This Saturday the battle for sixth spot will take place at Palmerston Park in what is no doubt the tie of this Championship round as Allan Johnston returns to the place where it all started for him as a manager.
A scenario that seemed nigh on impossible when Queen of the South topped the table after half a dozen games while Dunfermline were defeated in their last five after an opening day win against Dumbarton.
The home team’s form has had as big a slide as a Helter Skelter ever since Helen Skelton interviewed her older brother Gavin before the Doonhamers were dismantled by Rangers at Ibrox in late September.
While the mildly awkward but endearing video package for BT Sport was not the reason for the catastrophic tumble from the summit of the table, it was that 5-0 trouncing that proved the turning point for those involved with the Dumfriesshire outfit. Disregarding their cup wins – which were against inferior opposition – their last win was on September 17th versus Raith Rovers, 92 days ago.
Skelton left in the opening week of November and since Gary Naismith’s appointment from East Fife, Queen’s lost back-to-back against Dumbarton and St Mirren; consciously the two worst sides in the division at the time of writing. Yet, seen fight from his side as they gained a point at the Falkirk Stadium last week.
However, with all the doom and gloom they are still positioned above their opponents’ Dunfermline, who are ticking along after their bad start, but still not at the pace that any stakeholder in the club believes is acceptable. The Pars are no longer in a spot where they can lose games and feel safe in the fact that there are a couple of teams worse than them.
As it stands top four is highly unlikely, finishing sixth (QoS’s current position) is tolerable and gives the fans a season to gather their thoughts after six seasons of bedlam. A win for either team may have a great bearing on their respective clubs going forward.
Keys to the game
From the manager’s position, it will be who better implements their 4-4-2 formation from the tactic’s board to the field of play. In simple terms it may come down to what striker makes the most of their chances: Stephen Dobbie or Nicky Clark.
Dobbie is Mr. Queen of the South. His best spell from a personal point of view came with the club during 2007 till 2009 before he moved on and helped Swansea City reach the Premier League. While 34, his talent is undoubtable; even more so at this level. His partnership with Derek Lyle is capable of firing them into the Premiership playoff spots, but those two are needing to carry an otherwise mid-table squad on their backs. Keeping the pair of them – and their supply line – quiet is imperative if Dunfermline wants to achieve victory. That supply line comes chiefly in the form of their experienced right flanker Grant Anderson when it is not Dobbie himself. It will be Jason Talbot’s job to stop him feeding the ball forward in the final third.
Queen’s captain, Chris Higgins has not been the same since his injury, and at 31 may be on the definite wain. Clark will be able to exploit him, purely through his positional sense and not giving him a moment’s peace with his busyness. It has been a considerable spell in which the goals have dried for the away team. Although, you always feel that Clark will dispatch one past the keeper, giving half a chance in the penalty area. Yet, getting that service into the centre forward is proving hard to come by, with not one playmaker unable to step into the role.
Kickoff time, ticket prices and where to watch
Saturday, 15:00, Palmerston Park.
OAP, Student, Ages 16-21: £9
Line up last time out
Queen of the South:
Jake Pickard and Lyndon Dykes (injured)
Andy Geggan (match fitness)
Ben Richards-Everton and John Herron (injured)
What Queen of the South are saying
“Last week was a good point and something for us to build on. It sets us on the right direction, there is still work to be done and we have a long way to go before we get to where we want to be but as long as we all keep sticking together and giving it everything then we will get there sooner rather than later.” (Gary Naysmith, manager)
What Dunfermline Athletic are saying
“I am delighted to get the win and now we push on. We did say that this is a crucial period, there are still five or six massive games over the upcoming festive period coming up so it is really important that we string a run of results together. The league is really close, it is only seven points to fourth place. It is really tight and competitive. We have just to concentrate on ourselves. If we keep playing like that with the movement up front and the quality we have got then hopefully we can build on the result against Morton.” (Allan Johnston, manager)
Former Queen of the South players
David Hopkirk, David Hutton, Gavin Reilly, Michael Paton and Nicky Clark.
Former Dunfermline Athletic players
Andy Dowie, Chris Higgins and Derek Lyle.
4-1 v Ayr United
1-0 v Ayr United (A)
1-4 v Dundee United
1-1 v Dundee United (A)
1-2 v Dumbarton
0-0 v Dumbarton (A)
2-2 v Falkirk (A)
0-5 v Greenock Morton
0-0 v Hibernian
4-0 Hibernian (A)
3-1 v Raith Rovers
1-0 v Raith Rovers (A)
2-3 v St Mirren
1-3 v St Mirren (A)
1-1 v Ayr United
0-0 v Ayr United (A)
1-3 v Dundee United
1-0 v Dundee United (A)
4-3 v Dumbarton
2-2 v Dumbarton (A)
2-1 v Falkirk (A)
2-1 v Greenock Morton
1-3 v Hibernian
2-1 Hibernian (A)
0-0 v Raith Rovers
2-0 v Raith Rovers (A)
4-3 v St Mirren
0-1 v St Mirren (A)
Last six meetings
27 August 2016: Dunfermline Athletic 0-1 Queen of the South
16 April 2011: Dunfermline Athletic 6-1 Queen of the South
26 February 2011: Queen of the South 1-3 Dunfermline Athletic
11 December 2010: Dunfermline Athletic 1-0 Queen of the South
02 October 2010: Queen of the South 2-0 Dunfermline Athletic
10 August 2010: Dunfermline Athletic 1-1 Queen of the South (5-6 Pens)
Championship Fixtures (15:00 KO)
Queen of the South 1-2 Dunfermline Athletic
Queen of the South 21/20 Draw 5/2 Dunfermline Athletic 27/10
Dunfermline Athletic to win @ 27/10.
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