Irn Bru Challenge Cup - Saturday 08/10/16 - KO 3.00pm - East End Park
Odds (Skybet): Dunfermline 4/11; Draw 7/2; Queen's Park 6/1
Dunfermline face Queen's Park in a competitive game for the first time since 1999 on Saturday in the 4th round of the Irn Bru Challenge Cup. Although far from a priority tournament, it represents the chance to win a trophy with no Premiership first team squads involved in the competition. It also gives managers the opportunity to give game time to fringe players and others returning from injury.
The majority of Queen's Park's players will be unfamiliar to most Pars fans, but there are two well-known faces for the visitors: manager Gus MacPherson, who played for Dunfermline between 2001 and 2003, and defender Ross Millen, who was a youth team player then broke into the Pars first team in 2013 and made 79 appearances until he was released in 2015. Queen's Park are the only amateur club in the SPFL senior leagues, and won promotion to League 1 last season. So far this season, they have an identical record to Dunfermline's Championship games: both clubs have played 8, won 2, drawn 1 and lost 5. As the League tables below show, Dunfermline have found scoring goals easier than Queen's, with 11 scored to Queen's 5 in League games. Queen's have conceded fewer goals (12 to the Pars' 16).
Pars boss Allan Johnston has options for Saturday, particularly in defence and attack. Ben Richards-Everton could be given a start for the first time since the game at Morton in mid-September. Callum Fordyce could continue his matchday rehabilitation - having recovered physically, he now requires games to iron out the errors that were evident in his first few games back from long-term injury. Games against opponents from a lower division, plus appearances for the Under 20s (including this week's against Dundee where he played the full 90 minutes) will give him the chance to get his form and timing back.
Dunfermline have 4 wingers in the first team squad and Johnston may select Paul McMullan and Kallum Higginbotham to start against Queen's. Higginbotham (pictured below) was impressive for the Under 20s on Monday and is too talented a player to continually sit on the subs bench. The centre of midfield offers less options. Nat Wedderburn went off injured in the Under 20s game this week. With John Herron injured against Ayr last Saturday, and Lewis Spence on loan at Brechin, it leaves only an out-of-form Andy Geggan to partner Rhys McCabe - the only other available central midfielder.
In attack, Nicky Clark had to be substituted with a groin injury against Ayr. Changes could be made to give chances to players such as David Hopkirk, Farid El Alagui and Michael Moffat. Johnston may persist with Gavin Reilly in the hope that he can get a goal to boost his confidence. The team selection, central midfield aside, will come down to whether Johnston prefers to keep a mainly settled side, believing continuity will bring success, or to give some of the players mentioned in this article a chance to impress. The line-up in the graphic below is with this Challenge Cup fixture in mind, and not the obvious starting 11 for League games. Next weekend's League game at Falkirk will require the strongest available team, which would include players such as Joe Cardle, Nicky Clark and Lee Ashcroft, and so it might be wise to allow them a day off tomorrow.
Photo by Pars Review.
Tomorrow: Game Day image (morning) and in the evening a full match report/opinion, photos and Pars player ratings.