Firhill Fir Thrills?Date: Thursday, 6th Dec 2018
As we approach Match-Day 16 in the SPFL Ladbrokes Championship for both these sides, it is contrasting emotions between the two clubs as they prepare to lock horns at Firhill this Saturday.
Allan Johnston`s men come into this match on the back of a convincing, comfortable and confidence-boosting victory against Morton while has buoyed the spirits of all associated with the team.
Aidan Keena returned to the starting line up following injury (and a substitutes appearance against Ross County the week prior) and made an immediate impact, firing home from close-range following Robbie Muirhead`s shot smashing back off the post. The on-loan Heart of Midlothian forward is keen to make an impression in West Fife, and he`s certainly going about it the right way, as he notched his third goal in four starts, and seven appearances in total for the Pars.
The ball burst, quite literally, and Morton`s belief shrivelled up just as quickly. The woodwork was hit twice in quick succession before Jackson Longridge saw his effort palmed away by goalkeeper Derek Gaston. It was a fantastic half of football for the hosts as Lee Robinson was pretty much a bystander: apart from one long-range strike by Chris Millar which he knocked away to safety.
Johnston would`ve been wanting a cushion over former Finland international Jonatan Johansson and he got it just before the interval; Lee Kilday made a defensive error and Faissal El Bakhtaoui pounced to good affect. The striker raced into the penalty area before being taken down by former team-mate Gregor Buchanan. The French-Moroccan was keen to take - although so was James Craigen. The Dundee loanee won that battle before coolly slotting the ball past the goalkeeper from 12 yards to score his first league goal of the campaign.
An unusual half-time experience for many DAFC supporters at East End Park with the club struggling to score, as well as pick up points, from their own patch this season. There was still an air of caution and the next goal was crucial. Would either manager twist?!
Both stuck originally before JJ brought on Charlie Telfer for Kerr Waddell; that changed their system from 3-5-2 to 4-4-2 and it seemed to benefit the Ton. They began to dominate possession and territory, but, were unable to test Robinson. The defence held out strong and comfortably saw the match out to keep an all important clean-sheet.
However, there would still be time for one more goal as Robbie Muirhead was once again thwarted; similarly to the opening goal, the rebound would be tucked home, this time by Craigen, to send the majority of the 4,370 crowd home happy, as Dunfermline registered just their second home win of the term.
The first win at EEP this season came against Thistle and it is they who the Athletic travel to on Saturday. Boosted by last weekend`s result and performance, Johnston`s side will be hoping to show it wasn`t just a fluke. The return of Tom Beadling and Mark Durnan over the past week has given further hope that the good times may not be far away, as the squad returns to full health. Sean Murdoch remains out alongside Louis Longridge after both had recent operations. Aidan Connolly and Andy Ryan have been missing and may not be ready to return while Kallum Higginbotham completes his two-match suspension.
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PT come into this match sitting bottom of the pile - 10th - with just ten points to their name this term so far. The 10`s keep coming.... In their past ten matches, they`ve won once against Queen of the South, way back on the 22nd of September! They have also drew just the once, against Falkirk two weekends ago; that has culminated in 8 defeats, 7 on the bounce prior to the Bairns match.
Long-Serving manager Alan Archibald was dismissed earlier on this campaign and replaced by Gary Caldwell: the former Wigan and Chesterfield manager is relatively untested in Scottish football and he has found it tough in the second-tier of Scotland`s SPFL structure. His assistant, Brian Kerr, will be hoping to pass on the advice and knowledge he`s gained while in charge of Albion Rovers and East Kilbride, however, their ideas and philosophies have yet to show with points and performances on the park.
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The away form of Dunfermline has kept their promotion play-off chances alive so far, with 11 points from a possible 21 available. On the other hand, the Jags` home record is poor with only 9 points picked up from their opening 7 league matches at Firhill. Dunfermline can`t gloat, mind you, as they`ve only picked up seven points so far at EEP this season, however, Partick`s one away point all term is likely a big factor in their demise as much as anything.
When you look at their squad, the players at the management teams` disposal should be achieving much more than they are currently; Kris Doolan, Chris Erskine, Blair Spittal and Cammy Bell show an experience to the core of the group while young players such as Niall Known, Andrew McCarthy, James Penrice and Jamie Sneddon provide good options in a relatively small squad for GC to choose from. The obvious name missed out so far is the infamous Jai Quitongo... The former Morton striker has tormented Dunfermline over the past 18-24 months and will hope to kick-start his career in Maryhill this weekend with another winning goal against the DA.
The last time these two sides met, it was a close encounter with a late Connolly strike, following a Christie Elliot mistake, the difference in a pretty turgid affair in front of the BBC Alba cameras. Players and Fans alike will be hoping for a much warmer afternoon that it was that Friday evening, as well as a better match overall. They say "Firhill Fir Thrills" and hopefully a lively encounter is in prospect - I do suspect, though, that any type of victory would satisfy the away fans come 5pm on Saturday.
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