Dunfermline Athletic rounded off a terrible season with defeat at the Excelsior Stadium by Gary Bollan’s Airdrieonians. The three-two scoreline resigned the East End Park outfit to one of their worst league finishes in its 130-year history.
Apart from a relegation battle, a bottom half finish was the least expected scenario back in August considering Jim Jefferies steered them to second behind an unbeaten Rangers in the 2013-14 season. It has been baffling that Athletic was not battling with Greenock Morton at the top throughout the campaign. The Jim Duffy led Ton hit their target and returned to the Championship at the first time of asking with the League One title in tow.
Heading into this campaign the target was clear and reiterated in a recent statement by the Board of Directors where DAFC Chairman, Bob Garmory stated:
“Promotion to the Championship was the primary objective at the start of the season.”
A seventh-place finish does not grant passage to the second tier and, as a result, the crop of players seen the former Jambo’s man “step down” in December. Then in April, John Potter, who was heralded by the club as the “natural successor” reverted to his role as Head Coach after an unsuccessful spell in charge. Neil McCann, the assistant to both has left the club.
The downturn in fortunes can be traced back to March 2014. The team was 14 points ahead of third placed Stranraer with 10 games to go. With the best-placed playoff spot all but arithmetically secured, the team combined to win just two of the remaining fixtures, one against bottom club Arbroath, who were eventually relegated.
As the Championship playoffs started, Dunfermline was paired up with the Blues. While they lost the first leg, two-one at Stair Park. They bounced back and progressed by seeing off Stephen Aitken’s part-timers three-nil after extra-time. Relegation-threatened Cowdenbeath saw off Ayr United in the other tie, to set up a Fife Derby final.
At Central Park, the Pars lead lasted six minutes, as they drew. Over 8,000 attendees that descended upon East End Park were expecting a close game. However, their prediction was proved wrong in less than a minute. The Blue Brazil played up to their nickname as they systematically dismantled the home side to run out three goal winners.
In the off-season, the perception was that the club’s playing staff strengthened rather than weakened. 2013-14 PFA League One Team of the Year members Andy Geggan and Ryan Williamson were joined by fellow alumni in the form of Stranraer’s wide midfielder Andy Stirling and Ayr United’s top goalscorer Michael Moffat.
By the end of February, Stirling found himself out on loan to the club that shares his last name. As for Michael Moffat, he did not perform to expectations in terms of goals. Last term, the tally was 25 in the league for the Honest Men. It was just five in his debut outing in the black and white stripes. There were only two goals in his last 29 appearances, a disappointing return by his usual standards.
That was not the only problem in the attack. Ryan Wallace was hampered by injuries throughout the campaign and his ability to score in the double figures was sorely missed. Unfortunately the former Hearts youth player failed to make even 10 appearances this season. With two of his five run outs coming in the opening week.
The only solace supporters can take is the one-nil victory over 2014’s Challenge Cup winners, Raith Rovers, in their only defence of the trophy. Although, losing out on a six figure televised game against Dundee United in the fifth round of the Scottish Cup was a big let-down financially and for fan morale.
Delving into the league results, five wins with two goalless draws in the opening nine home fixtures was acceptable form. This coincided with six clean sheets and being the last side in the United Kingdom to concede on their own patch. All signs to give fans reason to be optimistic about an ending that would appease them.
However, away from home, the one-nil loss to potentially League Two bound Stenhousemuir, and three-one to the Diamonds were simply not to the standard expected from the side. The latter result was the ending for Jefferies’ tenure at the club.
At the time, everybody agreed that a change was needed even with the side sat comfortably in fourth, five points from the summit and the same tally ahead of Brechin City. There was very little resistance or questioning of Potter taking over the duties of Manager, but his first five games in charge did not yield the desired results. In his debut effort, the squad were blunt in front of goal as Frank McKeown scored the winner and took the three points back to Dumfriesshire.
In the following two home fixtures, a couple of score draws were mustered from Peterhead and the Airdrie outfit respectively. In between those games, the Pars lost a one-goal lead and equalised in the 92nd minute through Lewis Martin to deny bottom side Stirling their first home win of the victory.
In late January, after a televised defeat at Cappielow, the five-point lead that the Fife side had over Brechin had turned into a four-point deficit with the Angus club holding a game in hand. Pars would never recover and continue to slide down the table.
A one-nil win over second place Stranraer in April was the first time they defeated a side that finished above them since the first fixture against Peterhead at home on match day seven.
While there were eight clean sheets in the first 14 matches under Jefferies. That was followed up by three in Potter’s 20 fixtures in charge in which they conceded 34 of their 48 goals against. Showing the problems were at both end of the pitch in this horrendous season, in which the former St Mirren captain had a win percentage of just 25%.
In summary, the most disappointing facts include the couple of draws against fourth tier bound Stirling Albion and the defeat to ninth placed Stenny. Pars accumulating nine points from a possible 48 against the top four, taking nothing from the Pride of the Clyde. Conceding 30 goals in the 16 fixtures against the sides that finished in the Championship playoffs and higher is dreadful form.
As the club launch their new season ticket initiative “through thick and thin.” Fans await a new manager, one of the favourites for the job is Gary Bollan who has been a thorn in Dunfermline’s side for much of this season. It is hoped if he is the Manager for the forthcoming campaign he can hit the target that his potential predecessors failed and bring fans walking down the Halbeath Road with glee once again.
We reviewed the appointment and what next for the Pars.
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