Scottish Championship - Saturday 10/12/16 - KO 3.00pm - East End Park
Odds (Skybet): Dunfermline 7/5; Draw 12/5; Morton 17/10
Saturday's game sees Dunfermline face what has become a bogey team in recent seasons, with opponents Moron having won 7 out of the last 8 games between the teams. This included the most recent meeting in September, when the Pars lost 2-1 at Cappielow. At that time, Morton were in the bottom half of the Championship but their form and results have been impressive since, with 5 wins and 2 draws from their last 7 League games, scoring 14 goals and conceding 3 in those matches. They now occupy the fourth place play-off position.
Morton's improved form coincided with the arrival of defender Gavin Gunning to the club. Released by Dundee United after a bizarre incident during a game when he picked up the ball and walked off the pitch, asking to be substituted, Gunning has proved to be an excellent signing for Morton and has played a big part in their much improved defensive record. Another of Jim Duffy's team who is enjoying a good season is striker Jai Quitongo. Son of the former Hearts winger Jose Quitongo, he made his Scotland Under 21 debut in October against Slovakia, and scored against top division sides Kilmarnock and Hamilton in the Betfred Cup earlier this season.
Here is the current Championship table:
Dunfermline have tightened up defensively in the past 4 League games, conceding just 1 goal from open play in that period (the only other goal being a penalty by Ayr last week). Unfortunately, at the same time the number of goals scored has also fallen, with only 2 goals scored. The first 11 League games saw the Pars score 15 goals and concede 23, an average of 1.4 goals scored per game and 2.1 conceded, which was the highest overall average in the division for goals scored for and against per game. The 5 points gained from the past 4 games (1.25 points per game) compares with 8 points gathered from the first 11 fixtures (0.72 points per game). So while there has been an improvement in goals conceded and points won, there is still an obvious need for a more clinical touch in the opposition half of the pitch.
Pars line up: the manager's selection
Injured players: Andy Geggan, David Hopkirk, Gavin Reilly, Ben Richards-Everton
Suspended: Lewis Martin
Ryan Williamson played 60 minutes in Wednesday's Under 20s game at Hamilton, but it would be a surprise if he is considered ready for a first team return so quickly after injury. Two other players who have played at right back this season - Andy Geggan and Lewis Martin - are also unavailable this weekend, so last week's substitute Conner Duthie may start in that position. Signed as a forward, Duthie has been converted into a left back in Under 20s games, although he is naturally right footed. The rest of the defence picks itself, partly because there are no other available defenders with first team experience, and also because of the recent improved defensive record.
Johnston will inevitably play 4-4-2 and is unlikely to change the midfield or attack from the players who faced Ayr last week. Wingers Paul McMullan and Kallum Higginbotham are likely to be selected ahead of options Joe Cardle and Michael Paton. Nat Wedderburn is a central midfield option but John Herron and Rhys McCabe will probably retain their places. McCabe had his best game of the season last week and deserves to keep his place. Nicky Clark and Farid El Alagui will start in attack, with Michael Moffat on the bench. The squad is very light on forwards, and even with David Hopkirk and Gavin Reilly starting training following their injuries, it is to be hoped that there will be some movement in January to improve this area of the team.
Preferred Pars line-up (with squad numbers):
With all of the above taken into account, and choices restricted due to injuries and suspension, I have selected the following team:
Photos by Pars Review.
Tomorrow: Game Day image and full match report/opinion, photos and Pars player ratings.