Scottish Championship - Saturday 24/09/16 - KO 5.15pm - Live on BBC Alba
Odds (Skybet): Dunfermline 21/20; St Mirren 11/5; Draw 13/5
Despite the competitive nature of this year's Championship, few would have predicted that the Pars and St Mirren would go into tomorrow's game at East End Park occupying the last 2 places in the division. Rated fourth and fifth favourites to win the division before the season started, both Dunfermline and St Mirren have had poor starts to 2016/17, with the Pars' opening day 4-3 win against Dumbarton being the only victory either of tomorrow's opponents have had in the League. St Mirren have drawn 3 and lost 3 of their fixtures, while Dunfermline have lost 5 consecutive games.
St Mirren's run of results cost manager Alex Rae his job earlier this week. Appointed in December 2015, Rae inherited a squad in the lower half of the division, having been relegated from the Premiership the season before. Given the remainder of the season to haul Saints away from the relegation places, finishing 6th, Rae recruited 9 new players this summer but was unable to meet the expectations of the Paisley club's board, and has been replaced by interim manager Allan McManus, the club's youth team coach.
St Mirren are the lowest goalscorers in the division with 5 League goals. Ryan Hardie and Tom Walsh, with 2 goals each, are their top scorers. Strikers signed in the summer have so far been a disappointment, with David Clarkson and on-loan Aberdeen forward Lawrence Shankland (once on loan at the Pars) yet to score in the League, while another new striker, John Sutton, has scored once. Both Clarkson and Shankland had been on loan at Saints last season, Shankland for the whole season, scoring 10 goals, and Clarkson from January, scoring once. Both did enough to make Alex Rae extend Shankland's loan from Aberdeen and sign Clarkson permanently from Motherwell. Sutton is in his second spell at St Mirren, having previously played for the club between 2005-2007.
The League table below shows the start the both clubs have made this season.
Dunfermline's injury and illness problems are clearing up, although David Hopkirk and Nat Wedderburn, both back in training, may not be considered this weekend. Sean Murdoch made his playing comeback in the Under 20s game on Monday evening (http://www.parsreview.org/blog/under-20s-match-report-pars-0-partick-1) and has confirmed that he is available for a first team return on Saturday. There are no other injuries or suspensions. In defence, Ryan Williamson could come back in at right back. Callum Fordyce, who played in that position last week, could move into central defence but Johnston may keep last week's pairing of Lee Ashcroft and Ben Richards-Everton. Left back is a choice between Lewis Martin and Jason Talbot.
The midfield also has several options, including changing formation from 2 wide players and two central midfielders to a sitting/defensive midfielder (Andy Geggan, in Wedderburn's absence) behind 3 more attack-minded midfielders. John Herron may be given a first team start to freshen up this area of the team. Johnston has to decide whether to retain Paton and McMullan as the team's wingers, or bring in one or both of Joe Cardle and Kallum Higginbotham. Up front, it could be time for Farid El Alagui (pictured above) to be given a start, alongside Nicky Clark. Gavin Reilly has failed to impress and on current form his place must be under threat.
Pars Review preferred line-up, with squad numbers:
Photos by Pars Review.
Tomorrow: Game Day image and full match report/opinion, photos and Pars player ratings.