Greetin down the Halbeath Road: where it all went wrong for the Pars this season

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.

Only a relegation battle would have been saved it from being the least expected scenario back in August. This is taking into account that 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. As a result, the crop of players seen the former Jambo’s man “step down” in December. Four months later, 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 won two of their remaining fixtures; one against relegation bound Arbroath.

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 defeated Ayr United in the other semi, to set up a Fife derby final.

At Central Park, the Pars lead lasted six minutes as they drew one each. Over 8,000 attendees descended upon East End Park and 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.

The perception in the off-season was that the club’s playing staff was 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 and Moffat did not perform to expectations in terms of goals. Last term, he had scored 25 in the league for the Honest Men; it was five in his debut outing for the Pars and two of them in his last 29 appearances.

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 10 appearances this season; 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 sole 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 lead that the Fife side had over Brechin had turned into a four-point deficit with the Angus club having 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 addition, they conceded 34 of their 48 goals against under the former Pars defender. Showing the problems were at both end of the pitch in this horrendous season.

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.

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.

You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.


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