Pars head to Paisley in survival battleAuthor: Jason Barber Date: Saturday, 28th Apr 2007
St Mirren await as the four point gap with just four games to go aims to be reduced as the two teams face off.
Dunfermline`s excellent recent form will be put to the test as the chips are ultimately put down on Monday night. St. Mirren v Dunfermline (live on Setanta tv) is the fixture which holds the short term futures of the clubs in the balance. With the gap remaining at four points following both sides` excellent victories last week, nothing less than a win will suit Dunfermline as they fast run out of games this season.
Stephen Kenny will once again have to shuffle his pack, as cup tied players return, suspensions are once again swapped around and the injury list begins to clear up.
The starting eleven will definitely be different to the side which triumped over Hibs at Hampden Park on Tuesday night. Phil McGuire is once again suspended as he completes his two game SPL ban, however Scott Wilson returns from his one match Scottish cup ban and will no doubt partner Sol Bamba at the heart of the defence.
Jim McIntyre, who no matter what else he does in a Pars shirt will always now be remembered for THAT penalty, could well return to his successfull partnership with Tam McManus up front. McManus and Stephen Glass have both had to kick their heels during the cup run to date, having been listed as substitutes (albeit unused) in the third round with their previous clubs. Very frustrating for both players and no doubt the management, but they can still make a vital impact on the club`s bid to stay in the SPL at least!
McManus` goal against Dundee United was, to use the technical term, an absolute peach of a strike. His volley from Greg Shields` inch perfect cross gave Derek Stillie absolutely not a sniff of a chance. The standing ovation received when McManus was substituted in the second half gave a bit of a clue as to how Dunfermline supporters have taken to the "busy" front man in recent weeks.
Stevie Crawford and Jim Hamilton both scored for the reserves this week, and both can now provide experienced alternatives up front should they be called upon, a luxury of choice that has been so often missing in recent months (and indeed years!)
Darren Young came in from the cold on Tuesday night and did enough to justify retaining his place. Young is now the only player from the 2004 cup final starting line up who can repeat the feat on the 26th of May (barring a shock return to the 1st team for Aaron Labonte) but his return from injury comes at the perfect time in terms of helping the club retain SPL status.
So, plenty of options for Kenny to choose from and the starting line ups on Monday night will instantly give an indication of how the teams are preparing to take on the match. The sides have played three times already this season, with Dunfermline crucially having the upper hand.....
The first match took place back on the 23rd September 2006, with Jim Leishman in charge and looking for consecutive home wins. That was indeed what happened after Dunfermline once again went behind. John Sutton put Saints ahead after only ten minutes and it remained one nil at half time. However, only seconds after the restart, Darren Young scored a pearler past Tony Bullock and the momentum started going with Dunfermline. Stevie Crawford, who had scored the winner against Kilmarnock in the previous home game, was again the matchwinner as he put the Pars 2-1 and a vital three points stayed with Dunfermline.
The return match at Paisley was a tad less dramatic in the run up to Christmas. A 0-0 bore draw was the result which suited St. Mirren slightly more than it did Dunfermline. Mark Burchill started the match but had to be replaced at half time, and his injury lay off is only now starting to look like it is finally over.
The third and most recent match was on the 10th of March. With the gap between the sides considerably more than it is now, a draw once again suited the Saints and the 0-0 result saw their supporters (and allegedly their players) cheering as if the relegation had been settled there and then on the day. There is no doubt the draw was a bad result for Dunfermline, but their recent form since that draw has clawed the gap back from nine points to four...