Buddies look to halt unbeaten Pars

Dunfermline Athletic v St Mirren – Match by numbers

Struggling St Mirren travel east to face Dunfermline Athletic in their latest attempt to claw back their seven point deficit at the bottom of the Championship. Jack Ross and his players will be desperate to record only their third win of the season with games fast running out.

3– St Mirren have been busy in the transfer window picking up three new players for this weekend. Craig Storie and Rory Loy join on loan from Aberdeen and Dundee respectively whilst Norwegian midfielder Pål Fjelde joins on a free after leaving OBOS-ligaen side Bryne FK. Loy joins for his second loan spell in Paisley having played for the Buddies in 2010 under Gus MacPherson. He made his debut as a second half substitute in a 2-1 defeat to Hibs at Easter Road. Current St Mirren manager Jack Ross played in and scored in that match, however his 90th minute own goal ended up being Hibs’ winner. Storie has played 14 times for Aberdeen since making his debut in April 2013. He earned two caps for Scotland U21s and been an unused sub a further three times. He started on his most recent visit to St Mirren Park as Scotland U21s beat Northern Ireland U21s 3-1. Fjelde, from Jørpeland in southwest Norway, previously played for Viking FK in the Eliteserien, the top tier of Norwegian football, before moving to second tier Bryne. His old teams are located less than 30 miles from his hometown and the former local lad is now just 450 miles away from home in Paisley.

4– Recent meetings between the teams have been goal-fests, averaging four goals a game over the last seven meetings. There hasn’t been a 0-0 since 2011 and in five of the last seven meetings both teams have scored, including a 4-4 draw in Paisley in 2012 and Dunfermline’s 4-3 win at East End Park earlier this season. St Mirren have edged out the Pars by three wins to two in that period, scoring 16 to Dunfermline’s 12 but the Fife side have won both meetings this season.

15– Dunfermline are the form team in the Championship at the moment, having picked up 15 points from their last seven games. In all competitions, Dunfermline are unbeaten in their last eight games, winning five and drawing three. The Pars have recorded convincing wins over Morton, Raith Rovers and Ayr Utd to move up to sixth place in the Championship, five points clear of the Honest Men in the relegation play-off spot. Despite an unbeaten December, Allan Johnston was somehow overlooked for Championship manager of the month in favour of Dumbarton’s Stephen Aitken.

1996– Matches between these two tend to be very close. In the last 25 meetings, just one match has been decided by more than two goals, a run that stretches back to 1996. That match, in October 2015, saw Ian Murray equal St Mirren’s biggest win at their new home as the struggling Buddies demolished the then League One side 4-0 in the Challenge Cup. Both teams have shared results fairly evenly in their last 25 meetings with St Mirren winning seven, nine ending in draws and Dunfermline winning the other nine. The teams have shared 67 goals in that time, with Dunfermline edging out St Mirren 35-32.

Lacklustre Ayr lose out to Pars

Ayr United 0-2 Dunfermline Athletic

First half goals from Nicky Clark and Andy Geggan saw Dunfermline extend their unbeaten run to seven in the league. The Pars are now five points clear of Ayr, who sit in the relegation play-off spot, in sixth place. Here, I take a look at how the game was won and lost.

Mismatch in midfield

On the face of it, Ayr’s 4-4-1-1 vs Dunfermline’s a 4-4-2 might suggest that the Honest Men would have the advantage with the extra man in the middle. However, Dunfermline’s holding midfielder, Nat Wedderburn gave them a crucial advantage. The Englishman was much stronger than the tiny Alan Forrest, and most of the Ayr squad for that matter, as he regularly won the ball in physical contests across the midfield. The midfielder was key in breaking up some of Ayr’s attacking play while Forrest wasn’t able to get the grip on the match he wanted with Wedderburn’s dominance in the centre. The midfielder may not have been man of the match but his mismatch with the Ayr midfield was certainly a big factor.

A strikers touch

The two teams were evenly matched. Dunfermline slightly edged possession 52-48, Ayr had 10 efforts on goal to Dunfermline’s nine and had more corners at nine to five. The difference was the Honest Men’s inability to take chances, mainly down to their lack of strikers. The home side’s best chance fell to Forrest after 59 minutes when the hard-working Kevin Nisbet kept the ball alive before squaring to Forrest in the six-yard box. Forrest turned his man but could only fire the ball wide. It was a chance you would expect Ayr’s top scorer to take and they were punished for it. Without an out-and-out centre forward the Honest Men’s constant good play on the wings saw 15 and 20 crosses played into the box but none were capitaliesed on. At the other end, Clark and former Ayr man Geggan possesed that strikers touch that earned them two well-taken goals and all three points.

Change it up… or not

At 0-0, Ayr were the better team. They were creating more chances and some that should really have ended up in the back of the net. However, they stalled once Dunfermline took the lead and got a grip on the game. For the last 20 minutes of the first half, the Pars were in control and deservedly established the 2-0 lead. The home side came out in the second half and started off the way they had played at the start of the first but they couldn’t get that goal that could change the game. Ian McCall made all three personnel changes available to him but he didn’t change his tactics to try and get something from the game. The first sub saw Nisbet taken off for Brian Gilmour which meant Harkins was pushed forward as the lone striker, a role which just doesn’t suit him. The other two subs were like-for-like which allowed Dunfermline to see out the match without much hassle. Had Ayr moved to a back three with the rock-solid Conrad Balatoni at the centre and put another body in the final third, the Pars may have been made to worry.

Somerset brings out the best in Pars

Ayr United v Dunfermline Athletic – Match by numbers

Somerset Park is the venue as the Championships two recently promoted sides go head-to-head for the third time this season. The two previous meetings ended in draws and with both teams battling near the bottom, a win today could prove vital.

5- The Ayrshire ground tends to be a good venue for Dunfermline. The Pars have won on five of their last six visits and are unbeaten in their last 10. In fact, facing Ayr in general seems to bring out the best in the Fife side with the Honest Men taking the spoils just once in the last six years. Since Febuary 2010, the teams have played 18 times with Dunfermline winning 13 (D3 L1). Ayr, the Championships joint lowest scorers, only managed 15 goals to the Pars 35 in those 18 games with Dunfermline keeping seven clean sheets. The Ayrshire side last came out on top on September 12 2015 after goals from Alan Forrest and Jordan Preston at East End Park saw the Honest Men leapfrog Dunfermline into second place in League One.

6- Both sides will be desperate to avoid one unwanted record. Since 2012, no team promoted to the Championship has been relegated in their first season. Cowdenbeath, Dumbarton, Queen of the South, Alloa Athletic, Rangers and Greenock Morton have all been promoted from League One in the last four seasons and all six spent at least two seasons in the second tier. Ayr themselves were the last team promoted from the third tier to be relegated straight back down in 2011-12.

11- This season’s meetings have seen one player in particular thrust into the spotlight. Ayr keeper Greg Fleming. Possibly the standout performer at Somerset Park this season, the 30 year old has routinely been the difference between three points and none with his excellent shot-stopping and reactions topped off by two penalty saves in two minutes from Kallum Higginbotham in the 1-1 draw at East End Park. Since joining the Honest Men in July 2015, his penalty saving record has been simply phenomenal. The keeper has faced 13 penalties in Black and White (including four in the 3-1 shootout win over Stranrear) with just two hitting the back of the net.

35- After a goalless draw at Somerset Park in October, the sides played out an entertaining 1-1 draw at East End Park where Nicky Clark put Dunfermline ahead before Alan Forrest equalised from the spot. That means the Honest Men have the chance to go a full season unbeaten against Dunfermline and, when the sides have been in the same league, that hasn’t happened since 1981/82, 35 years ago. Ayr played Dunfermline three times that season, twice at East End Park and once in Ayrshire, all in the league. All three meetings ended in draws, 1-1 at Somerset in October 1981 before a 0-0 draw in February and a 2-2 draw in April 1982 in Fife.