Scottish Championship - Monday 02/01/17 - KO 3.00pm - Stark's Park
Odds (Skybet): Raith evens; Draw 12/5; Dunfermline 5/2
The second visit to Stark's Park this season sees Dunfermline boss Allan Johnston looking for a win that would extend the team's recent good run to only 1 defeat in 9 games. Despite this run of results, Dunfermline are still in a much lower position in the division than was hoped or expected. Too many draws have seen other teams capitalise and while avoiding defeat is always the first step to recovery (earlier this eason Dunfermline lost 5 consecutive league games), wins must also be achieved to prevent a relegation battle and to secure what would be a very acceptable mid-table finish.
Raith go into the game in 5th place, 2 points from the promotion play-off positions. Goals have not been in great supply for the Kirkcaldy team this season, scoring less than Dunfermline in the league despite being above the Pars in the table since the opening few games. Raith have failed to score in 7 of their 19 games and have yet to be awarded a penalty kick this season. However, in defence they have achieved 7 clean sheets and have the 3rd best defensive record in the Championship. Raith's last 2 games have been draws against Hibs and Dundee United, which would be regarded as good results, but have extended their winless run in the Championship to 6 games (5 draws and 1 defeat). Of course, it can also be claimed that they have lost just once in 6 games. The lack of goals previously mentioned has been a factor, with just 2 goals scored in those 6 games.
Here is the current Championship table:
The decision to switch the festive period games to Mondays means that Dunfermline have slipped to the 9th place relegation play-off position after the 4 other fixtures in the division were completed yesterday. Dumbarton's surprise win over Dundee United saw them move to 7th place, while Queen of the South and Ayr shared a point apiece in their game. A win over Raith would lift the Pars up to 6th place and within 4 points of a top-half position, such is the congested nature of the division this season.
Pars line-up: the manager's selection
Injured: Ben Richards-Everton, Lewis Spence
Allan Johnston has almost all of his first team squad available for selection for tomorrow's game. New signing Callum Morris will not be at the club until Monday 9 January, so Johnston will have a decision to make in central defence: whether to retain the Lee Ashcroft/Lewis Martin pairing of last week, or move Martin to right back, where Andy Geggan had a poor game last Monday against Falkirk. The return from suspension of Kallum Higginbotham should see Joe Cardle replaced, although Johnston's over-praising of Cardle's display against Falkirk does suggest that it may not be as straightforward a decision as it might seem. In attack, Nicky Clark could be partnered by Gavin Reilly, which highlights the lack of real quality options up front, something that has to be addressed in this transfer window. The Moff could keep his place but there is a distinct lack of firepower in the squad at the moment.
Although I expect Johnston to play Geggan, I would replace him with Martin and bring Callum Fordyce back into central defence. Nat Wedderburn could be a useful defensive midfield option in this game, but I would still select Rhys McCabe and John Herron for the two centre midfield places. Higginbotham would replace Cardle, with Paul McMullan switching back to the left wing.
Preferred starting 11, with squad numbers:
Photo by Pars Review.
Tomorrow: Game Day image, then later in the evening match report/opinion with photos and Pars player ratings.