A season that began with promotion hopes is now entering its final baker's dozen of games, with Dunfermline facing involvement in a different type of play-off scenario, unlikely as it may have seemed back in August, at the wrong end of the table. Early season optimism was matched by performances on the pitch with an encouraging set of games in the Betfred Cup that preceded a win at Tannadice in the opening League game.
There is no need to re-hash in any great detail what has happened since - we all know the story and there is no point dwelling on what has been a hugely disappointing season to date. Instead, we can only concentrate on the final few weeks. So what can we hope for and expect in the 13 (or for some teams, 12) games to come, both for ourselves and our opponents?
Here is the current Championship table:
Having been at the Alloa v Falkirk game at the weekend, two of the clubs directly below us in the table, I was both wary and hopeful after seeing what both teams had to offer. Falkirk have gutted the squad signed only last summer by previous manager Paul Hartley and had a complete January rebuild under Ray McKinnon. Their team, so soft against us in games at the Falkirk Stadium this season, is now flooded with players over 6 foot. They were hard but fair, and dominated Alloa physically. Alloa, the only part time club in the Championship, had tidy footballers who were not helped by their own club's decision to narrow their own pitch to the legal minimum. This was their third consecutive defeat and they lacked incisiveness. The feeling I left with was that Falkirk would finish outside the relegation/play-off positions, the 3 points that they won having lifted them from tenth to eighth, a place I would not expect them to move downwards from. Indeed, they may even finish midtable if they can maintain their current run of results. They were marshalled at the back by -ex-Scotland cap Paul Dixon, the type of experienced player that Dunfermline desperately need in defence.
Partick Thistle, another club who, like Falkirk, under-performed for much of the season, dropped to the foot of the table at the weekend, their involvement in the Scottish Cup meaning they have now played one League game less than Falkirk and Alloa. Thistle were also active in the January transfer window, with players such as Joe Cardle and Gary Harkins moving to Firhill. Their recent results in the Championship - two draws followed by two wins - mirrors Falkirk's similar upturn.
So to Dunfermline. In the same sequence of games that both Falkirk and Thistle have picked up 8 points from 12, we have gained two points. The bottom 4 clubs, separated by only 3 points, could also yet drag in Morton - the poorest team I have seen this season, currently on 29 points, 7 points off the bottom of the table. Queen of the South, a point ahead of Morton, should have no relegation worries as long as Stephen Dobbie stays fit.
Bruce Anderson's debut, with a goal and excellent link up play with Faissal El Bakhtoui, was extremely encouraging. For far too many games, the Pars forwards have failed to form any kind of productive partnership. The change in Faissal in the last game, suddenly having someone who made space and intelligent runs, was obvious, and Stevie Crawford should be given credit for playing Faissal just behind Anderson as opposed to directly alongside him.
The same concerns about a defence that is one step away from gifting a goal, and a hard working but not overly creative midfield, still exist. We are overly-reliant on Kallum Higginbotham to provide a creative spark. Higgy's form fluctuates as much as his temperament and while he has ability, his decision making cannot be relied upon, even when defending, as was shown in our last game when instead of putting his laces through the ball, he tried a flick 20 yards from our goal that lead to Ross County's winner.
Whether there is enough of the season remaining to pull Morton into the relegation mix remains to be seen. After seeing all the bottom 5 in action recently and also based on squad changes, current form, momentum (or the lack of), I expect Alloa to finish bottom. Dunfermline will rely on Anderson's goals to keep us up, and if we can do just enough to finish eighth we should breathe a sigh of relief and look ahead to a summer clear out. Falkirk and Thistle could yet leap frog Alloa, Morton and ourselves to finish sixth and seventh.
Let's hope we start securing our place in the division with a positive result this weekend. A win would then see us just five points behind our opponents Inverness, currently in fourth......