Looking at the current Pars squad and how they have performed individually and as a team.
Today: the goalkeepers and defence
Dunfermline have been well served in recent years with quality goalkeepers and the current Pars number 1 continues that pattern. Sean Murdoch (pictured below) has been one of the team's top performers since returning from an injury that caused him to miss the first few weeks of the season. In addition to being a very good goalkeeper, he has an authority and presence about him that undoubtedly helps his defenders. Deputy keeper David Hutton filled in for Murdoch in the early part of the season and while he did not conceded any howlers, he simply wasn't Murdoch and did not radiate confidence. Added to that, his tendency to jump like a starfish when attempting a save was disconcerting. Under 20s keeper Cammy Gill signed a new contract extension last week and will be challenging for a place on the first team bench soon. Having seen Gill in many Under 20s games this season, he is vocal and appears confident and is a good shot stopper.
In defence, there has been a huge improvement in recent weeks. In the opening games of the season, almost every week a goal was conceded through a needless error. These have largely been eliminated now, with a noticeable change to clearing the ball quickly and without fuss.
The team have had several right backs this season, and it is still a position that could be filled in the January transfer window. Ryan Williamson has not adapted well to Championship football, and has been defensively suspect and also less effective on his gallops up the right wing, compared to last year in League 1. He is currently out of the first team matchday squad and could benefit from going on loan. Lewis Martin has played all across the back 4 this season and is a solid, dependable player. Two red cards this season, the first of his career, have not helped his case for a regular first team spot, and he is currently being used more as cover than in the starting 11.
Jason Talbot (pictured above) has bounced back from a red card early in the season to become the team's most consistent player. He has eliminated the rash challenges that have led to disciplinary problems, and is now an automatic choice at full back. He also scored one of the Pars goals of the season with a 20 yard screamer at Queen Of The South.
Callum Fordyce initially found his return from long-term injury to be a greater challenge than was hoped for. Unfortunate mistakes in games led directly to goals, and he was then removed from the first team squad and played as an overage player in the Under 20s. That seems to have built up his confidence as he has been outstanding for the first team in recent weeks, and has regained the team captaincy.
Lee Ashcroft has played every game that he has been available for (missing just one, after a red card in the opening League game). A very mature player for a 23 year old, he has been one of the team's top performers throughout the season and could become a cornerstone of the defence for years to come.
Ben Richards-Everton struggled with the demands of Championship football before suffering a long-term injury in training. He has a great attitude but questions remain over his ability to play at this level.
New signing Callum Morris will be pushing Fordyce and Ashcroft for a first team place, while young full back Conner Duthie has been given first team game time this season and looks a good prospect.
Tomorrow: the midfield
Photos by Pars Review