Chances for fringe players as Dick Campbell's Arbroath visit EEP in Irn Bru Cup
Irn Bru Cup - Tuesday 15 August 2017 - East End Park - KO 7.45pm
Dunfermline's bench-warmers will be given a chance to impress in tomorrow's Irn Bru-sponsored Challenge Cup, a competition for non-Premiership SPFL senior teams, Premiership colt sides, and invited Irish and Welsh clubs. The Pars will face an Arbroath team managed by ex Pars player, assistant boss and manager Dick Campbell. Dick's returns to EEP are always fiesty, with him being banished to the stand when in charge at Forfar and seeing his players, including his own bampot son Iain, receive multiple red cards against Dunfermline. Dick never lacks enthusiasm but has often seen his desire to defeat the Pars descend into desperation, his bitterness all too obvious, resulting in him and his team losing focus.
The opposition: Arbroath
Dick Campbell is a survivor. Having beaten cancer, he returned to his job at Forfar, taking them to the promotion play-off places in 3 out of 4 seasons in League 1 during his 7 year stay at the club, including his final full season, 2014/15. Later that year he was sacked but returned to management at Arbroath, guiding the Gayfield club to League 2 success last season - beating Forfar to the title. Dick is assisted by his brother Ian, and the 2 ex-Pars have enjoyed a good start to this season. Placed in a tough League Cup group with Ross County, Hibs, Alloa and Montrose, Arbroath drew with Ross County and Alloa, hammered Montrose 4-0, with their only defeat coming at Easter Road.
The League season began with a 2-0 win over Queen's Park, before drawing at Airdrie at the weekend. The defeat to Hibs remains Arbroath's only loss in 6 competitive games this season.
With a much more important game to come on Saturday in the Championship, at home to Falkirk, Pars manager Allan Johnston has already said he will make "6 or 7 changes" to the team that thrashed Inverness 5-1 in the opening League game. While there are options available from the bench, it will be interesting to see how Johnston accomodates certain fringe players into his 4-4-2 formation, unless, of course, he also changes formation. It would be sensible to rest players such as Kallum Higginbotham and Joe Cardle, with the option of bringing in Michael Paton to play on the left, which Johnston as tried before, with Fraser Aird coming into the team on the right. Centre midfield could see Aaron Splaine and/or Scott Lochhead selected.
Johnston has to decide whether to play Dean Shiels, to build up his match fitness, or leave him out with the Falkirk game in mind. Lewis Martin, who might have replaced Ryan Williamson at right back, to allow Williamson to miss this game, is suspended, as is Lee Ashcroft. While not every regular first teamer can be rested, Johnston may start the likes of Callum Morris but substitute him during the second half if the result is going Dunfermline's way.
Up front, Declan McManus is available having served his 2 match League suspension. I have selected him but it would not be a surprise if Johnston kept the same front 2 (Callum Smith and David Hopkirk), after both scored against Inverness.
The team I have chosen below will probably bear little relation to the 11 that Johnston picks (it contains only 5 changes, for example). His team line-ups for League games are usually fairly easy to predict, but this game will see many changes and, as stated above, he has to fit the "6 or 7" new players into the formation, which is not as simple as it sounds with the personnel available.
Preferred starting 11, based on comments above; 4-3-1-2 formation:
All photos & video content by Pars Review. The matchday vlog is hosted by DA Talk YouTube channel: goo.gl/D5x2sm
Highlanders given a football lesson by rampant Pars
In a complete reversal of last season's meeting between the teams, Dunfermline showed how, when certain players are on top form, they are a formidable team at Championship level at least. Without the team's 2 first choice strikers (Nicky Clark and Declan McManus), Pars boss Allan Johnston brought 17 year old Callum Smith back into the starting 11, partnered by David Hopkirk. Jason Talbot made his first appearance of the season at left back, while Dean Shiels replaced Michael Paton in what was a much needed change to the centre midfield.
Doubts as to the players' confidence levels after the midweek Rangers defeat were soon banished when Smith put the Pars ahead after 2 minutes. He chased a through ball and was met by Inverness keeper Mark Ridgers at the edge of the penalty box. The ball spun away and Smith showed great composure to look up and place the ball in the corner of the net.
Lee Ashcroft, who was wearing a bandage round his head to protect stitches after an injury against Rangers, headed home a second Pars goal in the 14th minute from a Kallum Higginbotham cross.
Ian Vigurs, who had scored a hat trick the last time the teams played each other, pulled a goal back in the 18th minute. His free kick was missed by everyone and sailed into the bottom corner of the net, from what seemed like an attempted cross that somehow made its way into the goal.
Higginbotham, who like last season is the team's leading goal assist provider, laid on the third Dunfermline goal 5 minutes before half time. His run from the right ended with a pass to Joe Cardle, whose shot from just outside the box beat Ridgers in the Inverness goal.
David Hopkirk had been denied a first half goal by a good save from Ridgers, but got his name on the scoresheet after 67 minutes with a well hit shot from 18 yards. The "reserve" striking partnership were both playing well. Smith showed great positional awareness for such a young player, and lead the line effectively.
The fifth Pars goal was possibly the best: in the final minute, Cardle received the ball on the left, moved inside, evading several Inverness players and curled the ball into the corner of the net. This was Joe at his very best, and with his fifth goal of the season he became the team's leading scorer this term.
A perfect response to the trauma of Wednesday evening, in front of an encouraging home crowd of 4391, with at least 4200 being Dunfermline fans. There was much to take encouragement from, with every player making a positive contribution. Particularly impressive were Williamson, Ashcroft, Cardle, Higginbotham and Smith. Dean Shiels will benefit from getting a full 90 minutes and will be a big player for us as the season progresses. But the day belonged to the teenager who led the attack.
Pars starting 11 and subs, plus man of the match:
Tomorrow: match photo gallery & matchday vlog will be uploaded.
Photos & edits in this article by Pars Review.
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.
Gubbed in Govan: Pars suffer a humiliating one-sided defeat
The gulf between a Pars team aiming for promotion to the Premiership and a Rangers team that is rated second or third best team in the top division was all too obvious at Ibrox yesterday evening, with the home side recording a resounding 6-0 win. It could easily have been a double figures.
Pars manager Allan Johnston stuck to his preferred 4-4-2 formation despite concerns that Rangers would pick apart a slow 2 man Dunfermline central midfield, and also a danger of playing 2 wingers against better quality opposition, leaving gaps for Rangers to exploit. So it proved - and mistakes in defence did not help, giving away possession just outside the penalty box after 5 minutes, from which the ball found its way to Kenny Miller, who scored. Four minutes later, it was 2-0 when a free kick was given away and Bruno Alves stepped up to put the ball beyond Sean Murdoch.
The closest Dunfermline came to scoring all game was in the 18th minute when a well-taken Declan McManus free kick hit the bar. Alfredo Morelos made it 3-0 after 23 minutes, and 6 minutes later James Tavernier got the fourth Rangers goal.
Dunfermline made it to half time without conceding any further goals, with Big Jock M'Voto brought on to add a defensive player at the expense of striker David Hopkirk, after the fourth Rangers goal.
The second period featured less goals but still almost complete domination from the home team. Ryan Williamson had a couple of runs down the right wing but that aside, it was all Rangers. Daniel Candeias made it 5-0 in the 57th minute and Morelos got his second and Rangers' sixth after 75 minutes to complete the scoring.
Only a combination of wayward finishing and a couple of good saves by Sean Murdoch prevented the scoreline heading towards 10.
While very few Pars fans would have expected to win this game, the performance and team set-up was a complete embarrassment. It was extremely naive to play 4-4-2 with a centre midfield of Paton and Wedderburn, against players of the quality of Graham Dorrans. It is one thing being idealistic and not compromising a system that involves wingers. This, however, was football suicide.
Pars starting 11 & subs:
Later today: match photo gallery & matchday vlog will be uploaded.
Photos & edits in this article by Pars Review.
All photos & video content by Pars Review. The Pars Review matchday vlog is hosted by DA Talk YouTube channel: goo.gl/D5x2sm
The Pars face their biggest challenge so far this season in Ibrox League Cup game
Betfred Cup - Wednesday 9 August 2017 - Ibrox Stadium - KO 7.45pm
The last 16 of the Betfred League Cup sees Allan Johnston take his Dunfermline team west to visit Rangers. For the second consecutive away game in the competition, the Pars face Premiership opposition as outsiders; the previous game, at Hearts, saw Dunfermline come within minutes of winning the game in what was as good a display from a Pars team as any in the past few years. Tomorrow evening is an even bigger test.
The opposition: Rangers
After the embarrassing Europa League exit to Luxembourg part timers Progres Niederkorn in early July, Rangers found themselves with a gap of over 4 weeks before their next competitive fixture. The time in between was spent playing 5 friendlies, 3 of which were behind closed doors, games that resulted in 3 victories, a draw and a defeat.
Rangers manager Pedro Caixinha has added 10 new players to the his squad this summer. Significantly, 2 of the biggest profile signings were not in the Rangers team that lost to Progres: Bruno Alves was on holiday after playing through the summer in the Confederations Cup, and Graham Dorrans joined after Europa exit. By the time the first Premiership game was played at the weekend, both players were in the starting 11, with Dorrans getting both goals in a 2-1 win at Motherwell. The quote above was taken from Caixinha's post-match press conference.
The Pars will go to Ibrox aiming to recapture the form showed in the previous Betfred Cup game at Tynecastle. The Dunfermline display that day contrasted with the sub-standard performance in the next game, the Championship opener at Livingston, with the first half being particularly poor, and described by keeper and stand-in captain Sean Murdoch as "terrible". The Pars were without captain Callum Morris, and it is to be hoped (although not yet confirmed) that he will return at Ibrox, as much for his leadership qualities as his undoubted ability in defence. The team I have selected below is on the basis of Morris being fit to play.
Other areas of the team that could see changes are at left back, where Johnston will be tempted to play Jason Talbot in place of Lewis Martin, and in right midfield, where Fraser Aird will surely be replaced by Kallum Higginbotham. Aird was substituted before half time against Livingston for tactical reasons and as a reflection of his poor showing (although he was not alone). Higgy, who started as a striker at Livi, will likely drop back to the right wing in place of Aird.
I have concerns over the mobility of our 2 central midfielders (Big Nat and Michael Paton) for this game, but they are almost certain to retain their places, partly due to lack of alternatives.
Nicky Clark is still out injured, but the suspended Declan McManus, unavailable at Livingston, is free to play in the League Cup, before he completes his 2 match League suspension this weekend.
David Hopkirk played for an hour at Livingston and I have selected him to partner McManus up front. This is no reflection on young Callum Smith, who has done well, but I feel experience is required for the Rangers game, although Hopkirk (24) and McManus (23 last week) are hardly veterans themselves. Dean Shiels would have been my choice to partner McManus, but I feel he is still lacking fitness, based on his run-out against Livingston, and that Johnston went with Hopkirk ahead of Shiels when making the first half change.
Preferred Pars starting 11, based on the above comments:
Callum Morris photo, plus Pedro Caixinha edit, by Pars Review.
Match report/opinion with photos will be posted here around 11.30pm tomorrow evening.
Here's the first Pars Review matchday vlog, which can also be found on the Pars Review YouTube channel: goo.gl/iTebpq
Apologies for the usual matchday photo gallery being unavailable for the Livi game. It will be back for the next game.
A game that will not live long in the memory gives the Pars a first point of the League season
Without captain Callum Morris, whose absence was only confirmed when the team emerged to warm up, plus top scorer Nicky Clark and fellow striker Declan McManus, the Pars got out of the Tony Macaroni Arena with a barely-deserved point on the opening weekend of the Championship season. Certainly on the basis of the first half, when Dunfermline were dire, Livi will be disappointed not to win the game. There was also a late penalty save from Sean Murdoch that prevented a Pars defeat.
Allan Johnston brought in new signing Fraser Aird, as expected, in right midfield, with Kallum Higginbotham moving up front in the absence of the suspended McManus. The only other change from last week's game against Hearts was Big Jock M'Voto replacing the injured Morris. The Pars team gave a guard of honour pre-match to Livi, who unfurled the League 1 winning flag (although the flag initially stuck and an embarrassing scene seemed to be on the cards until it eventually opened).
The home side almost scored in the opening minute when Sean Murdoch palmed away a Josh Mullin shot, with the Pars defence having to be alert to prevent Livi getting to the follow up. It soon became clear that Dunfermline were out of sorts and missing the creativity that was so evident last week. Long balls lumped up the pitch to Callum Smith were achieving nothing, yet the policy continued regardless. Joe Cardle and Kallum Higginbotham, the main creative sparks of the team, were putting in a lot of effort with little end product. The centre midfield of Michael Paton and Big Nat was ponderous and off the pace, while debutant Aird was having a very poor game, which culminated in him being substituted before half time having played a part in Livi's opening goal, failing to track his marker, allowing Scott Pittman to shoot and put Livi 1-0 up after 30 minutes.
The second half was a marginal improvement. Ryan Williamson's gallops down the right wing became more common, while there was more urgency in the team's play, raising the performance level from mediocre to average, but no more than that.
Dunfermline should have had a penalty when sub David Hopkirk was shoved in the back. Referee Alan Newlands, who had a poor game, then decided to award the Pars a penalty after 62 minutes when Joe Cardle was seemingly fouled. Higgy took the kick and scored with ease.
Dean Shiels came on for Smith but suffered from the same lack of decent service. Referee Newlands then bottled out of sending off Livi's Declan Gallacher who first stamped on, then pushed, Joe Cardle. The referee summoned both players and did what all hopeless referees do in that situation - booked them both.
Just when a point seemed certain, Big Jock M'Voto gave away a penalty with 5 minutes remaining, needlessly tripping Josh Mullen in the box. Sean Murdoch rescued a draw for his team with a fine save from Mullen's spot kick.
The away support, who easily outnumbered the home fans by at least 2 to 1, were let down by as poor a Pars display as we have seen in the League for some time. The team set a higher standard than this in the Hearts game, and it is to be hoped that this performance will just be a fading memory in the weeks ahead, with the team capable of much better.
Pars starting 11 & subs:
Tomorrow: in the absence of the normal match photo gallery, which will be back for the next game, a first ever Pars Review matchday vlog will be uploaded.
Photos & edits in this article by Pars Review.
The Championship begins with the Pars heading to newly promoted Livi
SPFL Championship - Saturday 5 August 2017 - Tony Macaroni Arena - KO 3.00pm
After both teams qualified from their Betfred Cup groups in first place, Dunfermline and Livingston take on each other at the Tony Macaroni Arena on Saturday. The home side, who won League 1 last season, will be confident and are boosted by the form of ex-Par Shaun Byrne in midfield, while Allan Johnston's Pars will have to play without the first choice striking partnership of Nicky Clark and Declan McManus.
Livingston make a return to the Championship after a 1 season absence, after winning League 1 last season. Their league-winning form compares favourably with Dunfermline's title win in the same division the year before (Livi 2016/17: 81 points, 80 goals scored, 24 conceded); Dunfermline 2015/16: 79 points (83 goals for, 30 against). Livi join the Championship as a team more than capable of simply avoiding relegation, and have begun the new campaign in very good form, winning 3 of their 4 Betfred Cup group games, and drawing the other (against Partick Thistle, and winning a bonus point in the penalty shoot out), topping their group.
The Livi directors showed faith in manager David Hopkin after the relegation season of 2015/16 and were rewarded by last season's runaway title success. Hopkin lost last season's top scorer Liam Buchanan but has added 6 new signings: veteran goalkeeper Neil Alexander returns to the club where played between 1998 and 2001, and is joined by Scott Robinson, who had a brief spell with Dunfermline in 2016, plus Josh Peters, Ross Brown, Dylan Mackin and on-loan Hearts striker Nikolay Todorov.
Dunfermline go into the game tomorrow with confidence following last week's game at Tynecastle but are without first choice strikers Nicky Clark (injured) and Declan McManus (suspended). Callum Smith, who made his first start for the first team against Hearts, is likely to continue and will look to build on his impressive display against Hearts. Attacking midfielder Dean Shiels seemed the most likely option to partner Smith up front but it seems that he may miss the game after not recovering sufficiently from injury. David Hopkirk played an hour of a bounce game during the week after a 4 week injury absence, but it would be a surprise if he goes straight into the starting line-up.
The team I have selected below has Kallum Higginbotham playing just off Smith, with new signing Fraser Aird taking Higgy's usual place on the right wing.
Preferred Pars starting 11:
Callum Smith photo & Livi fan quote edit by Pars Review.
Match report/opinion with photos will be posted here around 9pm tomorrow evening.
The PARDIS is a time machine that is spookily similar to Doctor Who's TARDIS, and is commanded by Big Jock M'Voto. Each week, Big Jock has the PARDIS travel back in time to see a Dunfermline game against our next opposition.
Today we go back to 2002 to find out what happened when the Pars faced Livingston, who we will be up against in 2 days in the first game of the new Championship season. Big Jock can be seen above, peeking out of the PARDIS, after it arrived at Livingston's stadium.
Dateline: Saturday 2 November 2002
Competition: Scottish Premier League
Location: Almondvale Stadium
Result: Livingston 1, Dunfermline 1
15 years ago, both Dunfermline and Livingston were intent on winning a "best of the rest" table in the Premier League, with Rangers and Celtic well ahead of the other teams in the division. The Pars and Livi met at Almondvale occupying third and fourth places.
Pars boss Jimmy Calderwood replaced Andre Karnebeek and Scott Walker with Gus MacPherson and David Nicholls, following a 4-1 defeat from Celtic in the previous game. Livi were manager by Jim Leishman and included future Par Lee Makel and ex-Par David Bingham in their starting 11.
It was Bingham who had the first attempt on goal, but his tame shot was easily saved by Marco Ruitenbeek. Lee Bullen and Stevie Crawford both had shots from outside the box, then Craig Brewster volleyed over the bar from 12 yards.
Brewster opened the scoring in the 49th minute. He started the move by passing to Crawford, who broke upfield and played in Gary Dempsey, whose pass was side-footed in by Brewster.
Ruitenbeek made a finger-tip save from a Barry Wilson header to maintain Dunfermline's lead. Dempsey had a chance to double the Pars' lead when he received a pass from Brewster but was unable to keep his shot down, with the ball going over the bar.
With 11 minutes remaining, Livi equalised. A shot from Eugene Dadi was deflected into the path of Cherif Toure-Maman, who struck a well-placed shot into the top corner from 16 yards.
Neither team was able to get a late winner, in an entertaining game played in front of a very healthy crowd of 6324.
Pars starting 11: Marco Ruitenbeek, Gus MacPherson, Andrius Skerla, Scott Wilson, David Nicholls, Scott Thomson, Barry Nicholson, Gary Dempsey, Lee Bullen, Stevie Crawford, Craig Brewster.
The image of Ian Cathro strolling around the Tynecastle pitch, having just watched his team exit the Betfred Cup at the hands of Dunfermline, and about to fulfill a meaningless but mandatory penalty shoot out, spoke volumes. Cathro was an isolated figure in a crowd of bodies. Not one player paid any attention to him. This highlighted a crucial aspect of what matters in team sports: no matter how educated you are (or portray yourself to be), how talented, or whether you can discuss tactics for hours on end - if you cannot foster team spirit, you have nothing.
Contrast Cathro and his players' body language with that of an energised Pars squad, who had risen to the occasion, and had faced up to and outplayed their higher league opponents. There is undoubted talent in the Dunfermline squad, but to succeed against opponents from a higher division requires a bond between individuals that can collectively inspire and elevate performance levels, and ensure that regardless of perceived ability, OUR team will be as one, OUR team will play to our strengths, and OUR team will match and then surpass the drive and determination of our opponents, and OUR team will succeed, no matter what is "expected" to happen.
In the second Betfred Cup group game, after Dunfermline had dominated against East Fife but couldn't score, the team won the penalty shoot out and gained a bonus point. After each kick, the Pars player was warmly greeted by his team mates back in the centre circle. Leading the handshakes and hugs was Joe Cardle. The Pars winger has started the season well, but it is not just his playing ability that is impressive: his attitude has been exemplary, actively encouraging his team mates, the first one to congratulate or to give advice, to put an arm around the shoulder, to lead by example, to pull together this group of players and to build up the belief that this is OUR team, and we are all together and will be there for each other.
Allan Johnston was an animated figure on the touchline at Tynecastle. While Cathro stood with a far away look on his face, with the disinterest of a husband trailing behind his wife as she slowly looks through blouses in a sale at M&S, Johnston was coaching the team with vigour. This transferred to the players - from the experienced Cardle and Sean Murdoch to the 17 year old Callum Smith, on his first start for the senior team.
Dunfermline showed tremendous togetherness. This was not restricted just to the players on the pitch. The bond between players and fans has rarely been stronger - there is a real sense that everyone associated with the club is pulling together.
The last word goes to Pep Guardiola, talking about team spirit:
"Team spirit is the most important thing. After that, you can create tactics, but we have to create something special with ourselves."
Declan McManus is the Pars Review Player of the Month for July. Arriving from the Wee Team in mid-June, Pars fans hoped the player would replicate the form he showed at Morton in 2015 and improve on his disappointing 2016/17 season. In what already seems to be a classic case of a good player at the wrong club, McManus has made any doubters think again - his experience in Kirkcaldy already fading into memory as he enjoys a great start to his career with Fife's best team.
Impressing in his opening 2 games but without scoring, McManus then hit 2 goals against Peterhead in his third appearance, including a sublime lob from outside the box (pictured below). Another goal at the weekend against Hearts made it 3 in 4 games, but it is his attitude, workrate and willingness to be a real team player that have done as much as his goals to make him a popular figure with the fans. His goal celebrations show a player who is reveling in his new surroundings. His confidence is high and he will be a vital player in the season ahead.
Photos & edit by Pars Review
Man of the match stat is for Pars Review selections in match reports.
A tremendous display to progress into the next round at the expense of crisis-hit Hearts
Despite being without top scorer Nicky Clark plus Dean Shiels, one of the best footballers at the club, Dunfermline progressed to the last 16 of the Betfred Cup with a fantastic team performance and some outstanding individual displays. It had been anticipated that Shiels would move up front to replace Clark, whose injury was confirmed 2 days ago. Shiels' absence was a surprise, so while there was an expected return for Nat Wedderburn in midfield, there was also a first start for 17 year old striker Callum Smith. Hearts manager Ian Cathro dropped his best player Jamie Walker due to speculation about a transfer to Rangers, while new signings Christophe Berra and Kyle Lafferty started.
The Pars began the stronger team, taking the game to a home side that was clearly lacking in confidence, following their defeat at Peterhead in midweek. With a point required to top the group, regardless of any penalty kick bonus point, Dunfermline attacked from the outset, determined to secure a rare win at Tynecastle and win the group convincingly.
Disappointingly, after such a good opening period, Hearts took the lead in the 20th minute when Don Cowie's shot beat the outstretched arm of Sean Murdoch. The Pars keeper seemed to get his angles wrong, but he was to atone for that as the game progressed.
The equaliser came after 29 minutes and was quite simply stunning. Kallum Higginbotham's pass found Joe Cardle in the inside-right position. Cardle moved to the left to make space then curled a fantastic left foot shot beyond Jack Hamilton in the Hearts goal. This was Cardle at his very best - a mercurial talent who has the ability to create something very special out of nothing.
Mention has to made made of the despicable Kyle Lafferty, who needlessly wound up the travelling support after Hearts' opener, and then disgracefully took a dive in the box later in the first half. He was not booked for either incident. Referee Craig Thomson, who had a shocking game, failed to punish the player, whose career has been full of examples of cheating, diving and feigning injury.
The game had action at both ends of the pitch, with Callum Smith and Declan McManus working tirelessly in attack, while at the opposite end of the field Murdoch made a fine finger tip save from a Beuben effort, then 5 minutes before the break made an outstanding reflex save to prevent an own goal from a flicked header by Callum Morris.
The second half was 7 minutes old when Dunfermline took a deserved lead. Callum Smith received the ball in space, and showing great composure held the ball up before playing in Declan McManus, who elected to take an extra touch before shooting past Hamilton. The Pars players and fans went wild.
Dunfermline were denied a chance to go further ahead when referee Thomson refused to award a penalty despite McManus being barged in the back. Thomson seemed intent on playing Hearts back into the game, awarding freekicks for innocuous challenges, from which Hearts resorted to long punts into the Pars penalty box.
Scott Lochhead, who had replaced the excellent Smith, had an effort from distance but it was the home side who were gradually getting more of the ball, partly thanks to the referee, but showing no guile or any semblance of a plan to break down the well organised Dunfermline backline. Captain Callum Morris was an inspirational figure at the back, with the ever-dependable Lee Ashcroft beside him. Fullbacks Ryan Williamson and Lewis Martin continued their fine early season form: Williamson is back to his best and combined solid defensive work with some dangerous runs up the right wing. Martin, a player who excels by doing the simple things simply, had a very good game, clearing his lines when required. The defence were protected by 2 central midfielders who some feel collectively lack the pace to play together against Premiership opposition, but Big Nat and the outstanding Michael Paton both gave excellent performances. Kallum Higginbotham was always involved on the right wing, while on the left, Cardle gave a man of the match performance.
Hearts fans were leaving the stadium before their team got a late equaliser when Isma Goncalves stabbed the ball in after a mini-stramash in the box. The referee then added over 4 minutes on after the 90 minutes ended, for reasons known only to himself. During that period, Hearts should have stolen a victory but first Goncalves and then sub Cole Stockton missed glorious chances to win the game, which would have been daylight robbery.
The final whistle eventually was blown, and the Pars had the point they needed to win the group. Drawn games in the Betfred Cup groups stage are followed by a penalty shoot-out for an extra bonus point. Although neither side needed the extra point - Dunfermline were through regardless, while Hearts had to gather the full 3 points to progress - it was the Pars who won the shoot-out after successful kicks from Paton, Lochhead and Big Nat. McManus saw his chipped effort saved, but it didn't matter after only Lafferty scored for Hearts, with McGhee, Martin and Cowie all sending their shots wide or over the goal, not even forcing Murdoch to make a save.
A great day and a huge confidence booster for the upcoming Championship campaign.
Pars starting 11 & subs:
Tomorrow: full match photo gallery.
Photos & edits: Pars Review
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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.
For new visitors to this site, the PARDIS is a regular feature that has a current Pars player going back in time to see a Dunfermline game, in a time machine that is spookily similar to Doctor Who's TARDIS. For the past 2 years, the Moff was the Commander of the time machine. Now that he has left East End Park, the keys to the PARDIS have been handed to Jean Yves M'Voto, affectionately known as Big Jock.
Whereas the Moff's journeys were random, Big Jock has decided to set the PARDIS on course to past games involving our next opposition. So today we travel back to 2007 to find out what happened when the Pars faced Hearts, who we will be up against in 2 days in the Betfred Cup.
Dateline: Saturday 3 February 2007
Competition: Scottish Cup Last 16
Location: East End Park
Result: Dunfermline 1, Hearts 0
A last minute header from centre half Scott Wilson sent Dunfermline into the Scottish Cup quarter finals. Hearts were on top for much of the game against a Pars team who were battling relegation in the Premier League.
Dunfermline boss Stephen Kenny was without injured captain Greg Shields and the cup-tied Stephen Glass. Hearts manager Valdas Ivanauskas made 6 changes to his line-up and was without defender Christophe Berra through injury (Berra rejoined Hearts this summer after leaving Tynecastle in 2009).
Dunfermline keeper Dorus Devries was required to make several crucial saves, most notably efforts from Saulius Mikoliunas. Pars defender Phil McGuire headed an Andrew Driver effort off the line, while Dunfermline came close to scoring when Hearts keeper Steve Banks fumbled a cross, which fell to Pars winger Adam Hammill. He chipped the ball to the back post to Stevie Crawford, whose on target header hit the back of Lee Wallace on the line.
Just when it seemed that the tie would be heading for a replay at Tynecastle, Scott Wilson ventured upfield in the 90th minute and headed the ball past Banks from a Hammill cross.
Pars starting 11:
Dorus DeVries, Greg Ross, Scott Morrison, Phil McGuire, Scott Wilson, Gary Mason, Jim O'Brien, Stephen Simmons, Stevie Crawford, Mark Burchill, Adam Hammill.
Hearts' embarrassing 2-1 defeat at Peterhead last night has given Dunfermline an unexpected opportunity to win Group B of this season's Betfred Cup by securing a draw when we travel to Tynecastle on Saturday. Had Hearts beaten Peterhead, the Pars would have needed either a win (something not achieved at Tynecastle since 1990) or a draw plus a bonus point for winning a penalty shoot-out. Now a draw would be enough, regardless of penalty kicks.
The Premiership side's loss to League 2 Peterhead, who had lost 5-1 at East End Park in their previous Betfred game, increases pressure on Hearts "boss" Ian Cathro. I use inverted commas deliberately when describing Cathro as boss - his position has always been under scrutiny, working under Hearts owner Ann Budge and Director of Football, and ex-Hearts and Scotland manager Craig Levein. Cathro was publically humiliated last season during a game at Pittodrie when Levein, sitting in the stand, was having notes passed to the young manager during the game. The perception of 30 year old Cathro is that of a man-child who is a fish out of water, someone with no previous management experience and who is more skilled in preparing a laptop presentation than in actually putting a team out on the park that wins games.
Hearts' experiment in catapulting a novice coach into a management role has, so far, not succeeded. Seen as Levein's puppet, Cathro took over a Hearts side in early December 2016 that was second in the Premiership at the time manager Robbie Neilson left to take over MK Dons. The subsequent months of the season saw Hearts fall to fifth place in the division, and a massive 30 points behind runners-up Aberdeen. They were also by-passed by Rangers (21 points ahead of Hearts) and St Johnstone (12 points ahead). Cathro's League record read: played 22, won 5, drawn 4, lost 13. Significantly, they also went out of the Scottish Cup to rivals Hibs.
Some of Scottish football's more traditionalist pundits, players and ex-players were sceptical about the Cathro appointment back in December last year. Kilmarnock striker Kris Boyd, who completed a Pro-Licence coaching course alongside Cathro, said in his newspaper column, before Cathro's first game as Hearts manager:
"He’s one of the up-and-coming, modern-era coaches who can organise a session just by flicking open his laptop. There isn’t a session out there he couldn’t get on to his Macbook. But setting up a presentation to a group of players is all well and good. That does not require man management skills, which is part of the game he knows absolutely nothing about. Time will tell if I’m wrong on that. But if I was a Jambo I’d be worried.
"For me the practical stuff involved in coaching is easy — it’s dealing with highly-charged players that’s the hard part. And for me Cathro is way, way out of his depth.
"I don't see a confident, charismatic top level coach when I look at him. I just think of the shy lad who hardly spoke to anyone when we were on the same coaching course."
Hearts' fans online reactions since the final whistle blew last night have, not surprisingly, been highly critical of their manager. Comments include:
"We can build a new stand but we will be lucky to fill it with this idiot in charge."
"Playing for nearly 10 minutes with 10 men while somebody's scone is being stitched is plain stupid. Getting the shirt numbers of the subs in the team lines wrong is plain embarrassing."
"The only positive I can glean from it is that it just might accelerate Cathro's departure. I still think we're stuck with him until October while we're sitting in the bottom two or three teams. Please don't confuse this with a meltdown, I really don't have an issue with the players, it's just the manager really is out of his depth and clueless. Your experiment has failed Levein - admit it and get it sorted."
Of course, Hearts will still be favourites going into Saturday's game. However, Dunfermline will not have a better chance to achieve at least the draw that is needed to win the group. It is high time the Tynecastle hoodoo was broken.
Here's a gallery of how East End Park has changed over the past few decades, from the 1950s to the present day.
Photos sourced online, except for images 13, 14, 16, 18, 19 & 20 which are by Pars Review
All photos by Pars Review