Why Dunfermline Athletic struggled in the last five games

Since September, 23rd, the Pars have only won one game (Livingston, 3-1 at East End Park on October 21).

In the midst of that run, they have been defeated by Dundee United, Falkirk and Inverness Caledonian Thistle, drew with Queen of the South and most recently the Bairns.

Over that time Joe Cardle had been missing from the starting line-up until last Saturday and that has had an negative affect on Dunfermline’s attack; Kallum Higginbotham in particular. The English winger has not had an assist since the 3-0 win over lowly Brechin. 

Teams are focusing their attention more on the sole creator in that line-up over the last month and a half. Something that opponents had been unable to do when both he and Cardle are present.

The simplest reason why Dunfermline are found wanting for points is that they are not creating the quality of quantity of chances they were over the opening seven games. It has dropped from 11.85 shots per game to 6.80 and on target from 6.28 to 2.40. This has seen the goals per game drop from three to one while the opposition has stayed at a single goal over the dozen fixtures. Although, the opposition is converting on fewer shots, but testing Sean Murdoch more often.

Allan Johnston’s style is attacking on the counter through the flanks, but there needs to be more emphasis on a plan B which may mean a different formation. For example, a 4-2-3-1. Aaron Splaine and Nat Wedderburn holding with Dean Shiels playing off the centre forward (whoever you fancy). Especially, with all the strikers out of form, it may at the very least make Dunfermline unpredictable for the first time in a while.

 

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Match preview: Falkirk versus Dunfermline Athletic

 

Kickoff time and where to watch

Match information:

Saturday 4 November 15:00pm at Falkirk Stadium.

Team news

Falkirk:

No news.

Dunfermline Athletic:

David Hopkirk, Joe Cardle and Michael Paton (match fitness).

Referee

Craig Thomson.

Games reffed invoking either side this season:

Hearts 2-2 Dunfermline Athletic (1-3 on pens) (2Y)
Dunfermline Athletic 3-0 St Mirren (6Y, 1Y/R, 1R)

What Falkirk are saying

“I am pleased to be able to bring Louis [Longridge] into the club. He is a player with a good pedigree having played a number of games in the Premiership. He is quick and will hopefully add a different dimension to our strike-force. We need to score more goals to help us climb the table and I believe Louis to be capable of helping us do just that. Louis joined us for training this morning and will go straight into contention for Saturday’s match against Dunfermline.” (Paul Hartley, manager)

What Dunfermline Athletic are saying

“When I first came to the club that was one of the things I noticed. There is such a big rivalry that both clubs are desperate to outdo each other. It is Falkirk who have had the upper hand over the last couple of years. It is important that we turn it around this year, get the results and performances against them to kick on.” (Allan Johnston, manager)

Line ups last time out

Table

Screen Shot 2017-11-03 at 12.44.30

Other fixtures

Screen Shot 2017-11-03 at 12.44.22

Former Falkirk players

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

Former Dunfermline Athletic players

Mark Kerr (2012)

Last six meetings

Championship:

19/08/17. Dunfermline Athletic 3-1 Falkirk
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

Challenge Cup:

07/10/17. Falkirk 2-0 Dunfermline Athletic

Stats

 

 

Offence (goals) –

Falkirk: 10th (8)
Dunfermline Athletic: 1st (25)

Defence (goals) –

Falkirk: 9th (18)
Dunfermline Athletic: 1st (11)

Clean Sheets (number of) –

Falkirk: 2nd (4)
Dunfermline Athletic: 2nd (4)

Home/away table –

Falkirk: 9th
Dunfermline Athletic: 4th

Home/away goal average –

Falkirk: 1.50
Dunfermline Athletic: 2.50

Home/away both teams scored:

Falkirk: 33%
Dunfermline Athletic: 33%

Prediction

Falkirk 1-2 Dunfermline Athletic

Odds

Falkirk: 1.42
Draw: 2.50
Dunfermline Athletic: 2.20

Best bet

Over 2.5 goals: 1.00


You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.

Match preview: Inverness Caledonian Thistle versus Dunfermline Athletic

You can dictate stats in some cases to prove a black and white point. For instance, the Caley Jags have picked up more points in the previous three games than the Pars. Hence, they are in better form.

Yet, you look at the results, a win versus a Dundee United team that had been underperforming and now manageress, a draw against Falkirk in Paul Hartley’s first game in charge, and a 0-0 at home to a part-time Dumbarton outfit. The problem is those games have only done enough to keep them standing still as the table is getting cut into three; six teams gunning for those coveted top four positions, three seeking to stay out the relegation playoff, and Brechin City propping them all up.

It would take a remarkable turn around in long-term form to see them trouble those looking for that fourth position. Defeating the holders of that spot last Saturday was a marquee result in their poor season. However, they need to follow that up with a victory via a confident title contender to have any belief that this campaign is going to be anything better than mid-table mediocrity, at best.

Kickoff time, ticket prices and where to watch

Ticket prices:

Screen Shot 2017-10-20 at 10.45.47

Match information:

Saturday 28 October 15:00pm at Tulloch Caledonian Stadium.

Team news

Inverness Caledonian Thistle:

Aaron Doran and Zak Elbouzedi (match fitness).
Alex Cooper (doubt, ankle injury).

Dunfermline Athletic:

David Hopkirk (general fitness).
Joe Cardle and Michael Paton (match fitness).

Referee

Kevin Clancy.

Games reffed invoking either side this season:

Greenock Morton 3-2 Dunfermline Athletic (6Y, 1 pen)

What Inverness Caledonian Thistle are saying

“They have great wide players in Cardle, Higginbotham and Aird. They work extremely hard at the back too. They’re a good side, it’s a team that’s evolved over three or four years and it’s taken us a while to bed 13 new signings in very quickly to try and compete with these sides, but we are starting to get up to speed.” (John Robertson, manager)

What Dunfermline Athletic are saying

“If you look at their last four games I do not think that they have lost a goal. It just shows you that they are defending a lot better. They have a lot of good players – guys like Polworth and Tremarco who even from left back scored a few goals in the Premier League. They have a lot of guys who have played in the Premier League so it is going to be a real test but it is one that we go into full of confidence.” (Allan Johnston, manager)

Line ups last time out

Table

Screen Shot 2017-10-23 at 14.47.06

Other fixtures

Screen Shot 2017-10-20 at 10.46.34

Former Inverness Caledonian Thistle players

Nat Wedderburn (2015-16)

Former Dunfermline Athletic players

Brad McKay (2016)

Last eight meetings

Championship:

12/08/17. Dunfermline Athletic 5-1 Inverness Caledonian Thistle

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

Stats

Offence (goals) –

Inverness Caledonian Thistle: 6th (12)
Dunfermline Athletic: 1st (25)

Defence (goals) –

Inverness Caledonian Thistle: 9th (16)
Dunfermline Athletic: 1st (10)

Clean Sheets (number of) –

Inverness Caledonian Thistle: 1st (4)
Dunfermline Athletic: 1st (4)

Home/away table –

Inverness Caledonian Thistle: 9th
Dunfermline Athletic: 2nd

Home/away goal average –

Inverness Caledonian Thistle: 1.75
Dunfermline Athletic: 2.80

Home/away both teams scored:

Inverness Caledonian Thistle: 50%
Dunfermline Athletic: 40%

Prediction

Inverness Caledonian Thistle 0-1 Dunfermline Athletic

Odds

Inverness Caledonian Thistle: 1.68
Draw: 2.50
Dunfermline Athletic: 1.69

Best bet

Dunfermline Athletic to win: 1.69 


You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.

Dunfermline’s first quarter of the season review: the good, the bad and the ugly

The good: second place.

Dunfermline Athletic culminated their trio of friendlies with a 3-0 defeat to Raith Rovers at Stark’s Park. The usual suspects saw this as a way to overact with the doom-mongers out in force to dispel their thoughts on this season going to go about as well as last. After the 2016/17 outing, moving up one place into fourth was the minimum expected by the fans of the club with any higher being viewed as a job well done.

The League Cup came and qualification through second would have been accepted as a solid start to the competitive campaign. Due to the complete ineptitude of Heart of Midlothian, the Pars went on to top the group with a penalty shootout victory over the Jam Tarts. Third then became the benchmark of what a majority of Athletic supporters believed was a sensible pre-Championship prediction.

A dire performance to newly promoted Livingston was seen as a disappointment. The draw was not the disappointment, it was the manner of the result, which could have been worse if it was not for Sean Murdoch saving a penalty. Dunfermline was abject and a single point was more than they deserved. To put that result into perspective, only table-topping St Mirren have faired better at Almondvale.

Five wins from the next seven, scoring 21 and conceding eight showed that this team has the makings of a title contender. Especially, when you can see they garner a great number of clean sheets; three out of five on the road.

The average second place point tally since the Championship came into being is 68, Allan Johnston’s side is a quarter of the way there after nine games; four of them at home. Falkirk also accrued 17 points and was third at this stage of the season in 2016 and went on to finish 2nd. In 2014, Dundee also had the same tally as Dunfermline and went on to win the league. To put their current situation in perspective, after nine games last season, Dunfermline was eighth with 10 fewer points than today.

The bad: Joe Cardle injury.

The left winger has played 438 minutes in which he netted six times (most in the division) and assisted a further three times in the first five games of the season.

In the 18th minute he went off with a hamstring injury against St Mirren when the game was scoreless, and the Pars went on to win 3-0.

Discarding the Brechin result, Dunfermline have only found the net once in 180 minutes, a goal against Dundee United.

Allan Johnston identified the reason the goals have been slowing for the Pars by saying: “If I am being totally honest, Joe Cardle has been a massive loss to us on that left-hand side. We have had boys playing out of position, looking to fill areas, and we have yet to find that balance. We need to get back to being a goal threat. We have not been putting as many crosses in recently, which was a big part of our play, and we need to start taking shots and working the keeper.”

The former Airdrie winger is back in training with a emphasis on a return to full fitness this week.

The ugly: capitulation against Greenock Morton.

2-0 up and coasting at half-time only to go on and lose 3-2 is lamentable in the professional game. Especially, when all three goals were unforgivable errors:

  • Handling a ball launched into a wall to give Gary Harkins a second free kick attempt closer to goal.
  • A lazy backpass that was never going to reach the goalkeeper.
  • Being unable to decipher the course of a long ball and leaving Jai Quitongo one on one with the goalkeeper in the final minute.

Losing to last year’s fourth placed team on their patch is no disgrace in itself, but the manner in which to chuck it away may be one of a handful of results that impede the club from being champions to toiling through the playoff slog.


You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.

Match Preview: Dunfermline Athletic versus Livingston

11 weeks after opening the season in West Lothian, both sides will do it all again as established title contenders.

Livi is the surprise package of the Championship. A third tier champion has not performed as well as this after nine games since Rangers in 2014. To put it in perspective, Dunfermline (the previous champions) were flirting with the bottom two spots at the same stage of that season in which they find themselves at today.

A win for either team will keep them near the summit of the table; nonetheless, neither team will fall out of the top four with defeat.

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 21st, 15:00 at East End Park.

Team news

Dunfermline Athletic:

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

Livingston:

Declan Gallagher (suspended).

Referee

Andrew Dallas (11 games, 34 yellows, two yellow/reds, six penalties).

What Dunfermline Athletic are saying

“It is going to be a really hard game. We knew from the start of the season when we first played them that they have a lot of good players, they have a style that suits them. They mix their game up sometimes they pass, sometimes they go long. They have a lot of height and we will have to put in a really good performance because obviously they are ahead of us in the table and it would be a great one to go and win and stay in touch with St Mirren at the top.” (Allan Johnston, manager)

What Livingston are saying

“We are second in the league, only three points behind the leader St Mirren, and the mood in the team is not good. We do not forget, however, that we are coming from a lower division and that we are facing very heavy matches. But in every one we go out for victory. We work hard, we support and strive, despite good results, to stand firmly on the ground. We do not have goals set, but the desire of everyone is to get as many points as possible and to be as good as possible.” (Nikolay Todorov, centre back/centre forward)

Line ups last time out

Table

Screen Shot 2017-10-15 at 15.11.12

Complete fixture list

Screen Shot 2017-10-03 at 14.15.57

Former Dunfermline Athletic players

Scott Robinson (2016)
Shaun Byrne (2008-16)

Former Livingston players

Jason Talbot (2008-15)

Last five meetings

Championship:

05/08/17: Livingston 1-1 Dunfermline Athletic

First Division:

30/03/13: Livingston 1-1 Dunfermline Athletic
26/01/13: Dunfermline Athletic 0-1 Livingston
08/12.12: Livingston 2-1 Dunfermline Athletic
22/09/12: Dunfermline Athletic 4-0 Livingston

Keys to the game

Dunfermline has the best defence and offence in the league, Livingston is not far behind with the third best offence and fourth best defence. That does not mean this will be a drab 0-0. The average goals per match in this division is 2.76, both sides exceed that stat.

Errors in their own half are the biggest proponent of why the Pars are conceded at a rate of a goal a game. Seven of the nine goals have come directly from a mistake, free kick or second phase set play. Rarely do they allow space for attackers to get off a clear goalscoring opportunity. The last time these teams played, Livi found the net from a short corner and missed from the spot. They have since gone on to score in every game since (the only team to do so).

The Lions can prey on Athletic’s weaknesses just by playing their natural game. Hopkin likes a direct approach from his squad, and that can mean launching long balls into the channels that force the centre backs out to deal with them, scavenging on the loose ball and pepper the goal from there. 

Prediction

Dunfermline Athletic 2-1 Livingston

Odds

Dunfermline Athletic: 1.18
Draw: 2.60
Livingston: 2.48

Best bet

Dunfermline to win and both teams to score: 2.94


You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.

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).

Referee

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

Table

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

Championship:

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%

Prediction

Queen of the South 1-2 Dunfermline Athletic

Odds

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.