option for the left wing. Michael Paton will retain his place on the right midfield, while up front it will be a major surprise if Nicky Clark and Farid El Alagui do not start the game. A change in formation could benefit the team, instead of the rigid 4-4-2 used so often by manager Allan Johnston.
The line-up below is what I would like to see - a change from 4-4-2, with Higginbotham playing behind the strikers and a more compact midfield.
Preferred Pars line-up, with squad numbers:
Photos by Pars Review.
Tomorrow: Game Day image and full match report/opinion, photos and Pars player ratings.