Match preview: Dunfermline Athletic versus Falkirk

Derbies are always fiercely contested affairs. Yet, this one – which is so early in the season – may have drastic consequences down the stretch.

If the Bairns were to suffer defeat tomorrow, they would be six points behind an intriguing Pars outfit. Likely, even further off the pace of title favourites, Dundee United. It would be a blow to the club that has been runners-up the last two campaigns.

On the opposite side of the park are Athletic, who rode their luck with a draw at Almondvale. A week later, they backed up their playoff credentials with a demolishing of Inverness Caledonian Thistle. A defeat would not be as sickening as it would be for Falkirk, but it would take diminish what has been a very good start in the Championship.

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:

Jean Yves-M’voto (injured).
Nicky Clark (fitness).

Falkirk:

Aaron Muirhead (suspended).

Referee

John Beaton.

Games refereed –

Europa League:
FC Copenhagen 4-1 Vardar (3Y, 1R, 1P)

Premiership:
Rangers 2-3 Hibernian (8Y, 1R)

League Cup:
Ayr United 1-0 Kilmarnock

Inverness Caledonian Thistle 0-2 Falkirk
Partick Thistle 1-0 Stranraer

What Dunfermline Athletic are saying

“They have got good players and it’s going to be a hard game. I do not think there’s much between all the teams in this league. It is going to be a tough test. It is a new season, there is a few new players at both clubs, and at the end of the day it is only one game. But it is certainly one that we want to go and impose ourselves on and win.” (Allan Johnston, manager)

What Falkirk are saying

“I love derby matches, they are fiercely fought but I do not think there is any malice between the fans and that is the way it should be. Dunfermline will come and attack us and I can guarantee that we will go and attack them as well so it could be an end to end game and a totally different game from the Dumbarton game on Saturday.” Peter Houston, manager)

Line ups last time out

Table

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Complete fixture list

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Former Dunfermline Athletic players

Mark Kerr (2012).

Former Falkirk players

Fraser Aird (2017).
Kallum Higginbotham (2010-12).

Last four meetings

Championship:

22/04/17. Dunfermline Athletic 1-2 Falkirk
04/02/17. Falkirk 2-0 Dunfermline Athletic
26/12/16. Dunfermline Athletic 1-1 Falkirk
15/10/16. Falkirk 2-1 Dunfermline Athletic

Keys to the game

Craig Sibbald:

It will be 246 appearances and counting for the versatile footballer playing for his hometown club, three months after he thought he was moving on.

The 22-year-old started 10 or more games in each of the following positions last season: left wing (15), central midfield (15), and attacking midfield (10). It is a real possibility that the loss of him in the interim has affected the Bairns’ form. Sibbald played on average 83 minutes across all their Championship games last season.

While he will not be up to speed in terms of game time as the other members of the squad, but his ability exceeds most of them. For that reason alone Peter Houston may slot Sibbald in the middle of the park in an attempt to lift the supporters and get the result necessary.

Myles Hippolyte:

He will never be liked amongst regular visitors to East End Park for his theatrics in winning his side a penalty in the last meeting between the two. Even so, his ability is exceeding his quality of simulation, and his pace will give whoever plays at right back (likely Ryan Williamson) a miserable time. At this moment in time, he can be the only player in a blue shirt that can be happy with his performances this season.

Luca Gasparotto:

Right back is a problem for both outfits. However, Falkirk are struggling, having had to insert their third choice centre back into the position. Joe Cardle needs to give him a tough time of it, if, Dunfermline want to maximise thier chances of winning. It will be a game that is played at a frantic pace. So, getting it wide to the left winger in one-on-one situations with the Canadian would be a way to exploit the weaknesses in his game.

Prediction

Dunfermline Athletic 2-1 Falkirk

Odds

Dunfermline Athletic: 1.78
Draw: 2.60
Falkirk: 1.63

Best bet

Dunfermline to win and over 2.5 goals: 4.25 


You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.

Available players that may improve Dunfermline Athletic’s midfield

The “pre-season” transfer window closes on the first of September. Thankfully, for many teams in Scotland, there are no restrictions to signing free agents after that date. The Pars are a club scrambling around for at least one player to keep them going until January.
 
Central midfield is the area in which Athletic are undermanned. To highlight the lack of depth in the poistion, Dean Shiels, and Michael Paton, have been stationed there this early in the campaign.
 
The reason for the lack of is depth is that, Andy Geggan, Lewis Spence, and Rhys McCabe left to pastures new. In addition, John Herron, returned to Blackpool as he waited on his contract to expire.
 
Aaron Splaine – who had a season in footballing exile – was the only transfer that came into the first team over the summer. Scott Lochhead, will have to take the step up from the now abolished under 20s and become a role player. The issue with that is he is an attacking midfielder not a conventional number eight in Allan Johnston’s preferred 4-4-2 system.
 
One way to resolve the issue is to re-sign John Herron, who is trialing around Scotland looking for employment. The question remains. If, Johnston wanted him then he would be at the club. He had formed a formidable partnership with Nat Wedderburn in the second half of last season. It was no coincidence when those two were fit, available, and on the park, Dunfermline became difficult to beat. It does seem peculiar not to match those two up again. Especially, as the days pass, and Herron still finds himself unattached.
 
Another option is Nick Ross, formerly of Dundee and Inverness Caledonian Thistle. He has appeared in 199 top flight games – 105 starts – laying on 15 goals and scoring 11 himself. Not a glorious return for a deep-lying playmaker, but not shoddy either. It never worked at Dens for him, but that does not mean it cannot work elsewhere. Particularly, with a change of scenery, and lower level of opposition. It is all about preference, but I am not sure someone who wants to be on the ball is the correct fit for the Pars at present. Most of their attacks are aimed around getting the ball wide to Joe Cardle, and Kallum Higginbotham, then working it into the box.
 
Sean Welsh would seem a sensible fit seeing as he is a ball-winning midfielder that can fit alongside Wedderburn. Many fans bemoaned the departure of Josh Falkingham, and he may fill that void for supporters. His approach to the game is more suited to the Championship than Josh’s was. Injuries have been the former Hibee’s problem. He has had eight of them to be precise. Five of them forcing him to miss anywhere between six and 38 games. In fact, an issue with his foot has seen him out of action since February. It is a massive risk to take. Yet, if, he can find sustained game-time until January, then it should be a viable move as a stop gap for all parties involved.
 
A midfielder has to come into the fray. If, there is an injury, then Johnston will patching together makeshift starting 11s to get to the mid-season transfer window. With two weeks left until the start of September, there is time to pick up someone that may be negotiating their release. Although, that is a crap shoot with many clubs chasing their signature, but that one player may do enough damage, and see Dunfermline finish comfortably in the top four.

You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.

Match preview: Dunfermline Athletic v Inverness Caledonian Thistle

Championship action returns on Halbeath Road as the second match day of the league season takes place.

Athletic will be aiming to bounce back after a poor performance against Rangers; where they took a drubbing. They already have points on the board unlike their opponents who have not responded well from their relegation in May. New manager, John Robertson, failed to progress them in League Cup group stages before being bested –  at home – to Dundee United.

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 12th, 15:00 at East End Park.

Team news

Dunfermline Athletic:

Nicky Clark (injured).
Declan McManus (suspended).

Inverness Caledonian Thistle:

Aaron Doran and Carl Tremarco (injured).

Referee

Gavin Ross.

Games refereed –

League Cup:

East Fife 0(8)-(9)0 Dunfermline Athletic (2Y)
Forfar Athletic 1-3 Stirling Albion (3Y)

What Dunfermline Athletic are saying

“We know Inverness have a strong squad, they have kept the majority of players from last year. They have a bit of pace about their team and we know that it is going to be a tough test. We have to make sure that there is a reaction from everybody. We need to be positive and go and get the reaction that we need.” (Allan Johnston, manager)

What Inverness Caledonian Thistle are saying

“That tells you all the quality you need to know about Dunfermline right now. I know on Saturday they survived a last-minute penalty save but it was still a good point. Any point away from home in this league is excellent. Three points are gold-dust. Dunfermline have scored a lot of goals, so defensively we will have to be up to the mark and improve in terms of our finishing.” (John Robertson, manager)

Line ups last time out

Table

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Complete fixture list

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Former Dunfermline Athletic players

Brad McKay (2016)

Former Inverness Caledonian Thistle players

Nat Wedderburn (2015-16)

Last seven meetings

Premier League:

02/05/12. Inverness Caledonian Thistle 0-0 Dunfermline Athletic
18/02/12. Dunfermline Athletic 1-1 Inverness Caledonian Thistle
22/10/11. Inverness Caledonian Thistle 1-1 Dunfermline Athletic
06/08/11. Dunfermline Athletic 3-3 Inverness Caledonian Thistle

Scottish Cup:

18/01/12. Dunfermline Athletic 1-3 Inverness Caledonian Thistle
07/01/12. Inverness Caledonian Thistle 1-1 Dunfermline Athletic

League Cup:

27/06/16. Dunfermline Athletic 1-5 Inverness Caledonian Thistle

Keys to the game

The loss of Greg Tansey and Ross Draper:

Two lumberjacks in the centre of the park that can control any game have departed the Caledonian Stadium to stay in the Premiership. There is now little to no control in the middle of the park as the Caley Jags with have no recognisable central midfielder. Iain Vigurs is there and out of position as he would prefer to play wide left. Nat Wedderburn should be relishing being able to mark him out the game.

The threat of Iain Vigurs:

The former Staggie netted a hat-trick the last time these two sides met; which was at East End Park. On that day in July he was stationed as an attacking midfielder with himself and Billy King embarrassing the Dunfermline back line that night. Of the players at the club, only Vigurs and centre forward, John Baird, carry any sort of threat that should worry the Pars.

Redemption:

Being thumped 5-1 against a side that would go onto be relegated must have been unpleasant. Yet, this is a much changed side from last. Robertson has them set up in a 4-4-2 as opposed to the 4-2-3-1 that Richie Foran preferred. Eight of the 17 that were available for selection last year are still at the club and two of them are the third and fourth choice goalkeepers.

The changes have not been quite as drastic for Athletic but there has been seven players that departed who were starting or on the bench that evening. However, Joe Cardle, Kallum Higginbotham, Lee Ashcroft and Ryan Williamson will want to prove that Tuesday was a blip in their season and beat up on a team that showed them up in front of their own supporters.

Bouncing back:

Pars were five games unbeaten until they met Rangers at Ibrox, who stopped them going six by scoring six. The most optimistic of fans could only hope that they gave the Govan outfit a game, but that went out the window within 10 minutes. It is how Allan Johnston’s men respond which will be important, not the disappointment of the League Cup exit. A win would at least keep them in the top four; a position which they desire come the end of the campaign. A victory over a fellow playoff contender will solidify a good couple of weeks in the league season.

Being glib, Caley Thistle have not bounced back since winning the Scottish Cup in 2015. The fear for them is “doing a St Mirren” and by continuously going for the cheap and lazy option you end up flirting with another relegation. They need to get a good result somewhere to quell the fear of the supporters. This would be a start, but the longer it drags on, the louder the fans become.

Prediction

Dunfermline Athletic 2-1 Inverness Caledonian Thistle

Odds

Dunfermline Athletic 1.42 Draw 2.5 Inverness Caledonian Thistle 2.1

Best bet

Dunfermline to win and over 2.5 goals @ 4/1


You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.

Match preview: Livingston versus Dunfermline Athletic

It has been almost four and a half years since these clubs have faced each other at this level. Over this period, the Pars entered and exited administration with a League One title while Livi were relegated and promoted; missing Athletic each time.

Both outfits will be going into the match extremely confident seeing as they topped their respective League Cup groups against the odds. 

Kickoff time, ticket prices and where to watch

Ticket prices:

Adults – £18
Concessions – £12
U16s – £5

Match information:

Saturday 5 August, 15:00pm at Almondvale.

Team news

Livingston:

Dylan Mackin and jack Hamilton (suspended).

Dunfermline:

Dean Shiels and Nicky Clark (injured).
David Hopkirk (match fitness).
Declan McManus (suspended).

Referee

Alan Newlands.

What Livingston are saying

“Every game in the Championship is going to be very difficult and we know that we are going to have to really battle and work hard to win points in this league but I am really looking forward to the season ahead. I have still got a few good mates who are at the club and I keep in contact with them but I have got a job to do and it will be like any other game. Dunfermline are a really good team and I think they will be up there challenging so it’s a great test for us first up.”

(Shaun Byrne, central midfielder)

What Dunfermline are saying

“They have a style of play that suits them, they are not losing a lot of goals with three big Centre halves. They are a threat at setpieces, they get the ball forward quickly and they have some good football players as well – guys like Shaun Byrne who was here before. We know that we will need to be at our very best to get a result. We are going to have to defend because they put you under pressure. They have got big strikers, they hit diagonals and win headers at second balls.” (Allan Johnston, manager)

Lineups last time out

Complete fixture list (15:00)

Screen Shot 2017-08-02 at 20.26.02

Former Dunfermline players

Scott Robinson (2016)
Shaun Byrne (2010-16)

Former Livingston players

Jason Talbot (2008-15)

Last four league meetings

30/03/13. Livingston 2-2 Dunfermline
26/01/13. Dunfermline 0-1 Livingston
08/12/12. Livingston 2-1 Dunfermline
22/09/12. Dunfermline 4-0 Livingston

Keys to the game

3-5-2 v 4-4-2:

Both sides are settled in their formations and have found them effective as neither team has suffered defeat through a combined eight competitive fixtures.

The three in the midfield possess the threat to overload the two (Michael Paton and Nat Wedderburn) in the centre of the park. Perhaps, the energetic Aaron Splaine would be more suited in partnering the Englishman in the midfield.

Scott Pittman is more box-to-box while Shaun Byrne will play the playmaking role, the third option is a makeshift option to stay and cover the defence when the other two look to influence the attack.

Kallum Higginbotham should look to keep the Jackson Longridge on the back foot; this could be helped by Ryan Williamson progressing up the pitch as he usually does. 

Callum Morris and Lee Ashcroft should be able to defend the centre forward duo of Dale Carrick and Dylan Mackin one-on-one.

Callum Smith allowed to shine again:

The 17 something has looked at ease with everything as he has been presented with opportunities that would otherwise be limited if it were not for injury and suspension. An assist in his first start (v Hearts) and a goal as a substitute (v Elgin) has left Allan Johnston thinking whether or not brining in another centre forward is necessary.

Neil Alexander v Sean Murdoch:

With the departure of Cammy Bell to the Premiership, these two shot stoppers can believe that they are the best in the division. Undoubtably, Alexander, a former Scotland internationalist is still capable, even though he is in the winter of his career, and coming off seasons with Aberdeen and Hearts. Murdoch is in the prime and on form was likely the best player at the position last season. Both will be relied on heavily to eek out those extra points throughout the campaign, which may turn a good outing into a great one.

Prediction

Livingston 1-2 Dunfermline

Odds

Livingston 7/4 Draw 13/5 Dunfermline Athletic 8/5

Best bet

Over 2.5 goals @ 5/6


You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.

Championship preview

10 Championship teams will battle it out across 36 match days in stadiums all around Scotland from August to April to try and be the team that lifts the title and gets into the Premiership.

You can split the division into four groups:

Title contenders – Dundee United and Falkirk.

Premiership playoff battlers – Dunfermline Athletic, Inverness Caledonian Thistle and St Mirren.

Also rans – Greenock Morton, Livingston and Queen of the South.

Relegation scrappers – Brechin City and Dumbarton.

These predictions may be wrong come the end of the season, but based on the various parameters that go into these guestimations this is what I have gone for. Now, there could be upsets. It is possible for Greenock Morton to make the playoffs once again, and Dumbarton could stay up for a six successive campaign.

At the top of the table, Dundee United and Falkirk, in theory, will be duking it out for the title. Yet, for the Tangerines’ sake, they will hope they can progress further than their last effort, in which they struggled to match their pre-Christmas form which took them to first until Boxing Day.

Once again, Falkirk, finished runners-up, 10 points worse than the year previous, and like their step back in terms of the point tally, they failed to capitalise in getting to the playoff final. This will likely be the last season the Bairns will be the best of the rest outside of the big clubs (Dundee United, Hearts, Hibernian, Rangers) that have found themselves in the Championship for one reason or another. What will sting though is that they may be moving back towards the rest of the pack with Dunfermline now established in the division, and St Mirren appearing to be on the right path. The Championship will be a lot more even in 2018/19; especially, if, the likes of full-time Ayr United and Raith Rovers return at the first time of asking.

After stabilising after a horrific start on their return to the second tier to finish fifth, a mere handful of points off Greenock Morton, Athletic built on that by looking impressive in the Betfred Cup. They have strengthened in the pre-season window, and giving their grasp of facing full-time opposition on a regular basis under Allan Johnston, it is possible they can make a 10-15 point improvement.

Inverness Caledonian Thistle can go one-way t’other. The instillation of John Robertson as manager raised a few eyebrows – the same reaction that came with Richie Foran’s appointment – seeing as the former Hearts centre forward has had a patchy career in management. Since he left the Highlands, his only other accolade came with Derry City,  leading them to the League of Ireland Cup, nine years ago. Yet, he is in place at the club in which he took to the top tier for the first time and won the Challenge Cup in the same season. He will have to address the slide that came after winning the Scottish Cup and finishing third to being rock bottom and relegated in the space of two years.

In the not so distant past, St Mirren, were in a very similar predicament to Caley Thistle. Two years after winning a domestic cup they suffered relegation by going for the cheap and easy option after disposing of the manager that gave them an acceptable level of success. Only now does it seem they have returned to some stability under Jack Ross. There is an immense around of hype surrounding the Buddies, and will they do have a squad that can get into the playoffs, it should be stated that under the former midfielder, five clubs amassed more points. There has been another overhaul of players in and out, many of them making the step up to full-time football, which could be a hinderance.

Jim Duffy guided his small squad to great heights with a League Cup semi-final as well as a fourth place finish. Although, Greenock Morton collapsed towards the end of the season and limped over the line in fourth, where they ended up being bettered by United in the playoffs. He will have a difficult job to repeat the feat as once again the west coastal side has a depth that is shallow. What is going in their favour this season is a few out and out centre forwards and building up the level experience within the playing staff. If, Robert Thomson, can net some winners then the Ton could noise up a few and put them in the promotion hunt.

After Stranraer relegated them in May 2016, Livingston made a very comfortable return to the Championship at the first time of asking. Their point tally of 81 was the most for a League One side since Rangers in 2013/14. They have kept that momentum going as they topped their Betfred Cup group without defeat; ahead of Partick Thistle and St Mirren. David Hopkin kept the transfer business simple, with Liam Buchanan being the only outgoing that may cause concern. Although, bringing Neil Alexander back to the club will be a boost for their defence, and their support.

Once the initial hot streak wore off, Queen of the South snuck under the radar as one of the league’s poorer sides. They went on to accumulate 25 from a total of 84; Gary Naysmith was responsible for 24. This was after taking 18 points from the opening eight games under the stewardship of Gavin Skelton. Since the former Scotland internationalist arrived in December, only Dundee United, Ayr United and Raith Rovers garnered fewer points. Also, Stephen Aitken, John Hughes and Ian McCall had worse points per game averages. The Doonhamers jettisoned a majority of their outgoings to the lower leagues while they strengthened with most of their incomes coming from teams in their division. A worry is that QoS have 10 outs, and half that number coming into Palmerston, their playing staff is currently made up of 19 bodies.

Brechin City are pretty much a League Two side in infrastructure, crowd support and history. Yet, they have managed to reach the Championship against all expectations. They relegated Raith Rovers and seen off favourites, Alloa Athletic, via a penalty shootout. Not only did City concede more than they scored, but they lost more games than they won. That does not tell the story of the club under Darren Dods. With 10 games to go, they were seven points worse off than local rivals Forfar Athletic, who had a game in hand. They went on a run in which they earned 24 points from a possible 30 and finished seventh; eight points ahead of the bottom of the table, Loons. They will take anything above 10th, but they can surprise the wider community and do the unthinkable again.

Dumbarton have hit their glass ceiling with finishing fifth in the Championship, three years ago; their best placing since 1987 when they were third. It has been the best period to be a Sons fan since the 70s and 80s. They can trouble others, and could drag one or two sides into a battle to stay out of the relegation playoffs. Although, they have lost many good players – for their level – to rivals. Yet, Stevie Aitken has recruited well to stay out of danger over the previous couple of pre-season windows. What may not save them this time is there is not a team in a state of disarray like Raith Rovers last season to prop them up into eighth.

Brechin City

Manager: Darren Dods
Captain: Paul McLean

Major ins:

Defenders – Euan Spark (Dunfermline Athletic), Ryan McGeever (Queen’s Park) and Sean Crighton (Livingston).

Midfielders – Jordan Sinclair (Livingston).

Forwards – Issac Layne (Grays Atheltic).

Major outs:

Defenders – Dougie Hill (Dumbarton) and Gareth Rodger (Edinburgh City).

Forwards – Alan Trouten (Albion Rovers) and Ross Caldwell (East Kilbride).

Last season’s position: 4th (League One)
This season’s prediction: 10th

Dumbarton

Manager: Stephen Aitken
Captain: Andy Dowie

Major ins:

Goalkeepers – Scott Gallacher (Hibernian).

Defenders – Andy Dowie (Queen of the South), Craig Barr (Raith Rovers) and Dougie Hill (Brechin City).

Midfielders – Chris Johnston (Raith Rovers), David Wilson (Partick Thistle), Kyle Hutton (St Mirren) and Tom Walsh (Limerick).

Forwards – Alistair Roy (Hearts – loan) and Mark Stewart (Raith Rovers).

Major outs:

Goalkeepers – Alan Martin (Queen of the South)

Defenders – Darren Barr (Greenock Morton), Gregor Buchanan (St Mirren), Mark Docherty (East Fife) and Tom Lang (Stranraer).

Midfielders – Andy Stirling (Queen of the South).

Forwards – Gary Fleming (Alloa) and Robert Thomson (Greenock Morton).

Last season’s position: 8th
This season’s prediction: 9th (Relegated)

Dundee United

Manager: Ray McKinnon
Captain: Tam Scobbie

Major ins:

Goalkeepers – Deniz Mehmet (Port Vale) and Harry Lewis (loan – Southampton).

Defenders – Tam Scobbie (St Johnstone).

Midfielders – Jordie Briels (Fortuna Sittard) and Sam Stanton (loan – Hibernian).

Forwards – Billy King (Hearts), James Keatings (Hibernian), Patrick N’Koyi (MVV Maastricht), Paul McMullan (Celtic) and Scott McDonald (Motherwell).

Major outs:

Goalkeepers – Luis Zwick (Hansa Rostock).

Defenders – Paul Dixon (Grimsby Town) and Sean Dillon (Montrose).

Midfielders – Blair Spittal (Partick Thistle).

Forwards – Simon Murray (Hibernian).

Last season’s position: 3rd
This season’s prediction: 1st

Dunfermline Athletic

Manager: Allan Johnston
Captain: Callum Morris

Major ins:

Defenders – Jean-Yves M’voto (Raith Rovers)

Midfielders – Aaron Splaine (Stranraer)

Forwards – Dean Shiels (FC Edmonton) and Declan McManus (Fleetwood Town).

Major outs:

Goalkeepers – David Hutton (Arbroath).

Defenders – Ben Richards-Everton (Accrington Stanley) and Callum Fordyce (Queen of the South).

Midfielders – Andy Geggan (Ayr United), Lewis Spence (Dundee) and Rhys McCabe (Sligo Rovers).

Forwards – Michael Moffat (Ayr United).

Last season’s position: 5th
This season’s prediction: 3rd

Falkirk

Manager: Peter Houston
Captain: Mark Kerr

Major ins:

Goalkeepers – David Mitchell (Dundee).

Midfielders – Alex Harris (Hibernian).

Forwards – Rory Loy (Dundee).

Major outs:

Defenders – David McCracken (Peterhead) and Luke Leahy (Walsall).

Midfielders – Craig Sibbald (unattached).

Forwards – Bob McHugh (Greenock Morton) and John Baird (Inveress Caledonian Thistle).

Last season’s position: 2nd
This season’s prediction: 2nd

Greenock Morton

Manager: Jim Duffy
Captain: Lee Kilday

Major ins:

Defenders – Darren Barr (Dumbarton) and Jack Iredale (ECU Joondalup)

Midfielders – Conor McManus (Celtic) and Gary Harkins (Ayr United).

Forwards – Bob McHugh (Falkirk) and Robert Thomson (Dumbarton).

Major outs:

Defenders – Jamie McDonagh (Sligo Rovers).

Forwards – Kudus Oyenuga (Chelmsford Town).

Last season’s position: 4th
This season’s prediction: 6th

Inverness Caledonian Thistle

Manager: John Robertson
Captain: Gary Warren

Major ins:

Goalkeepers – Mark Ridgers (Partick Thistle).

Defenders – Colin Seedorf (RKC Waalwijk) and Joe Chalmers (Motherwell).

Midfielders – Alex Cooper (East Fife) and Riccardo Calder (Aston Villa).

Forwards – Connor Bell (Servette), Felitciano Zschusschen (Saarbrücken), George Oakley (Wimbledon) and John Baird (Falkirk).

Major outs:

Defenders – Louis Laing (Hartlepool).

Midfielders – Greg Tansey (Aberdeen).

Forwards – Alex Fisher (Motherwell), Henri Anier (Lahti) and Scott Boden (Wrexham). 

Last season’s position: 12th (Premiership)
This season’s prediction: 5th

Livingston

Manager: David Hopkin
Captain: Craig Halkett

Major ins:

Goalkeepers – Neil Alexander (Aberdeen).

Midfielders – Ross Brown (East Fife) and Scott Robinson (Livingston).

Forwards – Dylan Mackin (Motherwell), Josh Peters (Forfar Athletic) and Nikolav Todorov (loan – Hearts).

Major outs:

Defenders – Morgyn Neill (Stranraer) and Sean Crighton (Brechin City).

Midfielders – Jordan Sinclair (Brechin City) and Mark Millar (Forfar Athletic).

Forwards – Liam Buchanan (Raith Rovers).

Last season’s position: 1st (League One)
This season’s prediction: 7th

Queen of the South

Manager: Gary Naysmith
Captain: John Rankin

Major ins:

Goalkeepers – Alan Martin (Dumbarton).

Defenders – Callum Fordyce (Dunfermline) and Shaun Rooney (York City).

Midfielders – Andy Stirling (Dumbarton).

Major outs:

Goalkeepers – Jim Atkinson (Annan Athletic).

Defenders – Andy Dowie (Dumbarton), Chris Higgins (Ayr United), Jamie Hamill (Stranraer) and Scott Hooper (Annan Athletic).

Forwards – Aidan Smith (Annan Athletic) and Dale Hilson (St Mirren).

Last season’s position: 6th
This season’s prediction: 8th

St Mirren

Manager: Jack Ross
Captain: Stephen McGinn

Major ins:

Goalkeepers – Craig Samson (Motherwell) and Ross Stewart (Albion Rovers).

Defenders – Gregor Buchanan (Dumbarton) and Harry Davies (Crewe Alexander).

Midfielders – Ian McSahne (Ross County).

Forwards – Cammy Smith (Aberdeen), Dale Hilson (Queen of the South), Jordan Kirkpatrick (Alloa Athletic), Gavin Reilly (Hearts) and Ross Stewart (Albion Rovers).

Major outs:

Defenders – Ben Gordon (East Fife).

Midfielders – Kyle Hutton (Dumbarton), Jordan Stewart (Clyde) and Stevie Mallan (Barnsley).

Last season’s position: 7th
This season’s prediction: 4th


You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.

End of an era

Andy Geggan returned to Ayr United on a two-year contract after a five-season stint at Dunfermline Athletic.
 
The former Dumbarton central midfielder’s passage back to Somerset Park comes as the Honest Men are becoming full-time, even with their relegation to League One.
 
Geggan had started his professional career with the Sons in the lowest tier of the game in Scotland at that time (Division Three). He was a regular first team member and spent half a decade at the Rock, helping them with promotion and stability in Division Two before Brian Reid brought him to South Ayrshire.
 
After a season, he swapped the west coast for the east as Ayr tumbled out of their respective division; as did the Pars who entered the second tier with a thud because of a dismal campaign in the Premier League.
 
2012-13
 
At the age of 25, Geggan took his first foray into full-time football at the most trying time for the club. After witnessing the highs of promotion at the expense of Raith Rovers to the lows of immediate relegation with a whimper at Easter Road. Those two seasons were nothing compared to the emotional roller coaster that was to come during his tenure at the club.
 
Murmurs of financial issues hung in the air from the start of the season. Yet, nothing manifested until October when the staff’s pay was late, and while excuses were made it became a severe issue when next to nothing was paid to the players at the end of December. Administration looked an inevitability at that point, and so it came to be near the end of March.
 
The Pars had been showing promise in making a swift return to the SPL. Yet, the title aspirations fell away as Partick Thistle got the better of the head-to-head matchup, and results took a dive from mid-January onwards due to – in part – the off-field issues; Dunfermline were top after match day 19.
 
Dunfermline’s historical status lies below the city teams and those of Kilmarnock and Motherwell. They have the infrastructure and fan base to be a team that shuffles around the bottom half of the Premiership on a regular basis. So, while falling away from a return was disappointing and may have meant lingering in the second tier for a few seasons, what was unthinkable – even in the midst of administration in March – was the steep decline that would show no signs of stopping until May 2015.
 
Andrew Barrowman, Andy Dowie, Andy Kirk, Joe Cardle, Jordan McMillan, Paul Gallagher, and Stephen Jordan were all made redundant after the 0-2 defeat to Falkirk on March 27.
 
  • Barrowman was the team’s top goalscorer. 
  • Dowie was the mainstay of the backline.
  • Gallagher was the first choice goalkeeper.
  • McMillan was club captain.
 
The others that were made redundant had been credible first team members, whether it was for their experience (Kirk and Jordan) or their fan favourite status (Cardle).
 
If the penalty (15 points) for entering administration was not deducted, the Pars would have finished sixth; two points better than Raith Rovers. Alas, – as it should have and was handed down – it meant Jim Jefferies’ men ended the season in the Division One play-offs; a couple points worse off than Cowdenbeath. The coaching and playing staff only have themselves to blame in the end, seeing as they only needed to defeat long relegated Airdrie United at home to finish eighth on the last day of the season.
 
While that depleted squad was good enough to stay afloat, it would have been delaying the inevitable bottoming out that was required for the club to rebound. The loss of those experienced heads that were made redundant, and the bad feeling around the club saw them relegated at the expense of a vibrant and confident Alloa Athletic that deserved promotion on the performance of that first leg.
 
13-14
 
The signings were a sign of not having little money as the club was still in the depths of administration. Players like James Washburn and Jamie Wilson were not known then, and have drifted out the game since. Robert Thomson, was a youngster from Dundee United and was away to Brechin City come the mid-season transfer window. Danny Grainger was not the player he once was. Jonathan Page was passing through on his way to being a capable part-time footballer. Then there was Ross Forbes, who was ineffective due to Jim Jefferies’ infuriating tactics as he was shunted out at right midfield.
 
There was mixed fortunes in the loan market: Ryan Scully became a figurehead of hope in his two seasons at East End Park, while Jordan Moore and Lawrence Shankland looked prospects as they combined for 12 goals in 29 appearances. Although, Luke Johnson and Ryan Ferguson fell into the anonymous category.
 
Before a ball was kicked, Dunfermline’s lowest position all season was fifth, due to alphabetical order. Once the action got under way, the Pars never lay outside of the top four, and were comfortable in second after a dozen games. Although, the team finished the campaign with two wins from 10 after going the previous 15 with three defeats. The playoffs were the aim as with Rangers in the division with a budget that dwarfed everyone, they were going to demolish foes on their way to lifting the title. The 1.9375 points per game in matches outside of Rangers would have been enough to win the title the following season. So, it was a good points tally accumulated.
 
As with the year previous, the playoffs once again began with a ropey away performance to the underdogs. Stranraer edged out the Pars 2-1 with thanks to a late Stevie Bell strike to give it that bit more of a sour taste in the mouth. Yet, they composed themselves at home, and as they did to Forfar, they strolled past them after extra time. Rivals Cowdenbeath awaited the victors in the final as they looked once again to consign misery upon their derby partners. They did that. Dunfermline born, Thomas O’Brien, canceled out Andy Geggan’s effort to leave it poised in the second-leg in his home town. Disappointment did not even cut it as the Blue Brazil were up within a minute as Kane Hemmings capitalised on an unorganised shambles to net within 60 seconds. The misery did not end there as O’Brien scored – as he did in the first-leg – and Greg Stewart would end put the tie beyond doubt to confine Athletic to another season in League One. If Callum Morris was playing instead of being shafted by Jefferies it may have turned out with a different outcome.
 
Geggan was the Centenary Club Lifeline Player of the Year, and deservingly so, as he finished second to Ryan Wallace in the goalscoring charts.
 
Having come out of administration in December, and being thankful to still have a club to support. It was expected that the club would be in League One for two seasons. Although, the manner in which the first one ended was dissatisfying. Yet, they had still not hit rock bottom, yet.
 
14-15
 
Everything was promising going into the season. Greenock Morton had come down, due to being ravaged most weeks in the Championship. The signings looked good such as PFA Scotland (League One) Team of the Year members, Andy Stirling and Michael Moffat. A pair of promising defenders in Gregor Buchanan and Stuart Urquhart. Also, there was an exciting centre forward called Gozie Ugwu. In addition, Ryan Scully, stayed on for another go at promotion as the number one goalkeeper.
 
Thorough dismantlements of reigning Challenge Cup holders Raith Rovers, and fourth tier, Annan Athletic, in the League Cup continued those good vibes going into the league campaign. Yet, it started with a microcosm of what the whole season would turn out to be, a damp squib. A scoreless draw at home against Brechin was not the outcome nigh on everybody expected when they visited East End Park on August 9, and three defeats in four unsettled the momentum. Although, they recovered to finish out the first quarter of the season at the top of the division. Nevertheless, three wins from the next 10 seen them drift down the table into fourth, and out of the Scottish Cup which would have been lucrative with a fifth round tie against Dundee United. As a result, on December 16, Jim Jefferies, left his post as manager and John Potter took the helm.
 
It was a sensible move. Potter had taken the U20s to the Youth Cup final and quarter final in successive seasons, and had been viewed for some time as the club’s next manager. Yet, like everything that looked sweet that season, it turned sour.
 
The signings that came in during his reign were questionable. Jim Patterson could not compete at the level Dunfermline aspired to be at. Swapping Andy Barrowman for Ross Forbes looks a poor bit of business in hindsight, and even the retired centre forward said he was struggling to be as effective as he once was. Forbes has went on to be an influential player for Greenock Morton.
 
Kyle McAusland looked raw and nervy which was the last two attributes that the Pars defence needed. There was also Paul George, who was as unmemorable a player there has been. David Hopkirk is the last player signed before the Allan Johnston era to still be at the club. The winger was the only shining light in an otherwise dark abyss of mid-season transfers.
 
Potter failed to win any of his first five games as Dunfermline fell out of the promotion playoffs into the chasing pack. They only briefly recovered before stumbling back into fourth with two wins in three. This was in the lead up to collapsing completely with only three victories in the last 11 matches. This left the Pars in a dismal seventh, 11 points from the playoffs, and 21 points from the desired top spot. The Ton did what the Pars could not: rebound back into the Championship.
 
Ryan Scully was the player of the season while Andy Geggan could not be accused of not doing his best for the cause. He chipped in with seven goals – tied for second in the team’s scoring charts –showing one aspect of why they failed.
 
15-16
 
May 8, 2015, will go down as one of the most memorable days in history for the writer. The Tories had won the general election with a majority (not that it would last long), TN10Y had its first podcast, and there was something to discuss with the appointment of Allan Johnston as manager.
 
Clearing the decks would be putting it lightly, as within a week of taking up the post he made the bold but correct decision of not re-signing a single player that was due to be out of contract. That meant 13 bodies shifting out across England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The key aspect being that every player was leaving to a team in a position that was in a worse off position than Dunfermline to start off with or at least came to be at the end of the following May.
 
The signings were slow to come in. Around the time of pre-season ending only Jason Talbot, Callum Fordyce, and Ben Richards-Everton had come in. The worry was that there was only one goalkeeper at the club: Cammy Gill, who was 17. Two weeks out from the opening game against Arbroath and the goalkeeper position had not been resolved. Only Michael Paton was added to the ranks.
 
Alas, the next week would fulfill the fanbase with the confidence and zeal that had been torn asunder over nearly the last half-decade. David Hutton and Sean Murdoch would come vying for the number one shirt. Although, that was small fry until the coup de grâce to any bad feeling around the club. The fan favourite, Joe Cardle, returned to East End Park.
 
From the off, it was to be an entertaining season as Dunfermline won 4-1, 5-1, 6-1 and 7-1 in succession. This seen them progress through the first round of both the challenge and League Cup. Yet, it came to an aburpt end with a 2-1 defeat at Balmoor. The Pars rebounded to what was their shining moment, and really the pivotal point for the fan base in which direction the club was going. That way was up.
 
Dundee visited the Kingdom of Fife in buoyant mood. A few months previous, Paul Hartley, had led them to the top half of the Premiership in their first outing back in the top-flight. They were not to have it their own way though, as Faissal El Bakhtaoui opened the scoring before the end of the first third of the half. Three minutes into the final period, the scourge of Kane Hemmings bore through once again, on the ground that he hurt Dunfermline a couple of seasons previous. Both he and Greg Stewart were not to have the last laugh once again, as the valiant defence stifled the Dee, and while they pushed they were picked off twice on the break late on through the French-Morrocan, and Cardle to progress the Fifers into the third round of the League Cup.
 
Dunfermline would bow out to Dundee United after extra time at Tannadice a month later, but it showed that the squad was on the right track when they were able to go toe-to-toe with Premiership opposition and not look out of place. This point is exemplified when they had Ross County on the ropes in their Scottish Cup encounter, but failed to down them with some lackadaisical finishing.
 
The Pars seemed to galvanize around Callum Fordyce’s horrific injury in the Ayr United defeat as they went 15 league games unbeaten before succumbing to Airdrieonians.
 
Ian McCal’s men had started tremendously well and never forfeited the top spot until the end of November. After that Johnston’s side breezed towards the title, and became the first team in either Scotland or England to win their division when it was sealed on March 26, against Brechin. It was a relief to all to return to the second tier after three stressful seasons milling about against part-time outfits.
 
Geggan, in a role that was familiar to him, had to take over the captaincy after Fordyce’s leg break which ruled him out of the season. He thrived as he was also to pitch in at right back until the arrival of Craig Reid in February due to Ryan Williamson’s lower leg injury, and Shaun Rooney’s distinct lack of form at full back. He also proved a goal threat, especially from set pieces. For the third consecutive season, he had in excessive of four league goals. He was rewarded by his peers as one of the best players in the division in the team of the year. Along with Richards-Everton and Cardle.
 
The last comment needs to go to El Bakhtaoui as he thrived as the season went on. 30 goals and every single award was bestowed on him for his efforts in what was a real coming out party for the attacker. While it would have been ideal to have played a campaign in the Championship before moving on to pastures new. It is hard to begrudge him his move to Dundee, especially now they are under Neil McCann who knows the ability of the player oh so well.
 
16-17
 
Lee Ashcroft and Nat Wedderburn came in before pre-season training to replace the outgoing Brad McKay and Josh Falkingham. Long term players such as Ryan Wallace and Shaun Byrne stayed in the division they had gained promotion from.
 
In the loan market: Gavin Reilly (Hearts), John Herron (Blackpool) and Paul McMullan (Celtic) joined with some excitement, but flattered to deceive, especially in the guise of the Jambo loanee to much disappointment.
 
After much deliberation and speculation, Faissal El Bakhtaoui, moved to Dundee with Paul Hartley impressed of what he seen first-hand. His replacement came late in the transfer window in the form of Nicky Clark who had moved to Bury earlier in the summer.
 
The pick of the bunch though was Kallum Higginbotham. In terms of ability he was above the rest of the squad with the ball at his feet.
 
It started off well with an untidy 4-3 win against Dumbarton that was more convincing than the scoreline suggests. That result may have made the fanbase believe that fourth spot should be a relative doddle. How wrong we were.
 
Five defeats on the spin ended any chance of the playoffs as the manner of the defeats kept getting worse and worse. Two self-inflicted wounds against Hibernian gifted them the win at Easter Road. Next was Raith Rovers at Stark’s where the Pars failed to trouble a hobbling goalkeeper and were beaten by a couple of goals. A defence cock up allowed Derek Lyle to net the only goal for Queen of the South. There was also having Cammy Bell saving three penalties in a half which will forever live in infamy as Athletic lost 3-1. Finally, was an average Greenock Morton side snatching all three points late at Cappielow.
 
What followed was another 4-3 win at home. On this occasion versus a St Mirren side that was keeping the bottom spot warm, and the only reason that Dunfermline was not in real trouble. Their first clean sheet resulted because of a draw with Ayr United. A deserved 2-1 defeat to Falkirk rounded out the first quarter of the league.
 
The problem in the opening nine games was losing too many games and the arse ache in the reverse fixtures was an plenty of draws, five to be precise. Although, there was movement away from the drop, and into the least acceptable position to Pars fans, seventh.
 
From there on out the Pars lost four in the second half of the campaign (they actually had more defeats in the first 10 matchdays (seven) than they had the rest of the way (five).
 
Athletic finished in fifth, four points away from the Ton in that last promotion playoff spot. As a result, they ended on a high rather than the downer of likely being eliminated in the quarter-final as Jim Duffy’s men were.
 
Geggan left at the end of the season on a more lucrative contract on a longer term deal. He had played, and scored the fewest times since his debut outing with the club. Regardless, he helped return Dunfermline to the level of competition that is acceptable, and he should be heralded for his efforts.

You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.

Dunfermline Athletic squad 2017/18

Transfers in – Summer

RB: Fraser Aird, 22 (Falkirk)
CB: Jean-Yves M’voto, 28 (Raith Rovers)
CM: Aaron Splaine, 20 (Stranraer)
SS: Dean Shiels, 32 (FC Edmonton)
CF: Andy Ryan, 22 (Airdrieonians)
CF: Declan McManus, 22 (Fleetwood Town)

Transfers out – Summer

GK: David Hutton, 33 (Arbroath)
RCB: Callum Fordyce, 24 (Queen of the South)
LCB: Ben Richards-Everton, 25 (Accrington Stanley)
DM: Andy Geggan, 30 (Ayr United)
CM: Lewis Spence, 21 (Dundee)
CM: Rhys McCabe, 24 (Sligo Rovers)

CF: Michael Moffat, 32 (Ayr United)

Loans out – Summer

CB: Stuart Morrison, 18 (Edinburgh City)
CM: Brandon Luke, 18 (Annan Athletic)
CM: Paul Allan, 17 (TBA)

Age as of May 31, 2018

Goalkeeper:
#1 Sean Murdoch, 31 (1.88m)
#20 Cammy Gill, 20 (1.79m)

Defence

Right Back:
#2 Ryan Williamson, 22 (1.86m)
#17 Fraser Aird, 23 (1.73m)

Centre Back:
#4 Jean-Yves M’voto, 29 (1.93m) 
#5 Callum Morris, 28 (1.91m)
#6 Lee Ashcroft, 24 (1.83m)

Left Back:
#3 Lewis Martin, 22 (1.88m)
#14 Jason Talbot, 32 (1.73m)

Midfield

Defensive:
#8 Nat Wedderburn, 26 (1.94m)

Right:
#15 Michael Paton, 29 (1.78m)

Central:
#13 Aaron Splaine, 21 (1.83m)

Left:
#18 Conner Duthie, 21 (1.82m)

Attacking:
#19 Scott Lochhead, 21 (1.73m)

Attack

Secondary Striker:
#12 David Hopkirk, 25 (1.80m)
#27 Dean Shiels, 33 (1.80m)

Right Wing:
#7 Kallum Higginbotham, 28 (1.78m)

Centre Forward:
#9 Declan McManus, 23 (1.81m)
#10 Nicky Clark, 26 (1.76m)
Andy Ryan, 23 (1.77m)
#23 Callum Smith, 18 (1.83m)

Left Winger:
#11 Joe Cardle, 31 (1.78m)

Depth Chart

GK: *Murdoch (vc), *Gill.
RB: *Williamson, Aird.
CB: Morris (c), Ashcroft, M’Voto.
LB: *Martin, Talbot.
DM: Wedderburn.
RM: Paton.

CM: Splaine.
LM: Duthie.
AM: Lochhead.
SS: Shiels, Hopkirk.
RW: Higginbotham.

CF: Clark, McManus, Ryan, *Smith.
LW: Cardle.

*denotes academy graduate.

Nationalties

Scottish: 14
English: 4
Northern Irish: 2
Canadian: 1

French: 1

Players that can multiple positions

RB/RM: Aird.
LCB/DM: Wedderburn.

LB/CB/RB: Martin.
CM/AM: Lochhead.
LW/SS/RW: Higginbotham.
SS/AM: Shiels.

SS/RW: Hopkirk.

Positional Breakdown
GK: 2
DEF: 7
RB: 2 CB: 3 LB: 2
MID: 5
DM: 1 RM: 1 CM: 1 LM: 1 AM: 1
FW: 8
SS: 2 RW: 1 CF: 4 LW: 1
Total: 22

Average Age
GK: 25.50 (51)
DEF: 25.71 (180)
RB: 22.5 CB: 25 LB: 27
MID: 23.60 (118)
DM: 26 RM: 29 CM: 21 LM: 21 AM: 21
ATT: 25.87 (207)
RW: 28 SS: 29 CF: 22.33 LW: 31
Total: 25.27 (556)

30 and over: four
Oldest: Shiels – 33

20 and under: two
Youngest: Smith – 18

Average Height (m)
GK: 1.83 (3.67)
DEF: 1.83 (12.87)
RB: 1.79 CB: 1.89 LB: 1.80
MID: 1.81 (9.07)
DM: 1.94 RM: 1.78 CM: 1.83 LM: 1.82 AM: 1.73
ATT: 1.79 (14.33)
RW: 1.78 SS: 1.80 CF: 1.79 LW: 1.78
Total: 1.81 (39.94)

Smallest: Aird, Lochhead and Talbot (1.73m)
Tallest: Wedderburn (1.94m)

Starting XI

Murdoch;
Williamson, Ashcroft, Morris, Martin;
Higginbotham, Paton, Wedderburn, Cardle;
McManus, Clark.

Average Age: 26.36 (290)
Average Height: 1.83m (20.21m)

Oldest XI

Murdoch;
Aird, Morris, M’Voto, Talbot;
Paton, Shiels, Wedderburn;
Higginbotham, Clark, Cardle.

Average Age: 28.72 (316)
Average Height: 1.82m (20.02m)

Youngest XI

Gill;
Williamson, Ashcroft, Wedderburn, Martin;
Aird, Lochhead, Splaine, Duthie;
Ryan, Smith.

Average Age: 21.90 (241)
Average Height: 1.81m (19.97m)

Contracted for 2018/19

Andy Ryan
Callum Smith
Cammy Gill
Paul Allan
Sean Murdoch
Stuart Morrison


You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.