Scottish Championship - Saturday 05/11/16 - KO 3.00pm - East End Park
Odds (Skybet): Dunfermline 29/20; Draw 13/5; Raith 6/4
The first League meeting at East End Park between the Fife rivals in almost 4 years takes place tomorrow. The derby atmosphere will add to the occasion, but most important for Dunfermline is the need for a victory, after only 2 League victories all season.
Rovers go into the game 5 places and 12 points better off than the Pars. Manager Gary Locke has continued the work done by predecessor Ray McKinnon, who took Rovers to the play-offs last season. Currently in 3rd place, Rovers have overcome a difficult period between mid September and early October, when they lost 3 games out of 4, and have since drawn with Hibs and defeated Falkirk and Queen Of The South.
Locke will have to deal with a number of unavailable first team players this weekend. On-loan Hearts defender Liam Smith, a Scotland Under 21 cap, has returned to Tynecastle at the end of his loan period, despite Rovers requesting an extension. Smith was covering the full back position usually filled by captain Jason Thomson, who is out with a long term tendonitis problem. Winger Bobby Barr is out for 2 months with a knee injury sustained 2 weeks ago. Striker Mark Stewart was also ruled out this week, after a wrist injury required surgery.
Here is the current Championship table:
Dunfermline's defence has been the major problem this season, conceding 23 League goals, the second worst record in the 4 SPFL divisions. While the various players who have made up the back 4 have been at fault at times, they have often been put under additional pressure due to Allan Johnston's favoured 4-4-2 formation, which has left the central midfield players often outnumbered by teams who have added an extra central midfielder at the expense of 2 wide players. The form of the Pars central midfield has also been poor. The return from injury of Nat Wedderburn should provide more strength in midfield and act as a shield to the defence in the weeks ahead.
Pars line up: based on Johnston's 4-4-2
Injured players: Ben Richards-Everton and David Hopkirk.
Now available: John Herron and Farid El Alagui.
The back 4 may be changed yet again on Saturday. Ryan Williamson may drop out after his display at Dumbarton last weekend but with Ben Richards-Everton still injured, options to replace the out-of-form full back are limited, with Lewis Martin required in central defence, unless Callum Fordyce is considered. Midfielder Andy Geggan could move back into the right back position.
In midfield, Nat Wedderburn has been quietly effective in the 2 games since his return from injury. John Herron made his comeback from injury in the Under 20s win over Rangers on Tuesday and could partner Wedderburn. Joe Cardle made an impact after coming on at half time against Dumbarton, and if he is to start on the left, it leaves Johnston to decide between Kallum Higginbotham and Michael Paton for the right wing position. Paton was substituted at half time last week, with Higginbotham moving to the right so that Cardle could play on the left wing.
Up front, a fit-again Farid El Alagui fit again will partner Nicky Clark.
Preferred Pars line-up:
Formation: 4-1-3-2, with Geggan at right back, Wedderburn in defensive midfield and Herron in the centre of a 3 man midfield. Higginbotham replaces Paton in a narrower midfield. I do not expect this to be the team or the formation that Johnston selects, but it's what I would prefer. Line-up (with squad numbers):
Photos by Pars Review.
Tomorrow: Game Day image and full match report/opinion, photos and Pars player ratings.