Showdown at Tynecastle between the top 2 teams in Betfred Group B
Betfred Cup - Saturday 29 July 2017 - Tynecastle Park - KO 3.00pm
Dunfermline and Hearts face each other in the final round of fixtures in this season's Betfred Cup, with the Pars requiring a draw to finish top of Group B. Being a Premiership team, Hearts were - and remain - favourites to win the group, but need to win the game, as the group table below illustrates. Dunfermline last won at Hearts' ground in 1990 and although a victory is not essential, it would be a huge boost going into the Championship campaign next weekend, as would qualification through avoiding defeat.
Life as manager of Hearts has not been easy for Ian Cathro. The 30 year old, in his first managerial role, inherited a team that was in second place in the Premiership last December, and somehow led them to a fifth place finish, a massive 30 points behind runners-up Aberdeen. His record in charge until the season ended was played 22, won 4, drawn 5, lost 13. A full article on his tenure was posted here on Wednesday (www.parsreview.org/blog/jambo-cathro-woe).
Victories in the opening Betfred Cup group games eased the pressure on Cathro, until his team suffered a disastrous 2-1 defeat at League 2 Peterhead on Tuesday evening. This led to renewed criticism from Hearts fans, which will only increase tomorrow if Dunfermline leave Tynecastle with a win or a draw.
Dunfermline have scored 11 goals and conceded 1 in the opening 3 Cup games, with an avalanche of goals in the 2 home games against Elgin and Peterhead. Just 1 goal in the away game against East Fife would have seen the team safe at the top of Group B already. However, the game at Bayview finished 0-0 although the Pars did win an important bonus point in the penalty shoot out.
Allan Johnston continues to field trialists in closed door bounce games but has yet to sign any of the trialists he has had training or playing since pre-season began. Frustratingly for a competition that is seen as an extension of pre-season, trialists are not allowed in the Betfred Cup, so the Pars team tomorrow will be along familiar lines. Unfortunately, there will be one enforced change due to an ankle injury to top scorer Nicky Clark, which is obviously a blow to the team's hopes of progressing. Clark is likely to be out for around 4 weeks (depending on which source is read) and with the team's other first choice striker Declan McManus suspended for the opening 2 Championship games, the need to add at least 1 other forward to the squad increases. Dean Shiels is likely to move up front alongside McManus at Tynecastle, with Big Nat coming back into midfield after being on the bench last week.
David Hopkirk is the only other player missing through injury. Jason Talbot is training again and has played in at least 1 bounce game but will probably be a substitute tomorrow.
Ian Cathro edit by Pars Review.
Match report/opinion with photos will be posted here around 9pm tomorrow evening.