Sean Murdoch: 9 (last season: 8)
Last year, I wrote:
“A few minor problems with his game that can be exploited.”
There were no discernible weaknesses shown over the course of the campaign in which he has surpassed expectations on a statistical and eye test level.
He has taken that step up and was quite rightly heralded at the end of season dinner with many best player awards.
On form, there has been no better goalkeeper in the Championship as he helped the Pars avoid the drop with his ability to command the defence.
Callum Morris: 7
A great return for the big Geordie central defender who proved a calming influence alongside Lee Ashcroft. He played his part in keeping four clean sheets – Dunfermline had 10 in total – from a possible 13.
Naturally, he should be with a team near the summit of the Championship. It should be a priority to re-sign him if Allan Johnston wants to be in promotion contention.
Jason Talbot: 7 (last season: 7)
Mr. Consistent. He never shirked responsibility and was very rarely bettered by a nippy winger. An experienced member of this young squad, and even managed to chip in with four assists from left back.
Another campaign like this at East End Park for the Englishmen would cement his status as the best full back the club has had since Austin McCann.
Lee Ashcroft: 6
This season’s marathon man having missed just a single game through suspension. While he can be erratic at times – see his red card against Dumbarton – he was the consensus number first choice at centre half until Morris joined in January.
Having reached maturity over this campaign upon reaching 100 league appearances over the top two tiers; he is capable of improving on his efforts this season. The management team also have belief in him as he was rewarded with a year’s contract extension.
Callum Fordyce: 5 (Last season: 6)
The vice-captain returned from a serious injury, and it was a baptism of fire after 11 months out; his return was on the Easter Road turf. Unfortunately for him, he was at fault for Jason Cummings’ winner.
Until the arrival of Morris, he was vying for the position in the starting XI with Lewis Martin and more often than not looked the better option. He finished the season with a similar minutes per goal conceded as Ashcroft but will feel hard done by with his backup role.
Ryan Williamson: 4 (Last season: 6)
Another injury plagued season for Williamson, and one in which he looks as though he has regressed from the promising youngster that burst on the scene four years ago. At 21, he is not at the level he needs to be defensively to be a full back; which is why he has seen himself falling down the pecking order.
With another year to work with the management team and the squad; it will be make or break for him as he looks to play a backup role.
Lewis Martin: 3 (Last season: 6)
It has been a steep learning curve for last year’s Young Player of the Year. His problem came down to a lack of positioning as he often got caught under the ball. Then on such occasions, he panicked, which ended up in him dragging his opponent down and receiving red three times.
Like Williamson, he has another season to get himself on the right track and prove himself a worthy utility player.
Nat Wedderburn: 8
He had many detractors in his first few months, but won them over with his imperious performances in breaking up play in front of the back four. His versatility in slotting into the backline showed his importance to the team as it was a role that Dunfermline has not had in many years.
He will stick around next season, and is the most important member of the midfield. Hopefully, Geggan will be back alongside him as that looked the most solid partnership in the middle of the park.
Kallum Higginbotham: 7
The leader in assists in what you expect from your most creative player on the park. Nonetheless, he had to put on chances for players to finish, and he did so eight times in the league; matching the target expected of him. He was playing a little out of position on the flank; I believe he would be suited to playing off a centre-forward.
Undoubtedly, the most talented member of the side. Although, he does let himself down on occasion with his temperament, which seen him accrue 10 cautions; more than any other par.
Andy Geggan: 7 (Last season: 8)
Geggan stepped up to take the captaincy over once again. He also had to spend a big chunk of the season covering at right back through form and injury to other members of the squad. He looks most comfortable in the centre of midfielder, but did well at full-back papering over the cracks that need solid foundations put in over the summer.
John Herron: 6
An upgrade on Rhys McCabe but ended up playing slightly less than his once Old Firm rival. Although, like McCabe, he looked more suited in an attacking midfield role rather than as a no.8. Yet, he formed a good partnership with Wedderburn as Dunfermline’s fortunes changed when they started playing together on a regular basis.
A free agent after he managed to get out of the last season of his contract at Blackpool. Some teams in League Two (England) and the Championship in Scotland will be interested.
Paul McMullan: 6
There is potential in McMullan, I am sure of that, but the right winger neither lays on enough chances for his teammates or scores them himself. His direct style of play is a blessing and a curse (see James Forrest under Ronny Deila). He can often streak away from a defence when he finally gets the ball under control, but he does tend to run down blind alleys and is unsure of when to pass the ball on.
Out of contract – as Celtic will not renew – and will turn 22 next season. He is a footballer that can be developed. Yet, I am not sold on his ceiling being any higher than mid-table of the Championship.
Joe Cardle: 6 (Last season: 9)
The fan favourite has taken a seat while Higginbotham took over the reins as the left midfielder for Johnston’s most used XI. An infuriating season for him that still seen him finish as the second top scorer from open play with four which included a hat-trick against Dumbarton. Incidentally, that was twice as many as McMullan netted in more than half the minutes.
There is one more year of his contract to run. I am not sure anyone would want to see him moved on as he still has enough to offer for the next campaign. He is and will be a positive influence in the dressing room as well as a great role player at the age of 31.
Michael Paton: 5 (Last season: 8)
His output was drastically down compared to what he achieved in League One with only one goal and an assist. He was pretty much frozen out of the starting XI after being substituted in the 2-2 draw with Dumbarton in early November.
It is likely the last we have seen of Paton at East End Park giving his marginal time on the field. It is a shame as I do not think there is a better deliverer of a cross in the squad.
Rhys McCabe: 5 (Last season: 4)
Ended up being used alongside Wedderburn the most over the course of the campaign. Yet, much like Herron he looked as though a more advanced role would suit him. Defensively he looked a little lost, and was guilty of losing the man he was marking all too often.
Nicky Clark: 8
Outdone himself in the scoring charts with 15, and while he can flit in and out of games; he is a worthy player to start when pushing for promotion. Harshly treated by the fans as some believe it is nepotism for his inclusion in the squad (his father is assistant manager Sandy). He is not appreciated enough for his sheer ability to put the ball into the back of the net. Outwith that he finished tied third in assists with three.
Will certainly be at East End Park until May 2018, and has already penned his name in the starting XI for the upcoming campaign.
Michael Moffat: 5 (Last season: 6)
The link up man between the midfield and Clark, but never had enough assists or goals for the amount of minutes he played. He disappointed as a centre-forward but you cannot fault his endeavour or work rate for the team. Yet, his finishing has always been the one disgruntlement of his game which needs to be better at this level of competition.
Out of contract come the end of May. It would not be a surprise if he either stays for one more season or returns to Ayr United as they gear up for a title push in League One.
Gavin Reilly: 2
Everything that he had accomplished in his career up until signing for Hearts made this signing look a great one. He was returning to the management team that helped him become the player he was at Queen of the South. This was after taking a hit in confidence at Tynecastle last season. Also, this was before he was joined by his strike partner from QoS; Nicky Clark; where they combined for 44 goals in the Second Division. Alas, he would only find the net once in 11 starts and quickly found himself behind Moffat.
Likely to move down to the Championship level again. The Doonhamers would perhaps be the best destination for him to rekindle his career and become one of the best centre forwards in the league again.
Non-ratable (played under 650 minutes)
Ben Richards-Everton: N/A (last season: 7)
Only played six games, and was curtailed by a season ending knee injury at the end of October. Moving on to new pastures after his contract expires at the end of the month.
David Hopkirk: N/A (Last season: 5)
Once again resigned to the role of impact sub with 10 appearances from the bench. Injuries had a stop-start effect on his season which started positively with a cameo winner against Dumbarton. Never stops working, and that will flourish him into a dangerous threat if he remains available for selection.
David Hutton: N/A (last season: 5)
Undoubtedly, the second choice between the sticks having played only six and a half games.
Callum Smith: N/A
18 minutes and one assist at the tail end of the campaign for the 17-year-old who looks as much a talent as PJ Crossan who is now at Celtic. It will be a few years before we see him play consistently for the first team, but it is a positive start to his career which has a lot of potential.
Conner Duthie: N/A
Undefeated in his 97 minutes of football for Dunfermline. To his credit, he looks happy to play the game even though he has been shuffled all over the park whether in the Championship or on loan at League Two bound Stenhousemuir. From what I have seen, he looks at his best stationed at left midfield. He will still be at East End Park to see if he can make the transition from U20s to squad player.
Farid El Alagui: N/A
Was worth the punt, and provided that target man quality that Dunfermline had been lacking since the departure of Mickaël Antoine-Curier. Although, his effect was like that of his compatriot; good enough to be around the squad, but not to be relied on for where they want to be.
Lewis Spence: N/A
Only played 26 minutes and set up one goal. In my opinion, he should have got more of a look-in but will be playing elsewhere next season.
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