Last week, Marc McAusland ended a short stint at Dunfermline Athletic by exercising a clause in his contract to move abroad.
He is the latest player to leave the club after journeyman Mickael Antoine-Curier moved to Belgium and Lewis Spence joined League One opponents Brechin City on a development loan until the end of the season.
Only Brad McKay – who is now a direct replacement for McAusland – had come to East End Park last month. However, the defence was strengthed with the signing of Allan Johnston’s former teammate at Queen of the South, Craig Reid, released on the last day of the transfer window from Motherwell and played on the same flank as winger “Magic” at the Doonhammers from 2010 to 2012.
Both players will start as captain Callum Fordyce will not play again this season and there is no rush for Ryan Williamson, who has suffered two long-term injuries in consecutive seasons to come back.
There has been no dip in performance levels since McAusland’s departure and McKay’s inceration into the first 11, and the St. Johnstone loanee has looked assured since his odd decision to dive in on Alex Schalk in the box during his debut. He bounced back in the second half to score from a set-piece, a rarity for the defence and throughout the whole squad.
Reid will likely come in to replace Shaun Rooney, who is the boo boy amongst East End Park fans. The highly rated right back has shown signs of his potential but this has gone along with the inexperience of youth and the mistakes that come with that. Against Airdrieonians was his poorest performance in a black and white stripped shirt. That performance on Friday night was so fresh in the mind that Johnston may have moved his focus from another centre-half to a more experienced right-back that is versatile. The soon to be 30-year-old has 200 league appearances with all of them being at a higher level than League One. At the very least, the former Morton defender can come in and help improve Rooney for the next three months while competing with him for that full-back spot.
There were talks with Liam Smith, another versatile full-back that is comfortable at either left or right back as he is ambidextrous. However, Hearts seemed unwilling to let him move on loan as he was not assured a starting berth week in and week out. He would have been ideal, although, it was another inexperienced player in an extremely young defence.
There has been speculation that Paul McMullan, a 19-year-old striker at Celtic may be joining on loan until the end of April. In the first part of the season, he was sent to Championship club St. Mirren. He scored once in 12 starts and appeared off the bench another five times in the 20 games he spent at the Buddies. He has spent time in the third tier at Stenhousemuir last season where he found the net on three occasions in his 15 outings for the Warriors. In my opinion, an unnecessary signing with the likes of James Thomas or Paul Joseph Crossan that can sit on the bench and be the fourth choice striker at the club.
In my opinion, if Johnston was to bring in one more body – which I do not think is needed – I would look at a left midfielder, someone that plays as a wide midfielder and not an inside forward à la Joe Cardle. Just somebody that offers that something different that you do not get from “Super Joe” or Ryan Wallace – the backup striker – when he is shunned out wide. Somebody that can cover Jason Talbot when protecting a lead in the last 10 minutes. If that player were to arrive then Dunfermline would have a nice balance throughout the squad.
On the whole, Johnston has improved the side with the moves that he has made over the last month. McKay and Reid have not only improved the depth and quality of that back four but also added experience. Lewis Spence will come back a better player in May and look to compete for a place in that midfield next season where the club hopes to be participating in the second tier and be looking to do more business when the transfer window reopens in the Summer.
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