Manager on ThursdayThursday, 21st Sep 2017
21/09/17: AJ- "They are all scoring goals and making goals it difficult for me to pick a team.
Allan Johnston felt that the 3-0 win over St Mirren on Saturday was a perfect bounce back from the disappointment of losing 3-2 at Cappielow the week before.
"It is a long season but the boys responded really well. We are going in the right direction, we are top of the league and we want to stay there so every game is massive between now and the end of the season."
The wins over what most people would have categorised as title contenders is the most pleasing part for the Pars manager. Home wins over Inverness Caley Thistle, Falkirk and St Mirren have served notice that Dunfermline Athletic can be serious contenders for this season`s Championship title. Allan continued:-
"Last year we struggled to beat the top teams. We never picked up points against them, whereas we have started really well, winning games no matter who we are playing whether it is teams at the top or teams at the bottom.
"We just have to make sure that we don`t become complacent. We need to keep up the standards every day in training , standards in games and we keep playing with the intensity and quality that we have shown."
Turning to Saturday`s match away to foot of the table Brechin City. AJ felt that it was one of the games that his table topping team are expected to win. He will be warning his players of possible complacency:-
"When you go into games expecting to win, it is dangerous. We have to make sure that we have the right attitude. We will not be at East End Park where we have a big stadium and fantastic pitch.
"You have to adjust to that and the most important thing is a good performance to make sure that we get the win. Every game is massive but these ones are crucial, we have got to win against teams like Brechin."
Allan Johnston is convinced that Darren Dods team will be out to make things difficult for their visitors. He noted their draw against Falkirk a couple of weeks ago and will stress to not get caught on the counter.
"We will need to make sure that we are organised. They have a lot of height in their team as well so we need to avoid losing a goal from a setpiece. Going forward we can cause them problems."
For the next few weeks that attacking threat will be missing the current top goalscorer in the Championship, Joe Cardle. His manager revealed that Joe`s hamstring injury will sideline him for a lengthy period.
"He is a big player for us so he will be a massive loss but it is nothing too serious - it is not as if he needs an operation. He will just have to be patient and hopefully we get him back flying again.
"It gives somebody else the opportunity to come in and play. You can see that there are a few boys like Hoppy, Fraser Aird, Andy Ryan and Callum Smith. We have a lot of options that we can play and they are all good players as well. That is the beauty of having such a strong squad."
David Hopkirk replaced Joe Cardle when he picked up his injury after just quarter of an hour. The sub scored the Pars second goal immediately before half time.
"It was a great finish" said Allan, "and I think Hoppy showed a bit of bottle as well after missing the first chance when he had come on. He was just on and ran the full length of the pitch and was really unlucky.
"He should probably have scored but he showed that bit of composure to meet a great cutback from Ryan Williamson to finish. He showed a lot of character to go and get that. He is somebody who has got a lot of ability and hopefully he can grasp the opportunity."
The ability to find the net was even followed through in a bounce match against Motherwell on Tuesday. Dunfermline won 5-2 with Callum Smith grabbing a hattrick, Andy Ryan and Paul Allan added the others.
"They are all scoring goals and making goals it difficult for me to pick a team. That is the competition that you need to drive you forward and make sure that everybody is producing the best possible performance."
The department that causes managers their biggest heartache can be in goalscoring but Allan Johnston has an abundance of goalscorers.
"Joe was played wide but even he scored a number of goals. He is a big loss but we have guys who can fill in and obviously be a goal threat."
The goal are coming from a good and steady supply of chances and it is clear that the partnership between Kallum Higginbotham and Ryan Williamson on the right wing
"Ryan is back to his very best. He has had a few serious injuries but you can see the confidence and the quality that he has got. He is defending really well as well. He is majorly improved defensively and a real threat going forward. Teams are really struggling to contain him. It is a really good partnership."
Allan Johnston compared the Higginbotham/ Williamson partnership to the one he had with England internationalist Michael Gray while playing at Sunderland. Gray made 363 league appearances for his home town team and for almost every one of Johnston`s 105 appearances for Sunderland.
"He was a full back who used to bomb on and it all about partnerships and working together. You can see down that right hand side we are causing teams a lot of problems.
"Higgy has had an incredible amount of assists this season. We are always on at him to score more goals but I`m sure that will come.
"Declan McManus played really well at the weekend, he worked hard and you forget how young he is as well. It is great that he has come in and hit the ground running here. Everybody knows that you have to do well to keep their place in the team."
The manager was delighted for Callum Smith (pictured below) in being selected for the Scotland U19 squad to meet France.
"He deserves it because he is a top class talent and he had a big future ahead of him and obviously a big future with us. We are delighted for him but a wee bit disappointed for Stuart Morrison because we thought that with playing first team football (while on loan at Edinburgh City) that he should be in or around that squad.
"A lot of the boys in the squad are probably not playing first team football and that is different. He is learning from his experiences and I`m sure that will help him. Hopefully he will be in the next squad."