Scottish Championship - Saturday 11/03/17 - KO 3.00pm - Paisley 2021 Stadium
Odds (Ladbrokes): St Mirren: 8/5; Draw 23/10; Dunfermline 13/8
Two teams who had pre-season ambitions of achieving a top 4 promotion play-off place meet in Paisley tomorrow, with the home side bottom of the Championship and the visitors in 6th place but still not safe from at least a relegation play-off place. This is despite St Mirren staging something of a revival in recent weeks, and Dunfermline losing just 1 of the past 13 League games: both teams' current run of results is closer to top four form, but both are paying the price of poor starts to the season.
Our opponents -
Last five outings:
8 March - Championship - Lost 2-0 v Raith Rovers (A)
5 March - Scottish Cup - Lost 4-1 v Celtic (A)
1 March - Championship - Won 2-0 v Hibs (H)
25 February - Championship - Won 2-0 v Ayr United (A)
19 February - Challenge Cup - Won 4-1 v The New Saints (H)
St Mirren's relegation from the Premiership in 2014/15 was followed by the sacking of the manager who took them down and then the subsequent appointment of 4 other "permament" managers and one stand-in. Current boss Jack Ross, who took over in October 2016, had a difficult start to his time in charge, losing the first 6 games, but was allowed to struggle on until the January transfer window, during which he revamped his squad with 5 new signings plus 5 other players brought in on loan, with an almost equal number of departures. The new-look team have produced an improvement in results, and St Mirren have gradually reduced the points deficit between themselves and the teams immediately above them. The comments by Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers after his team defeated St Mirren in the Scottish Cup last weekend will give all Saints fans encouragement for the weeks ahead. Rodgers said: "I think St Mirren are the best team we have played this season, domestically, including Premiership teams. Jack's done an excellent job in a short space of time. They are very well coached and brought in some signings in January. They are very well organised and have mobility and speed."
Midfielder McGinn is now in his second spell with St Mirren, where his career began, making his debut in 2007. He made 84 appearances and also played 8 times for the Scotland Under 21 team before moving to Watford in 2010. He made 40 appearances for Watford but missed an entire year with a knee injury. After playing for Shrewsbury on loan, he signed for Sheffield United before returning to Scotland to play for Dundee in 2015. He then moved back south to Wycombe, and after 18 months had his contract cancelled by mutual consent, allowing him to sign for St Mirren in January this year. His brothers both play professional football - John, for Hibs, and Paul for Chesterfield.
St Mirren failed to win any of their opening 14 Championship games this season, finally recording a first victory in December.
They have kept just 3 clean sheets in 26 League games.
They have won the fewest games of any club in the Championship: 4, with these victories all coming in the past 12 games.
In the dugout
After a playing career that included spells at Clyde, Hartlepool, Falkirk and St Mirren, Ross retired in 2011 while under contract with Dunfermline but without playing a first team game. He moved into coaching, becoming the became assistant manager at Dumbarton, and in 2014 moved to Hearts as a coach. In December 2015 he was appointed manager of Alloa, and in his 10 months at the club achieved a club record of 10 consecutive victories at the start of this season. In October 2016 he became manager of St Mirren.
Pars & St Mirren facts & stats
Head to head record - last 10 meetings:
Pars wins: 3
St Mirren wins: 3
Pars Review match reports from the games between the teams this season:
24 September 2016 - Pars 4, St Mirren 3
19 November 2016 - St Mirren 0, Pars 1
14 January 2017 - Pars 1, St Mirren 1
Three current St Mirren players have previous connections with Dunfermline: Jamie Langfield spent a season at East End Park in 2004/05 without playing a first team game; Rory Loy made 23 Pars appearances on loan from Rangers in 2008/09; and Josh Todd was a pre-season trialist last year but was not signed. As recorded above, manager Jack Ross was a Pars player when he retired as a player through injury in 2011, without having played for Dunfermline.
From the 2016/17 Pars squad, Paul McMullan played 22 times for St Mirren on loan from Celtic in 2015/16. Coach John Potter made 232 appearances in a 6 year spell at St Mirren between 2005-2011.
Here is the current Championship table:
Last five outings:
7 March - Championship - Drew 1-1 v Queen of the South (H)
4 March - Championship - Won 5-1 v Dumbarton (H)
25 February - Championship - Drew 2-2 v Hibs (A)
14 February - Scottish Cup replay - Drew 1-1 v Hamilton (A) (lost on penalties)
11 February - Scottish Cup - Drew 1-1 v Hamilton (H)
After playing so well against Hibs and Dumbarton, Dunfermline were involved in a dreadful game against Queen of the South on Tuesday evening at East End Park. The 1-1 result was the Pars' 8th drawn game in 13 League and Cup games since mid December. The team have lost just once in the League since November but still sit just 6 points above the relegation play-off place. Manager Allan Johnston is still targeting a higher placed finish with 10 League games remaining, but with a 9 point gap to fourth (and with the third and fourth place teams having a game in hand over the Pars), overtaking fifth place Queen of the South might be the most realistic option, and would represent a satisfactory season back in the Championship after last season's promotion.
The team line-up has been very settled and although Allan Johnston spoke about utilising his squad with 3 games in a week (the last of which is tomorrow's game) this has involved giving substitutes game time rather than changing the starting 11. Five different substitutes have played in the past 2 games. The defence will be unchanged but in midfield there could be a recall for Rhys McCabe if John Herron, who has looked tired in the past 2 games, is rested. On the wings, Kallum Higginbotham was out of form in the Queen of the South game but will probably retain his place. Paul McMullan is still the better option on the left wing, as opposed to bringing in Joe Cardle. Up front, the Moff and Nicky Clark are by some distance the best front pair available to the manager. So once again, with no changes (I have kept Herron in midfield but as noted, McCabe could start in his place), here is my preferred starting 11, with squad numbers:
Tomorrow: Game Day image, then later in the evening match report/opinion with photos and Pars player ratings.