Live on television Dunfermline Athletic will be playing a rudderless St. Mirren side in what is an early basement battle between the two teams tipped to duke it out for the final promotion playoff spot.
Late last week parted ways with manager Alex Rae and assistant David Farrell as an attempt by the new board to kickstart the winless Buddies’ season into action. Allan McManus, the head of the club’s academy will likely be in charge of the game on Saturday while the board looks for the former Dundee gaffer’s replacement. Early contenders for the job include former boss Gus MacPherson, – who also used to play for the Fifers – John Hughes and Barry Smith.
Allan Johnston is starting to feel the pressure as the Pars are in an equally perilous situation having lost five Championship games on the spin after an opening day victory over part-time Dumbarton.
Last time out, the Greenhill Road outfit traveled north to The Cheaper Insurance Direct Stadium and came from behind to earn a share of the spoils with the Sons. While the Fifers did equalise on their visit to Cappielow Park, they did succumb to defeat against Greenock Morton late in the game courtesy of a Jai Quitongo goal.
With both teams sat on three points, a win is vital to make sure a gulf does not appear between mid-table obscurity and the drop zone.
Keys to the game
With both teams in search of a clean sheet and three points, it could be quite the feisty game. However, Johnston rarely deviates from his system (4-4-2) and attacking style of play. It would be in his best interest – even at home – to set up more conservative as a means to get the victory. There are signs he is heading that way with the implementation of Callum Fordyce at right back – a position he was familiar with at Livingston – as a well to cover for Ryan Williamson’s lack of defensive discipline.
Nat Wedderburn also needs to return to the line-up, as he protects the back four in a way no other player at the club can. He is sensible in possession, and not fazed by building up slowly, rather than trying to punt the ball from back to front as quickly as possible.
Up top for the east enders, it is important to have that something different in the attack, and the answer is on the bench with Farid El Alagui. The French striker has the ability to win a contest with the best of centre halves in this division for any ball in the air.
With the sacking of Rae, it is not known how McManus is going to set up this Saints side. However, he will likely look to the experienced members of the squad to try and stop the rot of seven straight losses in all competitions. With that in mind, it is expected to be a compact eleven that will be looking to take a point back to Paisley with them, with the hope of stealing the lot.
Stephen Mallan is the danger man for them, as the talented youngster in able to create chances for the forwards, as well as put them away himself, but, he needs help. The Saints are the lowest scorers in the league. Ryan Hardie’s goal on Saturday being their fifth in six league fixtures.
John Sutton will be playing a similar role to El Alagui, and seek to win every aerial duel with the centre backs. While Hardie will be buzzing around aiming to pick up second balls and drive into the box and net any opportunities that come his way.
St. Mirren signings
GK: Scott Gallacher (Free – Alloa)
CB: Ben Gordon (Free – Livingston)
CB: Gary MacKenzie (Free – Doncaster)
CM: Kyle Hutton (Free – Queen of the South)
LM: Tom Walsh (Loan – Rangers)
CF: David Clarkson (Free – Motherwell)
CF: John Sutton (Free – St. Johnstone)
CF: Ryan Hardie (Loan – Rangers)
CF: Lawrence Stankland (Loan – Aberdeen)
Dunfermline Athletic signings
RB: Euan Spark (Free – Dundee United)
RCB: Lee Ashcroft (Free – Kilmarnock)
LDM: Nat Wedderburn (Free – Inverness Caledonian Thistle)
AM: John Herron (Loan – Blackpool)
RW: Paul McMullan (Loan – Celtic)
SS: Kallum Higginbotham (Free – Kilmarnock)
CF: Gavin Reilly (Loan – Heart of Midlothian)
CF: Nicky Clark (Free – Bury)
CF: Farid El Alagui (Free – Hibernian)
Kickoff time, ticket prices and where to watch
Saturday, 17:15pm, East End Park.
South stand: Adults £19, Concessions £13, U12s £7.
All other stands: Adults £17, Concessions £11, U12s £5.
Live on BBC Alba, starting at 17:05pm.
Key St. Mirren player
Stephen Mallan: Dundee and Hibernian were two of many potential suitors that were looking to take the 20-year-old creative midfielder away from the Paisley 2021 Stadium this summer. In terms of stature the son of Stevie has already surpassed his father’s career, and the future is bright for the Scotland U21 internationalist. While it has not clicked for himself and his teammates this season, a change of manager maybe just what he needs. And the Pars midfield (Andy Geggan in particular) will have to be wary when he gets up a head of speed and starts running through it and towards the defence.
Key Dunfermline Athletic player
Sean Murdoch: Allan Johnston has to find a way to stem the tide of goals for the Championship’s worst defence, and without numerous hours of drilling the players on the training pitch, the best solution is a change in personal. A first start of the season in between the sticks for the Pars’ number one is imperative if they have any aspirations of keeping the opposition scoreless. The former academy product provides the backline with confidence but also organisation. Murdoch boasted 15 clean sheets in 34 League One games on his return to the club last year.
What St. Mirren are saying
“We have had a conversation with Billy [Davies] but no more. It is still at an early stage but we have had a lot of good applications in so far. We had hoped to have someone in place by the time of the Falkirk game on October 1 but that is looking unlikely now.” (Gordon Scott, St Mirren Chairman)
What Dunfermline Athletic are saying
“There will be no panic. We will keep playing the way we are playing. Obviously we need to tighten up. The difference between us and the majority of the other teams is that we have players all over the pitch who can score goals.” (Allan Johnston, Manager)
Last six meetings
10 Oct 2015: St. Mirren 4-0 Dunfermline Athletic (Challenge Cup)
26 Aug 2014: St. Mirren 2-1 Dunfermline Athletic (League Cup)
21 Apr 2012: St. Mirren 4-4 Dunfermline Athletic
24 Mar 2012: Dunfermline Athletic 1-1 St. Mirren
19 Nov 2011: St. Mirren 2-1 Dunfermline Athletic
25 Jul 2011: Dunfermline Athletic 0-0 St. Mirren
Dunfermline Athletic 6/5 Draw 13/5 St. Mirren 13/5
Dunfermline Athletic 1-0 St. Mirren
An Audio preview of the match with St. Mirren radio contributor Daniel Bowers
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