Where do Scotland go from here

Wee, angry and ginger; all stereotypes linked with the Scottish. Yet, they all match the genetic traits of the national team manager.

What we learned from the post-match press conference is that Gordon Strachan has enough of an understanding of Biology to throw in a buzzword that attracted much more attention than his defiances throughout the campaign on a wide scale basis.

Sadly, that is about all that he is willing to divulge in these press conferences; a nonsense line that does not explain anything about why Scotland fail all too readily to beat the lower rank seeds and qualify for major tournaments. Oh, and he is not thinking about himself while having sympathy for the players (who he says do not get paid to be away from their families).

What boils the piss of an increasing number of the Tartan Army is that he rarely provides them the modicum of respect as they travel the thousands of miles to support the team (not being paid while being away from their families) without getting so much as an acceptable answer to most media questions.

Now, if, Strachan had progressed the national team to the next stage of both the Euros and World Cup qualification he could be as belligerent as he wanted to be with the media and it would be a footnote in his managerial obituary. For example, his former manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, was renowned for being prickly with the press at Manchester United. However, he is remembered for revolutionising that club into a worldwide entity because he garnered accolades. Strachan is not.

The former midfielder can put the point forward that he is the best manager the country has had since Craig Brown (a case can be made for Alex McLeish, but he had a better squad and were beaten by Georgia, when a win would have qualified them for Euro 2008).

McLeish and Strachan are not the only ones to helm the disappointment of succumbing to a minnow though. In an effort to get to Euro 2004, Berti Vogts could have toppled his nation of birth, but suffered defeat to Lithuania and drew in the Faroes.

World Cup 2010 (George Burley) and Euro 2012 (Craig Levein) were missed opportunities to get to the playoffs by failing to pick up maximum points against the minnows; situations apropos to Strachan.

Sometimes you just have to admit that they were not good enough, such as the draw being particularly unkind for the road to Euro 2000 and World Cup 2002 then sometimes there are complete right-offs, such as the messes that were World Cup 2006 (Vogts) and 2014 (Levein).

Even with the bedding in process of saving face in the last World Cup qualifying campaign, Strachan has failed to get what is an average Scotland to atleast the playoffs due to the same problem for the last 20 years, dropped points against inferior opposition.

The best argument for the former Celtic manager having to go is because this was the end of an era of players. Of the 39 players he called up in 2017, 16 of them were 30 and older; seven of them 32 and older. Now that is not to say because you are over 32 you are done, but as a nation there should be a freshness with a new pool of players that do not have the stigma of continued failure. That does not mean chasing Christophe Berra (32), Darren Fletcher (33) and David Marshall (32) out of the national team, but the next manager should be aiming to identify players with their similar attributes to replace them over the next four year cycle.

Whoever takes the post should also be looking exclusively at players from the Premiership, Premier League and Championship in England and the assorted talent scattered around Europe: Jack Harper (Spain) and Ryan Gauld (Portugal). More importantly though is that they should be picking the correct players on form. Not just because Matt Phillips plays for West Bromwich Albion (Premier League) instead of James Forrest at Celtic (Champions League).

Being loyal and favouring one league over another is a flawed trait that halted Strachan in not inserting players into the line-up quick enough. Leigh Griffiths is the go to example. The Celtic centre forward never started until the game at Wembley, preferring Chris Martin (Derby County/Fulham) or Steven Fletcher (Sheffield Wednesday). Four goals and three assists in five and a half games followed from Scotland’s next 11 goals in 2017.

It appeared as though he begrudgingly selected Callum McGregor for the last couple of fixtures, even with a large spat of injuries to the central midfielders. In addition, when the game was needing pace in the middle of the park after the Slovakia win, he never saw fit to include John McGinn. Now, would the Hibernian midfielder have had an affect on the outcome of Sunday’s result, perhaps not, but at the very least he would have injected the pace that was missing with the absence of Stuart Armstrong.

His tactics also failed him. He believed that Slovenia would play 4-4-2 and that is why he looked to match them up, instead of lining up the way which had worked for them this year, and what Srecko Katanec played: 4-2-3-1.

He could have played Fletcher and James McArthur in a two; Fletcher man marking Josip (man of the match) with McArthur picking up any threat from Jasmin Kurtic. Barry Bannan could have played as a attacking midfield and put pressure on Rajko Rotman. Ideally, he should have positioned McGregor in that role to try and keep Kurtic from advancing forward due to the Celtic midfielders’ pace. In this scenario, he could have started with the directness down the flank of Forrest.

The Scottish FA should be looking for a candidate that is not ashamed of picking players from less glamorous clubs, if they are the right option. Just recently, Michael O’Neill selected Callum Morris of second tier Dunfermline Athletic and Shay McCartan of third tier Bradford City into his squad.

Now, if players are good enough to represent Northern Ireland at the Euros from Doncaster Rovers (Luke McCullough), Fleetwood Town (Conor McLaughlin) and Notts County (Roy Carroll) then why should there be sneers from a nation that has gone 10 consecutive tournaments without qualification by selected a player from Dundee (Scott Bain) or Motherwell (Chris Cadden), if they are the right fit on form.

The early betting favourites for the job: Alex McLeish David Moyes, Paul Lambert and Sam Allardyce all have heavy links with the English game, especially over the last decade that may mean they look past the domestic product, preferring those that make a living south of the border, just because they play south of the border. I believe that would not be the case for the aforementioned Norn Iron manager.

O’Neill would likely take the job on the basis that even if he took his nation to the World Cup, then, like Scotland, it would be the end of a generation of players. He has called up 29 players over the last 12 months. 10 of them over 30, six of them over 32.

Even those gems, such as: Chris Brunt (32), Johnny Evans (29), Gareth McAuley (37) and Steven Davis (32) are getting on, and the next generation are not coming from the top tier sides across Britain.

O’Neill is comfortably based in Edinburgh and will regularly be at a Scottish game most weeks, so he will be overly familiar with the ones he believes should be in the national team pool for Scotland already.

At the very least he will bring a freshness and a proven track record of getting a national team to a major tournament. A trait that has not come with a Scotland manager since Berti Vogts who won Euro 1996 with his native Germany. Perhaps that positive mentality rather than the woe betide us attitude that looks for excuses should be one of the most important traits of the next Scotland manager’s make-up, whomever they may be.

You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.



Match preview: Queen of the South versus Dunfermline Athletic

Kickoff time, ticket prices and where to watch

Ticket prices:

Adults: £16
OAP/Concession (Student, age 16-21): £9
Under 16: £5

Match information:

Saturday 7 October 15:00pm at Palmerston Park.

Team news

Queen of the South:

Dan Carmichael (injured).

Dunfermline Athletic:

David Hopkirk, Joe Cardle and Michael Paton (injured).
Dean Shiels (suspended).


Stephen Finnie.

Last game ref involving one of the sides:

St Mirren 3-1 Queen of the South (2Y).

What Queen of the South are saying

“We have got a lot of guys who could all claim to start. Players have been staking a claim and you’ve got to deal with the disappointment of guys who can’t make the team. It is better than having selection issues because of injuries but it’s not great to tell guys they’ve not made the team. Some of them can’t do any more to get into the team. We need to make sure the guys who aren’t in the team buy into the mentality it’s a squad game.” (Gary Naysmith, manager)

What Dunfermline are saying

“You can see the league is going to be go right to the end with a lot of teams being really similar. Every team is a hard game, there are no easy games. The majority of teams are very strong and very similar so I can see a lot of twists and turns over the course of season.” (Allan Johnston, manager)

Line ups last time out


Screen Shot 2017-10-03 at 14.16.15

Other fixtures

Screen Shot 2017-10-03 at 14.15.48

Former Queen of the South players

David Hopkirk (2012-13)
Michael Paton (2008)
Nicky Clark (2011-13)

Former Dunfermline Athletic players

Andy Stirling (2014-15)
Callum Fordyce (2015-17)
Scott Mercer (2012-15)
Shaun Rooney (2015-16)

Last four meetings


06/05/17. Queen of the South 0-1 Dunfermline Athletic.
07/03/17. Dunfermline Athletic 1-1 Queen of the South.
17/12/16. Queen of the South 2-2 Dunfermline Athletic.
27/08/16. Dunfermline Athletic 0-1 Queen of the South.

Keys to the game

Offence (goals) –

Queen of the South: 4th (14)
Dunfermline Athletic: 1st (22)

Defence (goals) –

Queen of the South: 5th (11)
Dunfermline Athletic: 3rd (9)

Clean Sheets –

Queen of the South: (2)
Dunfermline Athletic: (3)

Away/Home Table –

Queen of the South: 5th
Dunfermline Athletic: 2nd

Away/Home goal average –

Queen of the South: 3.00
Dunfermline Athletic: 3.50

Away/Home both teams scored:

Queen of the South: 67%
Dunfermline Athletic: 50%


Queen of the South 1-2 Dunfermline Athletic


Queen of the South: 1.50
Draw: 2.60
Dunfermline Athletic: 2.36

Best bet

Dunfermline Athletic to win and both teams to score: 5.00

You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.


Match preview: Dunfermline Athletic versus Dundee United

The Pars face their hardest test to date in what is unquestionably the biggest match in the Championship tomorrow afternoon.

The Tangerines are one of three teams that Athletic failed to beat last season: Hibernian; (no longer in the league) and Falkirk (already defeated them) were the others. Even, if they put in a lackluster performance, it will not matter a jot as long as it comes with three points.

A win would cement the title contenders tag given that they returned to form with back-to-back 3-0 victories over St Mirren and Brechin City after a defeat to Greenock Morton in embarrassing circumstances.

Victory is as equally important for United as they started well with nine points and two clean sheets before being dethroned in Paisley. Successive draws versus part-time Dumbarton and ninth-place Bairns preceded a return to winning ways against the Ton, which has seen them stabilise in the playoff spots.

Kickoff time, ticket prices and where to watch

Ticket prices:

SRJ Windows South Stand: Adults £20, Concessions £14
All other stands: Adults £18, Concessions £12
Away Stands: Adults £18, Concessions £12, U12s £5

Match information:

Saturday 30th, 15:00 at East End Park.

Team news

Dunfermline Athletic:

Jean-Yves M’voto, Joe Cardle and Michael Paton (injured).

Dundee United:

Lewis Toshney, Paul Quinn, Scott Fraser and Tam Scobbie (injured).
Patrick N’Koyi, Paul McMullan and William Edjenguele (doubts).


Don Robertson.

Previous games refereed involving either team this season –

League Cup:

Dundee 2-1 Dundee United (5Y).

What Dunfermline Athletic are saying

“They are not going to sit in, they will come and have a go. That will suit the way we play as well. Dundee United have good players, guys like James Keatings – a top player, Scott McDonald has lots of experience so we know that we are going to have to defend really well if we have any chance of winning the game. We have been defending very well, we have not lost a lot of goals and we are still a threat going forward as you can see by he number of goals we have scored.” (Allan Johnston, manager)

What Dundee United are saying

“Saturday was good. The week before at Falkirk we sort of got our shape right in terms of how hard they need to work when we don’t have the ball and I think that gives you a platform. The improvement was there on Saturday, we looked really threatening up top — having James Keatings and Scott McDonald playing together helps, they gave us a good partnership and focal point of the team.” (Ray McKinnon, manager)

Line ups last time out


Screen Shot 2017-09-25 at 12.35.51

Complete fixture list

Screen Shot 2017-09-25 at 12.35.43

Former Dunfermline Athletic players

Paul McMullan (2016-17)

Former Dundee United players

Callum Morris (2014-16)

Last five meetings


10/09/16. Dunfermline Athletic 1-3 Dundee United
08/11/16. Dundee United 1-0 Dunfermline Athletic
28/01/17. Dunfermline Athletic 1-1 Dundee United
11/04/17. Dundee United 1-0 Dunfermline Athletic

Challenge Cup:

12/11/16. Dunfermline Athletic 0-1 Dundee United

Keys to the game

Record against common teams played:

Dunfermline Athletic

W: 5 L: 1
F: 20 A: 5
CS: 3

Dundee United

W: 3 D: 2 L: 1
F: 5 A: 5
CS: 3

Pars have won all three at home, United winless and scoreless in last two away games.

Over/Under 2.5 goals in 100% of matches at East End Park.
Over/Under 2.5 goals in 33% of matches on the road for the Arabs.

Top scorers:

Dunfermline Athletic – 

Cardle 6
Higginbotham 3
McManus 3
Clark 2
Hopkirk 2

Minutes per goal: 156

Dundee United – 

McDonald 3
Keatings 2

Minutes per goal: 142

The only time that McKinnon went to a 4-3-3 this season they lost to St Mirren and were found lacking in the centre of the pitch with Fraser Fyvie and Willo Flood behind Sam Stanton. A 4-4-2 seems to suit them best with Keatings and McDonald up top. Those two are the best strike partnership in the league. The former Raith Rovers manager just needs to find the creativity to supply service to the attack and they will be a difficult force to reckon with. That may come when Fraser returns, but until they need more from Billy King and McMullan. Johnston has always been happy to employ a 4-4-2 that can manifest as 4-1-3-2 against weaker sides. The key to their success is how they perform on the counter and with United looking to attack that may just play into their hands if they can excel on defence.


Dunfermline Athletic 1-1 Dundee United


Dunfermline Athletic: 1.75
Draw: 2.50
Dundee United: 1.62

Best bet

Both teams to score: 0.66

You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.

Why the time was right for Falkirk to make a managerial change

On Sunday, Peter Houston departed the Bairns by mutual consent due to a poor start to the season as they sit ninth in the Championship after seven games.

The 2010 Scottish Cup winner had led them to fifth and the national trophy final in his first year in charge. This was before falling at the last hurdle once again in the Premiership play-offs against relegation-threatened Kilmarnock. In his penultimate campaign at the club, he guided his squad to back-to-back league runners-up but succumbed to Dundee United in the semis.

The former centre forward had spent time at the club as a player in the early to mid-80s and again in the late 80s to early 90s. In both spells he earned promotion. Once as runners-up to Hamilton Academical in 1985, but would go on to lift the title in 1991 (these were his only career accolades on the park).

In 2014, 18 months after leaving Dundee United he would succeed Gary Holt as manager, 152 games later he left with a win percentage (46.71%) only bettered by Alex Totten (of those with over 100 games managed). His assistants, Alan Maybury and James McDonaugh also departed. In the interim period, Technical Director, Alex Smith will take charge of the first team again. He will be assisted by senior professionals, Mark Kerr and Lee Miller and Academy Director, Michael McArdle.

The board, in their statement rightly mention: “under their stewardship, Falkirk FC has enjoyed some memorable occasions.” Yet, they seem a distant past as they have drifted to the colon of the table with only Brechin City stopping them sliding all the way to the bottom.

Poor discipline and underperforming members of the squad has seen them appear as the division’s second-worst side never mind their accustomed second best. What is damming for the 59-year-old is that you would find it difficult to debate that the squad was not improved over the pre-season transfer window. Five came in and five went out.

Starting in goals, David Mitchell’s perennial full-time backup status and experience is an improvement on Deniz Memhet, who had only played nine professional games before his departure in January. In defence, Jordan McGhee’s versatility added much-needed depth at full back after losing Luke Leahy to Walsall. Out wide, Alex Harris’ ability to play either flank may offer more than Fraser Aird, who never shone in a short but forgettable stint. And finally, Conrad Balatoni and Rory Loy were younger upgrades on David McCracken and John Baird, who started to decline last season. Loy’s best campaign (20 goals in 34 league games) came at the club under Holt. He also had experience of working for the former Scotland assistant manager.

There is the case to be made that it had gotten stale, and all the seasons of sudden disappointment may have made it difficult to motivate the large section of the squad that had been part of that. It is a hypothesis that even he intimated in his departure statement, saying:

“We are disappointed with the start to the season and the board and I have come to a mutual agreement that to get the club moving again it is best that someone fresh is brought in. It has been a decent three or so years; there have been some real highlights, including reaching the Scottish Cup Final and finishing second, but we just fell short of the goals that we all hoped we could achieve.”

The timing is apt because they have Greenock Morton away on Saturday followed by a home game against rivals, Dunfermline Athletic in the Challenge Cup before the return to league duty versus fellow strugglers, Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

Ideally, the club will want to have a replacement in by the end of the week to get a full week of preparation against the Pars. A silverware-laden run in the Challenge Cup may salvage what is looking at best a season of mediocrity.

In a way Houston was a victim of right place, wrong time. Margaret Lang, Chair, said: “We will now work to recruit the best possible management team to get the club back to winning matches, climbing the Championship table and moving towards the Premiership.” Falkirk had finished second in seasons where Hibernian and Dundee United had finished behind them with Rangers and Hibernian finishing ahead of them. All three dwarf the Bairns in terms of wages, and yes his budget was reduced this season, but that squad is comparable in quality to anyone in the top half.

Yet, Falkirk are in that crop of teams (Dundee United, Dunfermline Athletic, Inverness Caledonian Thistle and St Mirren) that should be expecting to constantly battle it out for promotion when in the second tier. Unfortunately, this season due to numbers, one is missing out off the bat without even factoring in last season’s fourth-placed side, Greenock Morton.

In any case, ninth is unacceptable, and while they were in the exact same position as Dunfermline 12 months ago, that was a case of Athletic being on the up and having teething issues rather than a team that has been quietly on a slide for the last 35 fixtures.

Championship points since Jack Ross’ appointment on Oct 4 (points per game in brackets):

1. Livingston: 12/7 (1.71)

2. Dundee United: 59/35 (1.68)

3. Dunfermline Athletic: 57/35 (1.62)
4. Greenock Morton: 54/35 (1.54)

5. St Mirren: 50/35 (1.42)
6. Falkirk: 49/35 (1.40)
7. Dumbarton: 42/35 (1.20)
8. Queen of the South: 35/35 (1.00)

9. Inverness Caledonian Thistle: 4/7 (0.57)

10. Brechin City: 2/7 (0.28)

BOLD indicates new to the league this season

When Houston took over from Gary Holt, Falkirk had finished third, one point behind Hamilton Academical (67) and three short of Dundee (70) who were both promoted. His point tally from season to season read as 53, 70 and 60. Even if he managed to turn it around and achieve his Falkirk average of 1.61 points per game for the rest of the campaign, that would only be good enough for another 47 points on top of the three they already have. 50 has been good enough to finish fifth in a previous couple of outings, sixth in others.

It shows that the team’s output has not capitalised on the fact that the league has gotten weaker (the winner’s tally has decreased by 10 points the last three seasons). In addition, the cumulative point tally for second to fourth has dropped from 192 to 169 since Houston has managed in the division. An aspect that he has to apportion blame upon himself.

Nevertheless, this was the former centre forward’s last season (by his own admission), and if fifth and a Challenge Cup run was the upside from where it looks at present then getting ahead of the schedule and trying to rectify the situation to have a tilt at the title next season is sensible. Although, that all hinges on the board hiring an applicant that can get them going in the right direction as opposed to keeping this poor form going à la John Hughes at Raith Rovers.

You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.

Match preview: Brechin City versus Dunfermline Athletic

This weekend, Pars and City, top versus bottom, best offence against worst defence, full-time in opposition with part-time. However you want to bill it, both sides will take to the field for three Championship points in Angus.

In theory, Allan Johnston’s men should win, but, theories can be disproven, and you do not need a mind the likes of Stephen Hawking to hypothesise that Darren Dods would take the 0-0 at kick-off.

It is not inconceivable that Athletic could come a cropper here. Taking their eye off the ball is the only criticism you can have of the Fifers this season (Morton 3-2 being the prime example). There is a statistical outlier that could give the homers hope, they were the last squad to come from two goals down to win until the Ton did so, three weeks back. In addition, during the 2014/15 campaign, Ray McKinnon led the Glebe Park outfit into the playoffs, due – in part – to being undefeated against the away team.

Kickoff time, ticket prices and where to watch
Ticket prices:

Parent & Child: £18 (plus £2 for each additional school-age child in family party)
Adults: £15
Adult Concession (over 65’s and under-18’s) : £8

Match information:

Saturday 23 September 15:00pm at Glebe Park.

Team news

Brechin City:

Euan Smith (injured).
Aron Lynas (suspended).
Andy Jackson and Elliot Ford (doubtful).

Dunfermline Athletic:

Joe Cardle and Michael Paton (injured).


John McKendrick.

Last game ref:

Queen’s Park 0-5 Raith Rovers (2Y)

What Brechin City are saying

“It would be a big psychological boast to get our first win. The players would deserve it as a reward for their hard work so far. We are definitely getting closer.” (Darren Dods, manager)

What Dunfermline are saying

“When you go into games expecting to win, it is dangerous. We have to make sure that we have the right attitude. We will not be at East End Park where we have a big stadium and fantastic pitch. You have to adjust to that and the most important thing is a good performance to make sure that we get the win. Every game is massive but these ones are crucial, we have got to win against teams like Brechin.” (Allan Johnston, manager)

Line ups last time out


Screen Shot 2017-09-18 at 10.30.54

Complete fixture list

Screen Shot 2017-09-18 at 10.30.36


Brechin City:

Queen of the South (A) 4-1
Livingston (H) 2-2
Dundee United (A) 1-0
Inverness Caledonian Thistle (A) 0-4
Falkirk (H) 1-1
Dumbarton (A) 2-1

Dunfermline Athletic:

Livingston (A) 1-1
Inverness Caledonian Thistle (H) 5-1
Falkirk (H) 3-1
Dumbarton (A) 0-4
Greenock Morton (A) 3-2
St Mirren (H) 3-0

Former Brechin City players

Euan Spark (2016-17)
Finn Graham (2012-16)

Former Dunfermline Athletic players

Andy Ryan (2013)
Michael Paton (2008)

Last five meetings

Challenge Cup:

03/09/16. Brechin City 1-5 Dunfermline Athletic.

League One:

26/03/16. Dunfermline Athletic 3-1 Brechin City.
20/02/16. Brechin City 1-2 Dunfermline Athletic.
05/12/15. Dunfermline Athletic 3-1 Brechin City.
08/08/15. Brechin City 1-6 Dunfermline Athletic.

Keys to the game

  • Dunfermline are scoring at a clip of three goals a game, Brechin have conceded at atleast two without a clean sheet. 
  • The Pars are not shabby in defence either. Only, Dundee United have conceded less and earned more clean sheets. 
  • City are listless in attack, only fellow part-timers, Dumbarton look more barren up top. Yet, they put two past them the previous weekend. None of their centre forwards have found the net.


Brechin City 0-2 Dunfermline Athletic


Brechin City: 3.40
Draw: 2.85
Dunfermline Athletic: 0.80

Best bet

Dunfermline Athletic (-1): 1.05

You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.

Dunfermline’s pre-season transfer window analysis

Name Jean-Yves M’voto

Age: 29

Position: Centre Back

Less than a week after Raith Rovers were relegated, he made the journey along the A92 to East End Park to become their first signing of the window.

The reining Rovers player of the season brings a no-nonsense attitude, and his positioning to clearing balls into the area is what the Pars have lacked for quite some time. This ability has likely come from his predominantly English lower league career which pertains a lot of “hoofball” and physical battles with big, burly centre forwards.

While he is not an upgrade on Ben Richards-Everton’s potential as a ball-playing defender or Callum Fordyce’s leadership qualities, his ability to come on late in a game and attempt to close it out may prove vital across the course of the campaign.

As a third choice option, he is perfect. Callum Morris and Lee Ashcroft would not necessarily wow in the top flight, but they are a capable partnership to challenge for the Championship title.

Name: Fraser Aird

Age: 22

Position: Right Back/Right Midfield

Eyebrows were raised with this signing because it did not seem that they needed another wide player in what was a position of great depth and quality.

Yet, as a different option at full back, and even as a wing back (in a 3-5-2) he may be worth the punt as a backup to Ryan Williamson.

The boyhood Rangers fan achieved his dream of playing for the club as he won their young player of the year award in the 2013-14 campaign, a season in which he helped them to the League One title. He also scored at Easter Road for Canada against his parents’ home country, Scotland.

It is time to kick on though, after a stint in his homeland with Vancouver Whitecaps, he found himself on the outs with then Gers manager, Mark Warburton and landed at Falkirk in January. At the Bairns he only started five games at right midfield before he was moved on in May.

Name: Aaron Splaine

Age: 20

Position: Centre Midfield

Splaine was one from left field on the face of it, but when you dig down you can see why Allan Johnston was keen to give him a chance to prove himself. Johnston had previously seen him in the youth setup at Queen of the South and took him to Kilmarnock.

A foot injury hampered him after his release from Killie and went to trial at the start of the year to Burnley and Leeds United while Stranraer involved him in the development team.

Splaine believes that one of his strongest attributes is his work ethic, and that is clear as you watch him on the field as he is eager to close down opponents to tackle them and win possession of the ball.

By no means is he a starter in this team, but he is more suited to what the manager wants as opposed to Lewis Spence, who never seemed to be Johnston’s ideal central midfielder.

Name: Dean Shiels

Age: 32

Position: Secondary Striker

Shiels is being utilised out of position due to the lack of depth in the centre of the park. Yet, his experience and ability has not seem him perform under par as a number eight.

The squad is a good age, but they lack those experienced heads of playing in the top flight. Shiels has done so with Hibernian and Kilmarnock and with him being soon to be 33, he is the eldest of the 22 first-teamers.

Giving the fact that he has won everything shy of the Scottish Cup and the Premiership and played over 100 top-flight games. He can bring those experiences of a winning mentality to the dressing room, and that can only be a positive.

Name: Andy Ryan

Age: 22

Position: Centre Forward

The former Accies striker is the first player Dunfermline spent a transfer fee on since his former teammate at New Douglas Park, David Hopkirk.

He hit the ground running with a double against Arbroath in the Challenge Cup as he showed glimpses of being a younger version of Nicky Clark; in that of being an instinctual finish whose positioning in the box is second to none at this level.

It is a step up from knocking 37 goals past part-time opposition the last two seasons in his last 58 starts. Although, if Clark can do it then so can Ryan. His goals to start ratio is remarkable at 0.56 whereas Clark sits at 0.48.

He will have to bide his time to be a regular in the starting XI, but he will have his chances in a position of the park that is full of quality.

Name: Declan McManus

Age: 23

Position: Centre Forward

Johnston had always wanted to recruit McManus ever since he arrived at the club. Yet, after helping Greenock Morton to the League One title, he moved on from Aberdeen to Fleetwood Town but soon found himself back at Cappielow.

After the season end, he missed out on his target again as Steven Pressley loaned him out to Gary Locke’s Raith Rovers as he would become the first choice striker at Stark’s Park.

It was third time lucky though as he became the second player to arrive via Kirkcaldy following Yves M’voto. It took a little convincing to get the support on side. Yet, his goals against Falkirk, Hearts and St Mirren have appeased even the most ardent of doubters.

He offers something different to Clark, Ryan and Callum Smith that is the ability to hold the ball up and bring Kallum Higginbotham and Joe Cardle into play. He is also the perfect foil for Clark as he can do the running for the former Rangers striker.

You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.

Match preview: Dunfermline Athletic versus St Mirren

In what is unquestionably the biggest match in the Championship this afternoon, the teams sat atop of the perch will take to the field as the Pars aim to topple the Saints.
Kickoff time, ticket prices and where to watch
Ticket prices:
SRJ Windows South Stand: Adults £20, Concessions £14
All other stands: Adults £18, Concessions £12
Away Stands: Adults £18, Concessions £12, U12s £5
Match information:
Saturday 19th, 15:00 at East End Park.
Team news
Dunfermline Athletic:
Michael Paton (injured).
St Mirren:
No injuries and suspensions.
Craig Thomson.
Previous Dunfermline Athletic games refereed –
League Cup:
Heart of Midlothian 2-2 Dunfermline Athletic, 1-3 PENS (2Y).
What Dunfermline Athletic are saying
“St Mirren will come and have a go which will suit us as well. Hopefully that will leave us space to go and attack with our good players and create chances and score goals.” (Allan Johnston, manager)
What St Mirren are saying
[On being top of the table] “It is enjoyable, I stressed to the players to enjoy it. I am not going to play it down completely because you need to enjoy it, it can change very quickly. Getting promoted from this league is very difficult but I would suggest it is probably a while that we have been top of the league at a meaningful time. Do we want to stay there? Of course we do. We have targets, short-term ones and long-term ones, that we work towards every day. The players are aware of them, they have bought into them, they set them.” (Jack Ross, manager)
Line ups last time out


Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 16.14.43

Complete fixture list

Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 16.14.31

Former Dunfermline Athletic players

Gavin Reilly (2016-17)
Josh Todd (2016 trial)
Gregor Buchanan (2014-15)
Jack Ross (2010-11)
Jamie Langfield (2004-05)

Former St Mirren players

Allan Johnston (2009-10)
John Potter (2005-11)

Last four meetings


24/06/16. Dunfermline Athletic 4-3 St Mirren
19/11/16. St Mirren 2-0 Dunfermline Athletic
14/01/17. Dunfermline Athletic 1-1 St Mirren
11/03/17. St Mirren 0-0 Dunfermline Athletic

Keys to the game

Fourth and six best defences, although only Dundee United have more clean sheets (2).

Only Ray McKinnon has picked up more Championship points (52) than both Allan Johnston (51) and Jack Ross (47) since the former defender’s appointment last October.

4-4-2 v 3-4-2-1

Top two offences in the division.


Dunfermline Athletic 2-2 St Mirren


Dunfermline Athletic: 1.51
Draw: 2.62
St Mirren: 1.84

Best bet

Over 3.5 goals: 1.90

Both Dunfermline home games and St Mirren away matches have featured at least four goals. There was nine in the two fixtures between the sides at East End Park last season.

You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.