Manager on Christmas EveThursday, 24th Dec 2015
24/12/15: "We have to make sure that we make them defend, create chances, score goals and ultimately win the game."
After training in the morning, Allan Johnston was in good form on Christmas Eve with the management team and players all in festive mood ahead of their day off for Christmas. He stressed to the media, as no doubt he had done to his players:-
"It is an important time of year with so many games coming up. We just have to make sure that we continue the form that we are in just now. It is all about getting promoted this year and there are a lot of big games over this period.
"Christmas should not really affect us because the games are on Saturdays. It is just a normal week really and no big deal. Obviously we are giving them Christmas Day off but we have already done the preparation for the game on Saturday and just have to trust them for Christmas Day."
The manager had said last week that in his experience there was not a lot to be gained bringing players in on Christmas Day and he has had experience of that as a player:-
"When I was down south and maybe travelling as well. Maybe three or four hours travelling, so you were away staying in a hotel. The boys are flying so you need to have a bit of trust in the players that they do the right things. It is only a Friday so it is not as though they were going to be doing a great deal anyway."
It is no different for the manager who claims that it will be a quiet family Christmas for him too. AJ was delighted that his team will celebrate Christmas at the top of League One but was still reflecting on the performance on Saturday when they struggled to beat Stenhousemuir 1-0 at home:-
"We never played nearly as well as we have been in the last few weeks. It was a wee bit frustrating in terms of the way we played. You just get games like that unfortunately even the best players in the world cannot play well every game but in games like that it is really important that you get something from the game. You might not win every game but you don't get beat.
"I think the result was important especially when you see Ayr slipping up as well. We need to make sure that we win, we want to play with a bit of style - we like to pass the ball and obviously create a lot of chances.
"We have done that in the majority of games this year and certainly Forfar is one of the places that we enjoy going to. If you look at the performances this year against Forfar we have played really well. They will get a big lift from the new manager coming in, usually you see the players playing for their futures. A new manager usually makes an impact and their players will be right up for it but if we want to stay top of the league, we have to be right up for it as well."
Gary Bollan was only appointed the successor to Dick Campbell at Forfar earlier this week and can only have seen his players in one or two training sessions.
"I am sure that he knows the players already but it is difficult to change too much in that short period of time. It depends how the players respond to the way he wants to work, there will be a freshness as well. Dick was there for a long time so I am sure that will have a big impact. I am sure Gary Bollan himself will want to do well and I am sure that they will be up for it."
Forfar Athletic were top of the league when the Pars travelled to play them in September but after a run of twelve matches without a league win they are eighth in League One. AJ was not to be fooled by that apparent evaporation of form:-
"They still have some quality players - guys like Swankie could probably get into the majority of teams in this division. Danny Denholm has been doing really well for them, he has a lot of pace and an eye for goal as well. They have a lot of good players but we need to make sure that we play the way we want to play. We have to make sure that we make them defend, create chances, score goals and ultimately win the game."
Dunfermline have scored eleven goals against Forfar in just three matches without reply and the manager knows that the results thus far have impressed:-
"The results this year against Forfar have been good but we know that they are dangerous opponents when you look at all the goals they score. They have scored a lot of goals from setpieces whether it is long throws into the box or corners or free kicks. We just have to make sure that we are really switched on to that and we don't lose a goal from a setpiece."
The manager fully expects the Boxing Day fixture to attract a sizeable travelling support and has warned his players that they have to give them something to shout about.
"The boys were really lively today, they were passing the ball really well and we hope to continue that at the weekend."
above: Callum Fordyce still sitting it out the side
The squad is still without the two long term injured - Ryan Williamson and Callum Fordyce - and Lewis Martin is described as a doubt through illness. Rhys McCabe did not train at the beginning of the week but he is back and was in good spirits on Thursday after training.
"Other than that everybody else is fit. Ryan Williamson comes in with a smile on his face everyday but his legs are killing him from doing a bit of running. It is amazing stepping it up from light jogging and it will take a bit of time. He has a fantastic attitude and if anyone is going to come back quick it is going to be him."