East End Park hosts the first home game of this season's Championship campaign with John Robertson's Inverness the visitors
SPFL Championship - Saturday 12 August 2017 - East End Park - KO 3.00pm
After the Betfred Cup drubbing at Ibrox, tomorrow's Championship game against Inverness will be another stiff test for Dunfermline, going up against an Inverness side that are aiming for a quick return to the Premiership. The teams last met in July last year, at East End Park, with the Highlanders winning 5-1 in a Betfred Cup group game. Both clubs are targeting a top 4 finish as a minimum and are both looking for a first League win of the season, after the opening weekend's results saw Dunfermline draw and Inverness lose.
The opposition: Inverness
Relegated from the Premiership at the end of last season, Inverness are rated fourth favourites to win this season's Championship by most bookies (source: Oddschecker). They began their League campaign with a 1-0 home loss to title favourites Dundee United, although Inverness manager John Robertson was positive despite the defeat: "I thought we were terrific today. We just need a wee bit more quality and belief in the last third. For long spells we were the better side. If we can build on that and sharpen up in a few areas, we won't be far away this season."
Robertson, appointed as Inverness manager in the summer and in his second spell in charge of the club, had been sent to the stand for comments made after United were awarded a 14th minute penalty, from which Paul McMullan scored the game's only goal.
Inverness have signed 11 new players since the end of last season but will be without midfielder Ross Draper, who joined Ross County yesterday. Prior to their opening League game, Inverness won 2, drew 1 and lost 1 game in their Betfred Cup group, finishing second but failing to qualify for the knock-out stage as they were not among the top 4 best placed group runners-up.
After playing so well against Hearts at Tynecastle 2 weeks ago, Dunfermline have experienced 2 hard games and go into the Inverness match with confidence dented after Wednesday's game at Ibrox. The opening Championship game last Saturday at Livingston ended with the Pars gaining a barely-deserved point in a 1-1 draw. Sean Murdoch's 85th minute penalty save rescued a point in a performance that saw Allan Johnston replace new signing Fraser Aird after 37 minutes of his debut, and saying that any of the outfield players could have been substituted, so poor was the display. Aird did not even make the bench in the next game, the Betfred Cup mauling against Rangers in midweek. For the second consecutive game, Johnston made a (non injury related) first half substitution, when David Hopkirk was withdrawn following Rangers' fourth goal in the 27th minute, replaced by defender Big Jock M'Voto.
There will be no wholesale changes to the team line-up, with top scorer Nicky Clark still injured and the other first choice striker, Declan McManus, completing a 2 match suspension for League games that was carried over from last season when he played for the Wee Team.
Areas to consider:
Jason Talbot may replace Lewis Martin at left back. Martin's form has shaded recently and Talbot, who began the season injured and has been an unused substitute since returning to fitness, has greater experience and is also a natural left back.
Midfield is the biggest concern, as I stated in the Rangers match report and also in this blog's "5 Things We Learned v Rangers" article. A change simply has to be made after Wednesday night. Greater energy and pace are required in the centre of the pitch and I would bring in Aaron Splaine, who did well in a brief period in pre-season before being benched. There was no point in signing the player if he cannot be brought in under the current circumstances. Michael Paton would drop out.
Up front, I would be happy to see Callum Smith partner David Hopkirk but I have, marginally, preferred to play Dean Shiels in a forward role just behind Hopkirk. Smith could be a very useful substitute in the latter stages of the game.
Preferred starting 11, based on comments above:
Dean Shiels photo, plus John Robertson edit, by Pars Review.
Match report/opinion with photos will be posted here around 9.00pm tomorrow evening.