Why Dunfermline Athletic failed in getting fourth in the Championship

This season Dunfermline Athletic lay fifth in the Championship through an inability to win games on a consistent basis.

It is easy to suggest that they are where they are is because they have drawn and lost too many games which would make this the shortest article ever written on the site. Yet, there are reasons as to why the Pars stagnated in mid-table throughout the majority of the campaign.

1) The adjustment period left any hopes of a late playoff surge insurmountable

Five defeats in the opening six games killed any hope of the Premiership Playoffs. This season’s points per game average needed to make the top four was 1.44. The last time Dunfermline was ahead of schedule was match day two when they were defeated by Hibernian (2-1). On August 13th they sat fourth in the table with a points per game tally of 1.50. A month later they had their fifth successive defeat and the Pars dropped to ninth with a ppg of 0.50.

The turning point seemed to have come in a mid-week game against a high-flying Dundee United at Tannadice. While Nat Wedderburn was send off in the first half and Simon Murray struck late to keep the Tangerines near the summit. The fight and determination not to lay down and get thumped was commendable. It showed that they would not be in trouble of relegation and be amongst that group of teams placed fifth, sixth and seventh.

Subsequently, the form over the previous 25 – 1.56 points per game – would have been good enough to finish four points better than Greenock Morton if extrapolated over the whole season. However, that does come with the caveat of who knows if the Ton would have upped their game in the last quarter of the campaign if they were uncertain of their position in the table.

2) The results against Ayr United were fatal

Last season, Athletic won four of their five matchups versus Ayr as they strolled towards the League One title. This time around they have taken five points from the Honest Men who went down with a whimper after the teams around them got their act together.

The east enders lost four of their previous 26 with wins for runners-up Falkirk at home and away and third-placed Dundee United in Tayside. The other came from an Ian McCall managed side in Fife. The loss in itself is disappointing for obvious reasons but even more so that it was at home. In tandem with the draw against the South Ayrshire outfit – in which Kallum Higginbotham had two penalties saved within two minutes – it leaves a sour taste in the mouth as Allan Johnston would have likely earmarked those two fixtures for a couple of wins.

3) Lack of clean sheets at home

As mentioned in the previous point, Athletic was unable to keep the lowest scorers at bay and only managed to take one point from a possible six as a result. The Pars had two clean sheets both of which were against Raith Rovers who were the second worst team in terms of goals for and last in most number of matches in which they have failed to score. Naturally, Dunfermline’s two clean sheets from 18 seen them rooted at the bottom in keeping the opposition at bay. Even Ayr had twice as many.

In stark contrast though, Johnston’s men accomplished eight on the road – second only to Hibernian. Nonetheless, that came with the trouble of being unable to score in one-third of matches away from East End Park. The two instances of this were the 0-0 draws with Ayr and St Mirren. A win to nil in both games would have seen Dunfermline surpass their target for points on their travels.

4) Poor home form

As stated before there is a lot to be positive about away from home. Only the champions conceded less and only the top two accrued more points.

Yet at East End Park, even Raith Rovers faired better in the matter of points and victories. You can also pinpoint the poorer results on Halbeath Road without even mentioning the Ayr results once again.

  • A win to nil for Queen of the South
  • A scoreless draw against the Rovers

These are the two that stick out as neither are merited if you are aiming for the Premiership Playoffs.

5) Being far too depended on Nicky Clark was a problem

The assistant manager’s son scored 15 goals which are more than twice that of Kallum Higginbotham who finished second to him in the club’s goalscoring charts. Nevertheless, four of the inside forward’s goals are from penalties – which is not to say they do not count but you cannot hope on getting a spot kick every week. From open play, Joe Cardle ranks second with four, along with second choice centre forward, Michael Moffat.

Pars ranked tied fifth in goals scored and failed to score in games more often than seventh-placed Buddies who spend the majority of the season in last place. Clark was responsible for 35% of goal scored while all the other forwards (El Alagui, Hopkirk, Moffat, and Reilly) accounted for 21% of their beleaguered goal tally.


You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.

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