Match preview: Dunfermline Athletic versus Queen of the South

December 1, 2016, was the date Gary Naysmith was appointed as manager of the Dumfries based club. In the 12 months, the former Scotland international has kept Queens in mid-table stasis. However, to start his second year in charge, the Doonhamers are now positioned on the doorstep of the Premiership playoffs. Due in part to their positive results and the fallow period the Pars are enduring.

Allan Johnston has seen his side win once (Livingston at home) in almost 49 days, picking up seven points since they previously beat Brechin City in mid-September and rank eighth in the form table over the previous eight games. Queen of the South fair six points better; only Livi, St Mirren, and Dundee United have superior results.

With a victory, QoS has the opportunity to enter the top four at this stage of the season for the first time since 2014 where they eventually ended up in fourth.

Athletic will be hoping that they can round out the opening 18 fixtures of the campaign with a clean sweep of victories to keep them in the running for the runner-up spot. Yet, this is no easy beginning to the last three matches before Christmas.

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 9 December 15:00pm at East End Park.

Team news

Dunfermline Athletic:

Andy Ryan (fitness).

Queen of the South:

Callum Fordyce and Daniel Carmichael (hamstring).

Referee

Willie Collum.

Games reffed involving either side:

Hamilton academical 0-0 (7-6 PEN) Queen of the South (1Y)

What Dunfermline are saying

“This Saturday is a massive chance, obviously Queen of the South are up there as well and they have a lot of quality players, none more so than Stephen Dobbie. I went to see them a couple of weeks ago against Dumbarton and some of his flashes of skill were outstanding. He has a lot of experience and quality and we have to make sure that we snuff him out. We have a lot of good players as well so hopefully we can hurt them going the other way.  Hopefully at home we can put in a right good performance, get the crowd right behind us and get the goals that we are all looking for.” (Allan Johnston, manager)

What Queen of the South are saying

We’ve been sitting around the play-off places for much of the season now and as we head towards the end of the calendar year, we want to try to pick up points in every game we play in to keep ourselves in the mix.  We go into this game knowing that a win would take us above Dunfermline in the table.  There is no bigger incentive for the players.” (Gary Naysmith, manager)

Line ups last time out

 

Table

Screen Shot 2017-12-06 at 14.37.21

Complete fixture list

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Former Dunfermline Athletic players

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

Former Queen of the South players

Michael Paton (2008)
Nicky Clark (2011-13)

Last five meetings

Championship:

14/10/17. Queen of the South 0-0 Dunfermline Athletic.
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

Prepare for the two up top and four at the back:

Athletic have only strayed from starting with one centre forward, and that was last week against Dundee United through extenuating circumstances. QoS have only done so twice, and that was against part-time teams, winning once against Brechin and drawing with Dumbarton.

Do not be surprised if it turns into a goal fest:

While only one of the previous five encounters have exceeded two goals, matches involving Queens on the road have yielded three goals per game, fourth highest in the division. As for the Pars, their seven home fixtures have seen the ball netted 27 times, only matches at St Mirren Park can boast to have seen more (29), albeit in one extra match.

The Pars are a different team at home:

Third best home record, fourth worst away record. Only the Buddies have a bigger drop off in points. The difference appears to be in the number of goals they score at East End Park, 2.57 per match compared to 1.5 outwith Fife.

Prediction

Dunfermline Athletic 1-0 Queen of the South

Odds

Dunfermline Athletic: 1.37
Draw: 2.56
Queen of the South: 2.40

Best bet

Dunfermline Athletic to win: 1.37


You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.

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Match preview: Dundee United versus Dunfermline Athletic

In what is the game of the weekend in the second tier, both teams will be looking at this fixture as a must win for a myriad of reasons. the most pertinent being that each manager needs a starting point to go on a run of successful results.

Csaba Laszlo could do with three points against a good outfit at this level for perception to change that he has had a stuttering start to his job. Giving the recent past, he could not pick a better opponent to end November than the Pars. The reason being is that Allan Johnston had defeated 11 out of the 13 teams in the Championship over his first 46 games in the division, the outliers being their opponents and last season’s champions Hibernian.

Athletic could do with beating the title contenders and ending this woeful run of one league win (Livingston) since September 23, a week before the Tangerines defeated them at East End Park. This would firmly put them in position to worry those at the top of the table. 

Kickoff time, ticket prices and where to watch

Ticket prices:

Lower Tiers: £20 Adults / £10 Concessions (u12s – £5)
Upper Tiers: £22 Adults / £13 Concessions

Match information:

Saturday 2nd, 15:00 at Tannadice Stadium.

Team news

Dundee United:

Tam Scobbie (suspended).

Dunfermline Athletic:

Aaron Splaine and Andy Ryan (injured).

Referee

Euan Anderson.

Previous games refereed involving either team this season:

Challenge Cup –

Dunfermline Athletic 2-0 Arbroath (5Y, 1Y/R, 1R)

Championship –

Dundee United 1-0 Brechin City (2Y)

What Dundee United are saying

“I think they are struggling a little bit at the moment and want to come out from this dip. I watched the games against Morton and Dumbarton – both draws at home – and they have strength but also weakness. We have to use the weakness against them in our own stadium. This is a very important game for us because we want to grow in confidence.” (Csaba László, manager)

What Dunfermline Athletic are saying

We need to dig in, stick together as a team and keep fighting. We will come out the other end of it, we know that. Every club will go through a spell in the season like our one just now. We can’t put our finger on the reason for it but it is up to us to get it right. When you are not winning, you lose a bit of confidence, but we have players in the dressing room who have played loads and loads of games at a higher level. We know what we have to do. We don’t know what the problem is just now but we will work it out.” (Nicky Clark, centre forward)

Line ups last time out

Table

Screen Shot 2017-11-29 at 11.48.54

Complete fixture list

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 15.49.48

Former Dunfermline Athletic players

Paul McMullan (2016-17)

Former Dundee United players

Callum Morris (2014-16)

Last six meetings

Championship:

10/09/16. Dunfermline Athletic 1-3 Dundee United
08/11/16. Dundee United 1-0 Dunfermline Athletic
28/01/17. Dunfermline Athletic 1-1 Dundee United
11/04/17. Dundee United 1-0 Dunfermline Athletic
30/09/17. Dunfermline Athletic 1-3 Dundee United

Challenge Cup:

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

Keys to the game

Best defence (Dundee United) versus the best offence (Dunfermline Athletic). While Inverness Caledonian Thistle have a couple of more clean sheets than the Tangerines they have conceded five more goals. Which means they are not infallible, but they are the best at not conceded more than twice in a fixture.

The issue with the lack of points for the Pars has some correlation to the lack of clean sheets in conjunction with the lack of goals in the last four games; no clean sheets and four goals to be precise. It may be a worry that this is a regression to the mean after flying out the traps in the opening 10 fixtures, scoring 25 and earning four shutouts.

Athletic have got to create a quality of chance that has been lacking over the last month, and not allow the complacence to creep in at the back, which has seen them conceded avoidable goals.

United have to be patient, and not rush their game plan just because of the impatient nature of their home support. What they have to be wary of is the counter attacking threat on the wings. If, they nullify Kallum Higginbotham – the creative threat in the starting line-up – they will more than likely come out with a point at least.

Prediction

Dundee United 1-1 Dunfermline Athletic

Odds

Dundee United: 0.63
Draw: 2.75
Dunfermline Athletic: 3.60

Best bet

Under 2.5 goals: 1.07


You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.

Match preview: Dunfermline Athletic versus Dumbarton

Allan Johnston will hope to get back to winning ways in the league in Fife this weekend by defeating the Sons to stay in touch with Dundee United.
 
The Pars have only won twice (at home versus Livingston and away in Brechin) in the Championship in their last seven fixtures. Their opponents have faired slightly better with three victories (Inverness Caledonian Thistle sandwiched between City; home and away) and 10 points over the same period.
 
While that points per game tally will delight Stephen Aitken, it would cause worry in the former Hearts winger as they continue to fall back from the summit they sat upon before they played Dumbarton in August. Which is why a point will be acceptable for the away team, but for the homers they will start to become uneasy as good start will have gone to waste.
 

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 25 November, 15:00pm at East End Park.

Team news

Dunfermline:

Aaron Splaine (injured).

Dumbarton:

Chris McLaughlin and Dimitris Froxylias (doubt).

Referee

Nick Walsh.

Games reffed with either side:

Championship

Dumbarton 2-1 Brechin City (2Y, 1R) 

What Dumbarton are saying

“It is all about preparation for games like this. As with the Irn Bru Cup semi-final, we will do what we can to make sure the boys are in the correct setting and go about things professionally.” (Stevie Aitken, manager)

What Dunfermline are saying

On playing at home: “A bit more space to play. That is where the crowd is important, especially to get right behind the team from the start of the game. When we do not score they get frustrated sometimes.” (Allan Johnston, manager)

Line ups last time out

Table

Screen Shot 2017-11-22 at 15.19.13

Complete fixture list

Screen Shot 2017-11-22 at 15.19.34

Former Dunfermline Athletic players

Dimitris Froxylias (2017 trial)

Former Dumbarton players

Andy Dowie (2009-13).

Kyle Hutton (2012).

Last five meetings

Championship:

26/08/17. Dumbarton 0-4 Dunfermline Athletic.
15/04/17. Dumbarton 0-2 Dunfermline Athletic.
04/03/17. Dunfermline Athletic 5-1 Dumbarton.
29/10/16. Dumbarton 2-2 Dunfermline Athletic.
06/08/16. Dunfermline Athletic 4-3 Dumbarton.

Keys to the game

Set pieces:

Three of Dunfermline’s 13 league goals conceded have come direct from set-pieces. One such example was this against Inverness Caledonian Thistle. A further three have come from the second phase of either corners or free kicks.

Six of the 12 conceded in the cups have also come from set-pieces. Three free kicks, one penalty, one corner and the other being in the second phase from a dead ball situation.

What appears to happen is that they get to a stage where they are playing well and are comfortable which allows the mistakes to creep in. Hence why a further four goals have been unquestionable mistakes from either defending and goalkeeping.

The issue with Dunfermline from set plays is that they look disorganised. No-one got out to quell the threat from a short corner at Almondvale and panic set in against Hearts when they were leading 2-1 with a few minutes left in the game.

Jean Yves-M’Voto and Lee Ashcroft have gave away silly penalty kicks through decisions that puzzled supporters. The defenders are prone to odd mistakes that seen a high number of red cards last season.

Counter attack:

Ryan Williamson likes to get forward and hit the byline; that could leave Alistair Roy to exploit that space on any potential counter (see the Falkirk goal). Callum Smith, Dean Shiels, Declan McManus, Joe Cardle and Kallum Higginbotham like to do their work in the final third which could leave Nat Wedderburn a little exposed if they push the ball through the central third of the park. Patience will be key for both sides in the game, and not start to force opportunities when they present themselves.

Breaking down the defensive set-up:

So far, Dumbarton have set up in a 4-2-3-1, 4-1-4-1 and a defensive 4-4-2, which has yielded the better results this season. The back four and goalkeeper are settled with two clean sheets (third worst) and gave up 16 goals (tied sixth worst).

Andy Dowie and Dougie Hill are an experienced pair of center backs flanked by a pair of teenagers who provide energy beside them. As a result, the part-timers are still punching above their weight.

Dunfermline’s chance creation has slowed as of late. While they are the highest scoring side in the division. Their form has seen them match ninth placed Falkirk in the previous six matches. If they get back to the team they were pre-Joe Cardle injury they should be good enough to see off a good, not great Dumbarton side.

Prediction

Dunfermline Athletic 0-0 Dumbarton

Odds

Dunfermline Athletic: 0.50
Draw: 4.00
Dumbarton: 6.90

Best bet

Under 2.5 goals: 0.71.


You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.

Match Preview: Dunfermline Athletic versus Greenock Morton

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:

Tuesday 21st, 19:45 at East End Park.

Team news

Greenock Morton:

Conor McManus (injured).

Dunfermline:

Declan McManus and Kallum Higginbotham (suspended).

Referee

Stephen Finnie.

Games reffed with either side:

Inverness Caledonian Thistle 1-1 Greenock Morton (3Y, 1Y/R)
Queen of the South 0-0 Dunfermline Athletic (5Y)

What Greenock Morton are saying

On signing Luca Gasparotto: “With the long-term injury to Lee Kilday and the fact Thomas O’Ware, pictured, was injured last week and missed the game against Queen of the South, we do not really have any natural cover. We are a wee bit stretched in the defensive area, so I just felt it was important to get someone in who is good enough to compete when everyone is fit. Luca is more than good enough to go and compete for a first-team place and he’s been here before, so it should be a straightforward transition into what we’re trying to achieve.” (Jim Duffy, manager)

What Dunfermline are saying

“It is all about getting results. We are the points off the top just now and I think if any team can put a run together it could take you clear of the other teams. That is what we have to focus on, we have a massive few months coming up and we want to be up there challenging.” (Allan Johnston, manager)

Line ups last time out

Table

Screen Shot 2017-11-21 at 10.42.19

Other fixtures tonight

Inverness Caledonian Thistle versus Brechin City

Common results

Dunfermline Athletic:

Falkirk (H) 3-1
Livingston (H) 3-1
St Mirren (H) 3-0

Brechin City (A) 0-3
Dumbarton (A) 0-4

Falkirk (A) 1-1
Inverness Caledonian Thistle (A) 1-0
Queen of the South (A) 0-0

Points: 17

Greenock Morton:

Brechin City (A) 1-0
Falkirk (H) 0-1
Livingston (H) 0-1
St Mirren (H) 4-1

Brechin City (A) 1-0
Dumbarton (A) 0-0
Falkirk (A) 0-1
Inverness Caledonian Thistle (A) 1-1
Queen of the South (A) 1-2

Points: 14

Former Greenock Morton players

Declan McManus (2014-15 and 2016).

Former Dunfermline Athletic players

Robert Thomson (2013).

Ross Forbes (2014-15).

Last five meetings

Championship:

25/03/17. Greenock Morton 3-2 Dunfermline Athletic.
29/04/17. Dunfermline Athletic 3-1 Greenock Morton.

25/03/17. Greenock Morton 0-1 Dunfermline Athletic.
10/12/16. Dunfermline Athletic 2-1 Greenock Morton.
17/09/16. Greenock Morton 2-1 Dunfermline Athletic.

Keys to the game

Morton have the fourth best defensive record in terms of goals conceded (14), but second fewest amount of clean sheets (2). Dunfermline sit behind Dundee United in terms of goals conceded per match (1.00) and behind the Tangerines and Inverness Caledonian Thistle on clean sheets (4).

The Pars should struggle to keep the Ton at bay, but have to be wary of the creative influences of Gary Harkins and Ross Forbes. Their biggest job will come in breaking down their back line which is very good in terms of personnel. A task that becomes harder with the absence of Kallum Higginbotham.

Prediction

Dunfermline Athletic 1-0 Greenock Morton

Odds

Dunfermline Athletic: 1.37
Draw: 2.55
Greenock Morton: 2.20

Best bet

Under 2.5 goals: 1.00


You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.

Why Allan Johnston needs to address the squad balance

Last week, David Hopkirk left Dunfermline Athletic through mutual consent in an attempt to establish himself in a starting line-up.

The secondary striker had found himself utilised mainly as an impact sub during his time at the club, especially after Allan Johnston came to East End Park, five months after arriving himself.

Hopkirk was the only Pars player on the roster that had not been signed by the former Queen of the South winger. Although, he was acutely aware of him seeing as he managed him during his tenure in Dumfries.

Injuries had hampered his chances of a long stretch in the starting eleven and while he promised much, it was all too stop-start for anyone to be satisfied that it would come good.

With his departure, the squad is down to 17 outfield members. The squad was always going to be small in terms of numbers, but during the pre-season transfer window; and the subsequent loan window, Athletic have seen six come in permanently, five loaned out and a further eight move on.

Questions have to be raised over financing new contracts for Connor Duthie and Scott Lochhead, who never played a minute of Championship football this season, but were awarded new one year deals in the off-season. Now they are playing on-loan in League One.

It must also be said that the payment of five figures to Airdrieonians for Andy Ryan seems unnecessary given the fact that: a) he is playing fourth fiddle to Callum Smith, Declan McManus and Nicky Clark and b) he has seen the pitch for 94 minutes across the course of six league fixtures.

Now, Andy Ryan may come good. I have little doubts that he will fail. However, does he fit the profile of the kind of player that the Fifers are screaming out for? This writer believes not.

Recently, Johnston, said:

“We are always looking to strengthen the team. We have been looking at a number of targets. The next few weeks will determine what positions we want to strengthen.”

In the past, this writer wrote in mid-August about: available players that could improve the squad. It focused on the lack of depth in the middle of the park.

At present, there are only two recognisable central midfielders (Aaron Splaine and Nat Wedderburn). Dean Shiels and Michael Paton have partnered Wedderburn in league competition. Neither’s natural position is as a traditional number eight. Shiels is more used to playing off the main centre forward and Paton as a right midfielder. Paton should be a backup to Kallum Higginbotham while the former Northern Ireland internationalist is the only one capable of being positioned as a number 10.

There are proven options out there in the form of Nick Ross, Sean Welsh, and Tom Hateley. Hateley has been without a club since his contract with Dundee was ended mutually in August, Ross was recently a trialist at his former club, Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Walsh is still training with Partick Thistle.

Ideally, a central midfielder comes in before the Greenock Morton tie (November 21). If, Wedderburn goes down through injury for a lengthy period – which is possible given his past history with the treatment room – then Athletic may very well struggle to challenge for the title.


You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.

 

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.

 

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.