Dunfermline in front of goal

Dunfermline Athletic came roaring out the gate at the start of 2015/16 campaign. Successive wins of 4-1, 5-1, 6-1 and 7-1 had fans intrigued of just how many goals this team could amass over the 36 game season.

In the first quarter alone, the Fifers hit 30 in nine fixtures, an average of 3.33. It would have been lunacy for a side to continue that run from August to the end of April. But, yet, they played Stranraer (1-3) and Forfar (4-0) to start off the next quarter. I projected a total of 85 goals, and back then that looked like that would be on the low side. At that point, Allan Johnston’s squad needed 48 in the corresponding 25 matches to match that tally. That is now 25 from the remaining 11.

It all came to a halt in Cowdenbeath. Dunfermline was held to their first scoreless draw and rendered goalless for the second time in 12 games. The team who had scored three or more on 11 occasions from 17 opportunities have only done so five times in as many games since.

Now they are a few reasons for this, some coincidental and others subjective to tell us why the goals were not going in at an incredible rate. It can be that teams figured out how Dunfermline would approach a match and set up. Johnston has rarely strayed from his personal or formation. It could also be that the pitches have become worn down and that affects the way the Pars play football. That style in its simplest form is direct, quick movement out to the wide men and try to find El Bakhtaoui in the hole.

You cannot gauge if teams have figured Dunfermline out or not. But, yet, sides have realised they cannot allow them to counter as they did so the first time around. The Pars are not a side that score at will from set pieces. Just four from the 60 have been direct as a result of a corner or a free-kick. They are also not a side that is awarded a lot of penalties. They have converted two of their four. 90% of goals have been from open play and four out of five have been as a result of teamwork.

It is no doubt that the boggier pitches affect sides that are effective with quick short passes as opposed to those that play back to front. One aspect that affects all players, no matter the venue is bobbles. It does not matter, home or away. You cannot legislate and compensate for a bobble when passing or shooting. It is no coincidence that the Fifers have excelled on artificial pitches. Their record is played seven, won seven. Scored 25, conceded three and picked up five cleans sheets. The all weather pitches allow for the ball to run quicker and being a flat surface helps the passing game.

Stats are not the be all and end all, of footballing knowledg. The eye test must also be taken into account. Although, this is one study in which they both go hand-in-hand.

First 11 games:

161 shots, 87 on target.
37 goals.
22.98% shot conversion.

Last 14 games:

219 shots, 79 on target.
30 goals.
13.70% shot conversion.

15.83% seasonal shot conversion.

Now the odd part of that data is that the shots per game have risen in the last 14 fixtures from 14.63 to 15.64. Yet, those converted on target have lowered. At one point, it was 7.91, now it is 5.64. This has affected the shot conversion rate, which was at a spectacular rate of near enough 23 percent. Anywhere in 17.5-20 percent range is great and what you want if you are looking to win a title

The lack of clinical edge has cost Dunfermline in a few games this season. Johnston’s side is a couple of points off the desired pace of the supporters. If you were to look at a match that the Pars had a disappointing draw, it would be the home fixture against Peterhead. Now on the face of it one point each was a fair result, but fairness and sport do not tend to go see eye-to-eye. Goalkeeper, Graeme Smith put in an outstanding performance as the East End Park outfit were held scorelessly again. Of the 15 shots amassed, the target was only hit three times. If one chance was taken then the Fifers would have topped the table with 29 points. The Blue Toon would be languishing in seventh with a tally of 14. At present, Jim McInally’s team would be 11 behind (12 when you factor in goal difference) having played a game more.

Where the eye test backs up the ineffectiveness in front of goal was the televised game against Airdrieonians at East End Park. You have to credit Eddie Wolacki Black – who came in after the first two matchups were under Gary Bollan. The gameplan was perfect. Dunfermline is susceptible to a 4-3-3 and was exploiting at right back where their least experienced player was. Hugo Faria was tasked to nullify the threat of Faissal El Bakhtaoui. It worked as the French-Morrocan moved further and further back towards his own goal to get on the ball. Still, the Pars got 25 shots off yet even with clear cut chances missed, they could not make the breakthrough.

Next season if the Pars do go up into the Championship. The lack of a clinical edge may be the difference between a promotion playoff spot or a relegation one. You can see it in the matches against higher league opposition. Especially against Dundee United and Ross County, where the difference came down to taking the chances that were on offer.


You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.

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