Scottish Championship - Saturday 14/01/17 - KO 3.00pm - East End Park
Odds (Labrokes): Dunfermline 20/21; Draw 13/5; St Mirren 13/5
Dunfermline will aim to extend the unbeaten run of Championship games to 8 on Saturday, with visitors St Mirren in desperate need of points to avoid relegation. Once rivals in the Premier League or fighting for promotion to the top division, the two black and white teams are now adjusting to a different set of priorities - at least in the short term - with Dunfermline playing in the second tier of Scottish football for the first time since season 2012/13, following 3 seasons in the third tier, and St Mirren trying to avoid relegation to the third level for the first time in their history.
After achieving an 8th place finish in the 2013/14 Premier League, and having won the League Cup in March 2013, the St Mirren directors decided against extending manager Danny Lennon's contract. At the time, the Paisley club's board did not give an actual reason for the non-extension/sacking, saying "The board of directors have decided not to offer Danny Lennon an extension to his contract that expires in June 2014. Decisions like this are never easy." Whether the directors were misguided, or deluded, their ambitions for the club were not to be achieved in the following seasons. The board's choice as Lennon's successor was to start a downward spiral of short-term appointments. Tommy Craig, who had been Lennon's assistant, was given the manager's job. In a 30 year coaching career after retiring from playing in the mid 1980s, 64 year old Craig had been employed almost exclusively as an assistant manager, except for one season (2009/10) as boss of Belgian side Charleroi. Quite why the St Mirren directors decided that Craig was now, finally, a year short of his pension, ready to be a manager, and given his involvement with the Lennon era, remains unanswered. Craig lasted 7 months before being sacked.
Having appointed one assistant of a sacked manager, the St Mirren directors did the same thing again by replacing Craig with his assistant Gary Teale, who lasted until May 2015 (6 months), during which time the club were relegated to the Championship. Teale was followed by Ian Murray (May 2015 to December 2015), Alex Rae (December 2015 to September 2016) and then interim manager Allan McManus, before current manager Jack Ross was appointed in October 2016. There was no "new manager bounce" and Ross suffered 6 straight defeats after taking charge. A minor resurgence in December (2 wins, 2 draws and 1 defeat in a 5 game period) was abruptly ended last week with a damaging 3-0 home defeat against Queen Of The South, a team who had not won in 13 League games.
Here is the current Championship table:
Dunfermline are the Championship's form team, unbeaten in 7 games and the only team not to have suffered a defeat in the past 6 matches. The recent good run has been the result of the team operating as a cohesive unit, working hard for each other, defending efficiently and avoiding needless errors. The same approach will be required tomorrow, as no positive results come without applying 100% effort in this division.
The Pars have won both previous meetings of the teams this season, both by 1 goal margins (4-3 at East End Park in September, and 1-0 in Paisley in November.)
Pars line-up: the manager's selection
Injured: Ben Richards-Everton
Allan Johnston has almost a full first team squad to choose from. In last week's game at Ayr, Ryan Williamson and Lewis Spence both missed out on even a place on the bench, and if new signing Callum Morris is selected in the squad tomorrow, another first team squad regular will be watching the game from the stand. With this in mind, and with possible other deals to come in this month's transfer window, Johnston has stated that one or two players may go out on loan. The manager is not known for changing a winning line-up, as was evidenced last week when the returning Rhys McCabe and Lewis Martin were not selected, having missed the win over Raith the week before, but having been in the team prior to that. It would be a surprise if any changes are made for this weekend's game, with no injuries reported except for Ben Richards-Everton's longer term absence.
Same team as last week - no need for change.
Preferred starting 11, with squad numbers:
Photo by Pars Review.
Tomorrow: Game Day image, then later in the evening match report/opinion with Pars player ratings and photos.