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.

Five things we learned about Dunfermline Athletic in the Betfred Cup

 

  1. Good to shake their penalty hoodoo 

    In the past two seasons, Dunfermline had hovered around the 30% mark in penalties and had over 20 attempted during Allan Johnston’s reign at the club. There is little rhyme nor reason why the Pars players could not hit the net from 12 yards out. However, we witnessed instances of having three penalties saved in a half, two spot kicks saved within a couple of minutes, and going scoreless in a Scottish Cup shootout.Roll around to this season’s League Cup and Athletic had not one but two victories after 90 minutes, winning 9-8 over East Fife and 3-1 against Hearts; netting their first 11 pens.

    Hopefully, this is a case of what is to come, as undoubtedly in the last campaign, the Fifers dropped more than enough points to cost them a potential Premiership playoff spot.

     

  2. Improvement has been made with the centre forwards 

    All three strikers got off the mark in the opening three matches. Nicky Clark bagged four against Elgin while young Callum Smith also took his opportunity against City then Declan McManus grabbed a brace against Peterhead and what was looking like the winner at Tynecastle. The departed, Michael Moffat had never scored against a Premiership club during his time at the club.Yes, outside of the Jambos you can question the level of competition, giving the fact that two of the three teams netted against reside two divisions below themselves. However, McManus looks as though he has got that confidence boost that he needs and unless another centre forward makes their way into the club, he will be asked to reach double figures in the league to do his part in helping Dunfermline into the playoffs.

    Smith is a great prospect. To have an assist on his first start for the club in the capital and on television is special. Clark will be the main striker having brought his tally to 20 goals in 40 games within less than a year since his move from Bury.

     

  3. The starting line-up has real promotion playoff potential

    Six of last year’s most used starting 11 have played the majority of this year’s League Cup. Those six being: Sean Murdoch, Lee Ashcroft, Lewis Martin, Nat Wedderburn, Kallum Higginbotham and Nicky Clark.
    You can also point at the fact that Callum Morris has taken over the captaincy, and was Lee Ashcroft’s partner at centre back when he arrived back at the club in January. So, he is already embedded.

    There is also Joe Cardle, who was the most used substitute last season. Although, he has found himself back in starting from kick off due to Paul McMullan signing for Dundee United.

    Ryan Williamson has been trusted, once again with starting the season at right back, and it is his position to lose as he had done last season and unfortunately in the previous two due to injury. 

    What that means is that the inclusion of Michael Paton in the centre of midfield and Declan McManus up front are the only vast changes to the previous campaign, so far. With less than a week left before the Championship begins, Johnston is two or three signings away from completing the squad. One of them certainly has to be a central midfielder, a number eight in the form of Andy Geggan, a ball winning midfielder. Alas, the number of available names is dwindling, and Johnston will not want to be left signing a player just to make up the numbers.

     

  4. Dunfermline has its best bench options for many a year 

    In his first couple of outings, Johnston would have been tasked with getting them out of the third tier and obtaining a respectful position in the Championship. Both were achieved: with winning the title and finishing fifth; not far off of Greenock Morton, a side which they bettered on three of the four occasions. Without a doubt, this is Johnston’s squad. The only player still at the club he did not sign or came through the youth set-up is David Hopkirk, who he deemed good enough to reward with a two-year contract after the success of the League One campaign. Hopkirk to be an impact sub off the bench with the arrival of Dean Shiels, who will strengthen the number 10 role, adding quality to the position.Aaron Splaine and Jean-Yves M’voto look to be bench players for the departed Ben Richards-Everton and Lewis Spence. You can identify the thinking behind taking M’Voto over Richards-Everton from a pure ability standpoint. Without a doubt “Big Ben” will go on to have a great career if he can build on his strength and being less reliant on his pace to recover after having a lapse of concentration. However, Raith Rovers’ player of the season is extremely strong and will get his forehead on an aerial ball to clear it without any problem. The only big negative is that he is not even average when playing the ball with his feet. Spence, oddly never seemed to be fancied by Johnston and Splaine is held in high regard to the former Queen of the South manager who also took him to Kilmarnock from the Dumfries based club.

    Those are three options that can change a game depending on the situation. When you add Cammy Gill, as the backup goalkeeper, learning from a leader in Sean Murdoch, Jason Talbot as the experienced full back, Michael Paton who can play out wide or more centrally and the teenager, Callum Smith. You have a great balance of older heads that can see out a match and cultivate the future of the club by giving them opportunities to impress.

     

  5. Perfect preparation to start the league campaign. 

    A couple of wins from four and two penalty wins from two, scoring 13, conceding three; one being from a penalty, another from a mix up at a set piece and another a mistake. It shows that Dunfermline has been hard to break down and that the weakness in the defending is the capability to self-inflict damage upon itself. Yet, that aspect of the game can be self-remedied rather than needing intensive coaching to rectify.In other tidbits that are positive:

    Scott Lochhead has been impressive in his cameos, and that has diminished the need to acquire two central midfielders when one will do.

    Callum Morris has comfortably taken on the role of a captain, and not let it adversely affect his game.


You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.

Match preview: Heart of Midlothian versus Dunfermline Athletic

The top two seeds in the Betfred Cup will take the pitch in the capital tomorrow mid-afternoon with the winners guaranteed to progress to the round of 16.

Both sides find themselves in this precarious situation due to a previous slip up in the competition. The Pars being held to a spot kick victory over East Fife while the Jambos suffered defeat to a late Rory McAllister penalty in Peterhead. If they had kept an unblemished record then they could be confident that they would both progress: win, lose or draw.

Athletic will undoubtedly be underdogs given their position in Scottish football and adding to the fact that this will be attempt number 28 in 27 years to win at Tynecastle, it is a tall task.

Kickoff time, ticket prices and where to watch

Ticket prices:

Adults – £15
Concessions – £5

Match information:

Saturday 29 July, 15:00pm at Tynecastle.
Live on BT Sport 1 from 14:30pm.

Team news

Hearts:

Ashley Smith-Brown (injured).

Dunfermline:

David Hopkirk and Nicky Clark (injured).

Referee

Craig Thomson.

What Hearts are saying

“It is disappointing relating to the cup, not the league at this point. We wanted to go top of the table, but we have not done that. The demand was always on ourselves to try and win the match on Saturday, but now we know we have to win to go through, so that is where our focus is.” (Ian Cathro, head coach)

What Dunfermline are saying

“We have to make sure that we put a bit of pressure on them because results have not gone their way and Hearts are used to being up the top of the table and challenging at the top of the league so we have to make sure that we quieten the crowd.” (Allan Johnston, manager)

Line ups last time out

Table

Screen Shot 2017-07-27 at 20.07.49

Former Dunfermline players

Paul Gallacher (2007-09 and 11-13)

Former Hearts players

David Hopkirk (2012)

Last five meetings

Premiership:

07/04/12. Dunfermline 1-2 Hearts
17/12/11. Hearts 4-0 Dunfermline
15/10/11. Dunfermline 0-2 Hearts

League Cup:

23/09/09. Hearts 2-1 Dunfermline
25/09/07. Hearts 1-1 Dunfermline

Keys to the game

At the moment, the state of Tynecastle’s main stand is symbolic of Ian Cathro’s tenure as Hearts manager. The installation was met with unease, even though the club was prepared for modernisation. However, the emotion of warmth that was previously felt dissipated into something cold; as what the fans have come to face is something unrecognisable to them compared to the not so distant past. Now the head coach is at the stage where he (like the renovated stand) has the foundation and shell of what they want is in place but what makes it whole is missing. Tynecastle should be there long after many of us have gone. Yet, fans feel that Cathro’s reign at the club should be finished before the stand is. Especially, if the Jam Tarts do not qualify.

Athletic have rarely – if at all – came up against a 3-4-3 under Allan Johnston and it may pose a lot of problems for them. For example, Isma may cause Williamson problems if he drifts into the vacated space that the right back allows when pushing forward in attack. This would give him free rein to run at Callum Morris, and allow Kyle Lafferty to create space in the box when being marked up by Lee Ashcroft. The Northern Ireland international has scored in every Betfred Cup game, including a brace against East Fife.

The Pars will likely primarily stick to a 4-4-1-1 with Dean Shiels buzzing around Declan McManus, who will be asked to do a lot on his own as the newest recruit will likely help a lot in midfield against (going on Tuesday’s team) Don Cowie and Prince Buaben. The loss of Nicky Clark for four to six weeks with an ankle injury does hamper Dunfermline significantly, given the fact that he is the primary goalscorer. However, this does give McManus the opportunity to build on Saturday’s double against Peterhead.

Prediction

Hearts 2-1 Dunfermline

Odds

Hearts 5/11 Draw 4/1 Dunfermline Athletic 13/2

Best bet

Both teams to score @ evens.


You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.

Match preview: Dunfermline Athletic versus Peterhead

Both sides will be aiming for full points as they look to pick up one of the four best runner-up spots to gain qualification to the round of 16.

Dunfermline stuttered to a 9-8 victory over East Fife on Tuesday after a 6-0 victory versus Elgin, while Peterhead had their off day after a 1-0 win against the same opponents last Saturday.

Kickoff time, ticket prices and where to watch

Ticket prices:

Adults – £10
Concessions – £5

Match information:

Saturday 22 July, 15:00pm at East End Park.

Team news

Dunfermline Athletic:

David Hopkirk (injured) and Jason Talbot (match fitness).

Peterhead:

None.

Referee

Bobby Madden.

What Dunfermline Athletic are saying

“It is a good opportunity at home, playing against Peterhead. We will have a right go but that should suit us as well. We have been lucky with the fixtures getting Elgin and Peterhead at home, I would not have fancied those journeys and it important we get a result to take into the last game against Hearts.” (Allan Johnston, manager)

What Peterhead are saying

“We have got good options now with the shapes we can play and the bodies we can bring on although in the next two games we will be chasing the ball for big parts so that will be a different test. But we have just beaten a team from the league we have just come from so that was pleasing.” (Jim McInally, manager)

Line ups last time out

Table

Screen Shot 2017-07-21 at 12.48.56

Former Dunfermline Athletic players

Greg Fleming (2009-10)
Wullie Gibson (2009-11)
Allan Smith (2013-15)

Last four meetings

League One:

30/04/16. Dunfermline 1-0 Peterhead
23/01/16. Peterhead 0-0 Dunfermline
07/11/15. Dunfermline 0-0 Peterhead
22/08/15. Peterhead 2-1 Dunfermline

Keys to the game

Rory McAllister netted the winner in the Blue Toon’s season opening fixture against East Fife. This was his 146th goal since arriving from Brechin in June 2011. With that record it was no surprise that Ray McKinnon sought his signature in the last pre-season transfer window. The centre forward had been one of a few players that can be proud of their own personal efforts in trying to keep McInally’s side in League One.

Peterhead had scored five goals in the seven games that McAllister featured in against Dunfermline when they shared a division in 2014 until 2016, two of those came from their talisman. Fortunately, the Pars also have a track record of keeping the plumber quiet with three clean sheets over that same period. Neutralising the threat he poses will increase the Fifers’ chance of winning the match in which they are already favoured. And under Johnston, the east enders have a good record of keeping part-time teams scoreless.  29 instances from 55 occassions, including two from two in this campaign’s League Cup.

Taking chances remains the sticking point for Athletic, five on target from 17 shots against a depleted East Fife. Last Saturday when they won 6-0 versus Elgin City it was 12 OT from 23. That yields a 15% goal conversion which is average at best, especially when facing inferior defences compared to what they will come up against when the Championship starts in a fortnight.

Prediction

Dunfermline 2-0 Peterhead

Odds

Dunfermline 4/11 Draw 24/5 Peterhead 19/2

Best bet

Dunfermline -1 @ 10/11


You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.

Match preview: East Fife versus Dunfermline Athletic

A Fife derby is upon us this summer’s evening with real implications in the Betfred Cup, as the Pars aim to keep their 100% record going and be two-thirds of the way to reaching the round of 16.

Darren Young’s side are realistically facing elimination if they do not secure three points after recent relegated Peterhead defeated them 1-0 at Balmoor. Circumstances depleted the Methil outfit on Saturday as the former Albion Rovers manager could only name four substitutes.

Young may take solace in the fact he was able to field six of his nine new signings, including Paul Willis, who he brought over with him from the Wee Rovers. Recent acquisitions, Kyle Wilson and Thomas Cordery made up half of the available subs.

Athletic do not have the same squad depth problems as their part-time opponents, and they have in-fact strengthened their first team on Monday with the addition of Dean Shiels. His attacking traits will give Young more to worry about in his preparation, as he has no doubt assiduously watched Athletic’s 6-0 win over Elgin City with a sense of quandary in how to set up his starting 11.

Kickoff time, ticket prices and where to watch

Ticket prices:

Adults – £15
Concessions – £12
Kids (under 16) – £5

Match information:

Tuesday 18 July, 19:45pm at Bayview Stadium.

Team news

East Fife:

Chris Kane, Jonathan Page, Kevin Smith, Kyle Wilkie and Mark Lamont (injured).
Kieran Millar (suspension).

Dunfermline Athletic:

Aaron Splaine, David Hopkirk and Jason Talbot (injured).

Referee

Gavin Ross.

Games refereed:

First this season.

What East Fife are saying

“We could have got something from the game but we were a bit short going forward and we are working on changing that. Dunfermline got off to a flying start against Elgin and they will take confidence from that. This is a derby so we need our defence to do a good job.” (Darren Young, manager)

What Dunfermline Athletic are saying

“Our aim is to go up this year and you can see with the ability that we have in the squad with Higgy and Joe in the wide areas and look at Michael Paton getting a goal as well. The boys at the back were great. We know that it is only a start, we have to keep going, working hard to get where we want to be at the end of the season.” (Nicky Clark, centre forward)

Line ups last time out

Table

Screen Shot 2017-07-17 at 10.04.31

Former Dunfermline Athletic players

Darren Young (2003-08)
Paul Willis (2008-13)
Chris Kane (2012-14)
Jonathan Page (2014-15)

Last five meetings

League One:

22/03/2014. Dunfermline Athletic 1-2 East Fife
01/02/2014. East Fife 1-3 Dunfermline Athletic
19/10/2013. Dunfermline Athletic 1-2 East Fife
10/08/2013. East Fife 0-1 Dunfermline Athletic

League Cup:

23/08/2011. East Fife 2-1 Dunfermline Athletic

Keys to the game

As expected, Dunfermline performs better against part-time opposition under Allan Johnston with a win percentage of 70.37%. Yet, the more interesting statistic shows that the Pars have a 12% better win percentage on artificial turf rather than grass. The Bayview pitch was recently laid with a 3G surface after being a grass field for 18 years.

One of the reasons behind the jump in win percentage on the “plastic” is the style of play that Johnston has implemented. His brand of football accounts for quicker movement of the ball on the ground when in possession and an emphasis on counter attacking when the opponent gets near their box.

While it has been a few years, and under completely different management when these sides last competed. Johnston and Young have had four battle of wits while in League One when Athletic and Albion took to the park.

Young tended to field a 4-4-1-1, which could easily morph into a 4-5-1 or a 4-2-3-1 when necessary. It appears he has adopted a similar approach on his journey from the west to the east of the country. Johnston has always stuck staunchly to 4-4-2 and expect to see much of the same tonight.

Elgin were impervious to the attacking formation. Especially, out on the right where a couple of the goals were created through Kallum Higginbotham, who had three assists in total. They could not keep on top of Nicky Clark who managed to get off a hat-trick of headers without much of a tussle for the sub six footer.

The combination of Higginbotham and Ryan Williamson on the right side of the pitch work well seeing as the right back likes to hit the byline while the Englishman enjoys coming inside for a wider passing range. Both are players who came up against Mark Docherty, Dumbarton’s left back, last season.

Defensive midfielder, Patrick Slattery, will have to ease as much pressure on the back-line as possible to give East Fife a chance to take something from the match. And to his credit, Young does manage to set up his sides to be extremely difficult to be broken down and get thumped by three or more goals. The prime example is that instance happened on three occasions, only his present club had fewer occurrences of being bodied (2).

Prediction

East Fife 1-3 Dunfermline Athletic

Odds

East Fife 50/13 Draw 35/12 Dunfermline Athletic 3/4

Best bet

Dunfermline -1 @ 19/10


You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.

Group B Betfred Cup preview

Dunfermline Athletic start their 2017/18 season this Saturday at East End Park in the Betfred Cup against League Two, Elgin City.

The Pars begin as the team most likely to finish as runners-up. As a result, there is a strong likelihood they progress as one of the four best (from the eight) second placed clubs.

Peterhead will take on East Fife in the other fixture played on the weekend, with Heart of Midlothian sitting out the opening match day.

Next up sees the Championship outfit cross along the coast to Methil to play their fellow Fifers while Hearts make the journey north to Moray on what – for them – is hopefully a sunny Tuesday evening against the Black and Whites.

Saturday, 22 July will be the date that Peterhead visits Dunfermline since their 1-0 loss 15 months in League One as East Fife goes to Tynecastle for their first official game with the Jam Tarts this century.

The following midweek will bear witness to the Fife’s last scheduled tie of the tournament at home to City as the Jambos head up the A90 once again to the Blue Toon.

A potential group decider with Athletic travelling across the Forth Road Bridge to the Auld Reekie and an all League Two encounter rounds out the round robin format.

Notable transfers

Dunfermline
ins –  Aaron Splaine, Declan McManus and Jean-Yves M’voto.
outs – Andy Geggan, Callum Fordyce, Lewis Spence, Michael Moffat and Rhys McCabe.

East Fife
ins – Kieran Miller, Mark Docherty and Paul Willis.
outs – Ross Brown and Scott Robinson.

Elgin 
ins – Calum Ferguson and Jon-Paul McGovern.
outs – Keiran Stewart.

Hearts 
ins – Christophe Berra, Cole Stockton, Kyle Lafferty, Michael Smith and Rafal Grzelak.
outs – Billy King, Callum Paterson, Gavin Reilly, Perry Kitchen and Sam Nicholson.

Peterhead 
ins – David McCracken, Greg Fleming, Mason Robertson and Wullie Gibson.
outs – Craig Reid, Grant Anderson, Jamie Redman, Nathan Blockley and Steve Noble.

Betting odds

Group B winners:

Hearts – 2/7
Dunfermline – 5/1
East Fife – 16/1
Peterhead – 20/1
Elgin – 22/1

Match day one:

Dunfermline 4/11 Draw 9/2 Elgin 8/1
Peterhead 8/5 Draw 29/10 East Fife 14/9

Winners:

Celtic – 13/8
Rangers – 7/1
Aberdeen – 8/1
Hearts – 20/1


You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.