Tomorrow East End Park will host a decisive game in Group C of the Betfred Cup between second place Dunfermline Athletic and third-placed Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
Two points and five goals separate these sides with the Pars seeing off League Two opponents Arbroath and Cowdenbeath 3-0. As for the Caley Jags, they missed out on the bonus point in a penalty shootout with Dundee United after beating the Blue Brazil 2-1 at Central Park.
Dunfermline was unbeaten in 90 minutes on the three occasions they played Premiership opposition last season and over the summer they have bolstered their squad in the hopes that they will partake in the top flight sooner rather than later. However, in the Highlands, there has been an overhaul as is the case every Summer. With an every decreasing budget John Hughes left the club as Richie Foran took up the reins from the Scottish Cup winning manager. While Caley Thistle has not been significantly weakened. The better players to have departed the Caledonian Stadium have gone and strengthened their league competitors which may push them further towards potential relegation.
Keys to the game
Both teams eased past Cowdenbeath at Central Park thanks to their ability from dead ball situations in conjunction with the Blue Brazil’s ineptitude at defending them. All three of the Pride of the Highlands’ goals in the competition have come from set plays, and Carl Tremarco is a real threat with his capacity to launch a ball deep into the box with a throw-in. At the back and in midfield, both outfits have a multitude of tall, strong players that look to attack the ball at any opportunity. This will likely be the pivotal contest, and the team that fairs better are odds on to come out on top with all three points.
Inverness may play into Athletic’s hands, as they like when a team has possession of the ball, knocks it around and progresses up the pitch slowly. If the Pars manage to dispossess Foran’s men in the final third, they could look to get the ball out wide and hit on the counter; a tactic that worked well last season against Dundee in the League Cup.
Iain Vigurs role is important as he is going to have to prove enough of a threat to stop Ryan Williamson bombing up the sideline. However, if the young right-back does play as attacking as we are accustomed to seeing then Vigurs can drift into the vacated space and look to either attack the goal himself or play in a cross for the waiting Scott Boden. Although, it is a double-edged sword as Williamson in tandem with Kallum Higginbotham could wreak havoc on Tremarco and force Vigurs to come back and help deal with the problem.
Defenders: Euan Spark (Dundee United), Lee Ashcroft (Kilmarnock).
Midfielders: Nat Wedderburn (Inverness Caledonian Thistle).
Forwards: Gavin Reilly, (Loan – Heart of Midlothian), Kallum Higginbotham (Kilmarnock), Paul McMullan (Loan – Celtic).
Defender: Kevin McNaughton (Wigan).
Forwards: Billy King (Loan – Hearts), Jake Mulraney (Queens Park Rangers), Scott Boden (Newport County).
Kickoff time and ticket prices
Tuesday, 19:45pm, East End Park.
All Stands: Adults £12, Concessions £6.
Key Dunfermline player
Kallum Higginbotham: The newest recruit has brought some much-needed quality to set-piece deliveries for the Pars. He has also branded himself the man to fill the vacancy of the departed Faissal El Bakhtaoui. In his two outings thus far he has been deployed on each flank. Although, the position to get the best out of the Englishman may be a free role in behind Gavin Reilly or Michael Moffat. A Premiership standard player will be needed against this top tier outfit, and if he is on stationed at right midfield then he will be duelling with the Caley Jags’ weak link, Carl Tremarco.
Key Inverness player
Scott Boden: The centre-back pairing of Ben Richards-Everton and Lee Ashcroft has yet to be tested, but that should change with the 26-year-old leading the line. The striker has a good strike rate of one in two when he has started in the lower reaches of the game in England, and opened his account for the Highlanders against Dundee United. Even though they are the home team I expect Dunfermline to play a bit more defensively and if the former Chesterfield attacker wants to prove to his new manager why he should be starting on a regular basis, he needs to net against another Championship side.
Last five meetings
Wed 02 May: Inverness CT 0-0 Dunfermline
Sat 18 Feb: Dunfermline 1-1 Inverness CT
Wed 18 Jan: Dunfermline 1-3 (AET) Inverness CT
Sat 07 Jan: Inverness CT 1-1 Dunfermline
Sat 22 Oct: Inverness CT 1-1 Dunfermline
Dunfermline 14/5 Draw 29/16 Inverness 7/5 (MarathonBet)
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