Match preview: Dunfermline Athletic v Ayr United

Both sides take to the field in an attempt to establish who will end the weekend seventh and eighth in the Championship.

The last time the teams played, nothing could separate them in the goalless draw at Somerset Park.

However, in the 2015/16 season, the Pars dominated their part-time opponents 80% of the time as they entered the second tier in May. Another other than a home win would see the visitors stay three places from the immediate drop.

This is where the disgruntlement amongst the Fifers has arisen. They seen their South Ayrshire counterparts open a seven-point gap over the first 10 games.

Fortune changed for Dunfermline when their captain, Andy Geggan shifted to right back from central midfield which gave an instantaneous lift in performance for himself and the side. Suddenly, Allan Johnston’s selection at the back looked solid and while they were conceding the odd goal, it was not at the rate that was present in the first few months of the campaign.

It was at the same time that Ian McCall’s Honest Men started to revert back to their start of season form. They were embarrassed by Hibernian on their own patch then suffered a disappointing Challenge Cup defeat to St Mirren before being edged out by Falkirk. Yet, they stopped the rot with a draw thanks to a late Gary Harkins’ free-kick at Stark’s Park.

Keys to the game

Nat Wedderburn v Gary Harkins is the standout battle on the East End Park turf. Neither player is blessed with an abundance of pace, but both – on their day – can do what they can do to devastating effect.

The midfield is always where the game has been won in the past. When the Honest Men were allowed to boot the Pars up and down the field without retaliation, it was a routine 2-0 win for the South Ayrshire outfit.

However, you would be hard pushed to try and give Wedderburn a kicking and think you will not face the repercussions that came with it. Even if your name is Jamie Adams… If this was to break out into a frantic spectacle, then there is the safeguard of the big Englishman putting his foot on the ball to rotate possession amongst the backline.

As for Harkins, if he applied himself more on the training pitch rather than breezing by on ability alone, there is no chance he would be at this level, at what should be the twilight of his peak years. Yet, that does not take away from what an asset he is for Ian McCall and how he can single-handedly conjure opportunities out of nothing. He will be able to supply the kind of ball that makes it near impossible for central defenders to defend as James Forrest’s little brother, Alan looks to get on the end of them and dispatch with aplomb.

Kickoff time, ticket prices and where to watch

Saturday, 15:00. East End Park

South stand: Adults £19, Concessions £13, U12s £7.
All other stands: Adults £17, Concessions £11, U12s £5.

Confirmed line ups

Team News

Dunfermline Athletic:

Andy Geggan (injured)
David Hopkirk and Gavin Reilly (fitness)
Ryan Williamson (doubt)

Ayr United:

Craig Moore (injured)
Paul Cairney (suspended)
Peter Murphy (doubt)

Referee

Barry Cook.

What Dunfermline Athletic are saying

“We never started the season the way we wanted to start but we are starting to catch teams up above us now and if we can put a run of results together Ayr and Queen of the South can get a bit closer. It is up to us, we just have to keep on improving, keep on working really hard, and making sure that we finish the second half of the season strongly. The league is really tight and if we can put four or five results together, you quickly climb the table. That is the target.” (Allan Johnston, manager)

What Ayr United are saying

“East End Park is a great place to go and play. It’s always a great playing surface and a good atmosphere. We did really well there last season, winning the first match and being well ahead in the second match which was changed by the sending off. We have a 5 or 6 game period now where some good results will have us looking towards mid table or if the results don’t go our way we will be in a battle at the bottom so its a really important spell and we are looking forward to it.” (Ian McCall, manager)

Common fixtures

Dunfermline Athletic:

2-0 v Raith Rovers (A)
1-3 v Hibernian
2-1 v Greenock Morton (A)
0-1 v Queen of the South
2-2 v Dumbarton (A)
2-1 v Falkirk (A)
2-1 v Hibernian (A)
4-3 v St Mirren
1-0 v Dundee United (A)
0-0 v Raith Rovers

Points: Six

Ayr United:

1-1 v Raith Rovers (A)
0-3 v Hibernian
2-1 v Greenock Morton (A)
1-0 v Queen of the South
0-3 v Dumbarton (A)
2-0 v Falkirk (A)
1-2 v Hibernian (A)
1-1 v St Mirren
3-0 v Dundee United (A)
0-2 v Raith Rovers

Points: 11

Last six meetings

Championship:

01 Oct 2016: Ayr United 0-0 Dunfermline Athletic

League One:

12 Mar 2016: Ayr United 0-2 Dunfermline Athletic

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13 Feb 2016: Dunfermline Athletic 3-2 Ayr United
12 Dec 2015: Ayr United 1-2 Dunfermline Athletic
12 Sep 2015: Dunfermline Athletic 0-2 Ayr United

Scottish Cup:

28 Nov 2015: Ayr United 0-1 Dunfermline Athletic

Other Fixtures (15:00 KO)

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Table

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Prediction

Dunfermline Athletic 1-0 Ayr United

Odds

Dunfermline Athletic 15/13 Draw 13/5 Ayr United 28/11

Best bet

Dunfermline Athletic to win @15/13


You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.

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