Dunfermline Athletic

Manager on Hogmanay

Thursday, 31st Dec 2015

31/12/15: AJ - "They did us a favour as long as we win on Saturday....

Allan Johnston took in Tuesday night's game at Central Park where he witnessed the local rivals defeat second place Ayr United to ensure that the Pars go into 2016 with a six point lead at the top of League One.

The Pars manager feels that Cowdenbeath win will be meaningless if his side fail to beat them on Saturday. The gaffer told the media on Thursday:-

"It's a totally different Cowdenbeath team. I would say they are probably the most improved team in the division, especially going forward.

"If you look at their forward players - Brett on the right-hand side, Smith, Spence, Callaghan - they are really good going forward. They put a lot of crosses into the box, they've got good pace and good movement, and Murdoch in the middle of the park has made a big difference with his passing. They probably don't get the credit they deserve for the way they pass the ball, especially at Cowdenbeath.

"They did us a favour as long as we win on Saturday. It emphasises the point of how hard it is in this division. Any team can probably beat anyone on their day. So, it's going to be a tough test for us. They've picked up a lot of points recently, they're on a good run. But, coming to East End Park, we should go and win the game.

The first two matches against Cowdenbeath were very comfortable wins but AJ is impressing on the players to expect a different test from the East End first foots:-

"If you look at the game on Tuesday night, they were really good on the counter-attack, with the pace they've got. We're well aware of that but we've got to make sure we get at their defence and make sure we make them defend, especially with the attacking players we've got."

Allan Johnston watched the play-off match the last time Cowdenbeath won at East End Park.
"I was the curse! I'm hoping that now that I'm at Dunfermline it brings a better result, because that was a terrible result for the club."

As well as being the traditional “New Year Derby”, the club and its supporters will commemorate the 20th anniversary of Norrie McCathie’s tragic death. The Dunfermline Athletic players will wear specially commissioned one off blue and red quarter strip. The Manager feels all this will have a positive effect on his players:-

"It will make a difference, because there will be a big crowd and players love playing in front of big crowds and in good atmospheres. I'm sure the vast majority of the fans will be ours and they'll get right behind the team, and hopefully that can spur the boys on to putting in a good performance and getting a few goals.

"Certainly, training this week has been really lively; it's been really good. We've just got to make sure we bring it into the game on Saturday. I don't think I played against Norrie. I would have been around 21, 22, so I would have been at Hearts, but I don't know if Dunfermline were in a different division at the time."

Norrie McCathie was the Dunfermline Athletic Club Captain when he tragically died from carbon monoxide poisoning at his home on 8th January 1996. He was only 34. AJ continued:-

"It was the first time you ever heard of anything like that happening, and you saw the outburst of emotion from the fans and everything. You could see how well respected he was throughout Scottish football and especially in Dunfermline.

"I've been up to see the exhibition in the club and it just shows how popular he was, with the number of people who have come to see it and even putting that on in the first place. Hopefully we can do him proud and get a result on Saturday."

McCathie was signed from Cowdenbeath on August 10th 1981 by the then manager Pat Stanton.

"When you think back about Norrie, you just think Dunfermline. He obviously spent most of his career here and that's how I've always remembered him. I'm sure some of the players will go up and see the exhibition as well. I went up and had a look myself and had a look at some of the video footage. He scored some great goals as well!"

Delighted with being six points clear as we go into 2016 the gaffer felt that it's just the same pressure as it was when we were a few points behind:-

"We need to win every game, whether it's home or away, and that's the pressure we've put on ourselves since the start of the season. We want to win the league and we want to get promoted, so we've put pressure on ourselves and the boys have handled that really well.

"We've just got to make sure we keep up the standards we've set in training and keep on getting results. I'd rather be further ahead, to be fair but it shows you how well Ayr have done as well, that we're only six points ahead and we've started the season so well.

"That's the challenge for the second-half of the season, to improve on what we've done in the first half. If we do that, I don't see many teams catching us."

Casting his thoughts back to the Forfar match on Boxing Day Allan observed:-

"We've actually done well against Forfar in all the games this season. We've played really well. We were disappointed in the two goals we lost, because we need to get back to keeping clean sheets again and being hard to play against and still scoring goals. But we've started the season really well and we're in a good position but it means nothing just now."

The manager's selection options remain the same as against Forfar. The two long-term injured Callum Fordyce and Ryan Williamson are still out and Lewis Martin is still struggling with a viral infection. Even given that he has a tight squad the Pars manager admitted it was difficult to keep players left on the bench happy;-

"You see the impact they're having as well. You see Ryan Wallace coming off the bench, Hoppy coming off the bench and doing really well and Shaun Rooney. It's difficult, but I think the boys realise that everybody's doing well just now and it's really difficult to get in, especially when we're winning games and the position we're in. Everybody's contributing; they're all making a big impact."

In the last two matches David Hopkirk and Shaun Rooney started seemingly rewarded for coming off the bench to score in their previous matches. Can Ryan Wallace expect that reward on Saturday?

"He's been really unfortunate. If you look at the goals he's scored as well, I'm sure his time will come, because he trains brilliantly and he's making a big impact when he comes on as a sub. He's putting real pressure on the strikers."Is the transfer window opening for January an opportunity or a threat?

"I don't think it's a threat because, as far as I know, we're not looking to lose any of our players. I think if our ambition is to win the league we can't afford to lose any of our best players. It would be crazy to lose any of our players.

"In terms of bringing people in, you're always looking to strengthen the squad and it's just about whether we're going to be able to do that or not. We'll just have to wait and see.

"Identifying possible signings is part of your job, you're always doing that, you're constantly doing that, going to watch games - going to watch under-20s games and first-team games. It's just about seeing who's out there and who's available, and who would hopefully come in and improve us and provide competition for places."

It's the time of year for reflection and looking forward, asked where he would like to be this time next year Allan Johnston replied:-

"Hopefully we'll be in the division above and challenging up there as well but football's not as easy as that. It's about the next game.

"You can set targets, long-term targets are fine, but it's all about winning consistently, week-in, week-out and making sure we're focused on the next game, and not looking too far ahead."

All supporters to arrive early and be seated, no later than 2.55pm so that they can participate in our tribute to Norrie, before the game commences.

The DAFC players will wear a specially commissioned one off blue and red quarter strip, and the first team jerseys will be numbered 1 to 11 as normal on the day.

Both teams, match officials and (11 home mascots) will walk from the tunnel area to the centre line at 2.55pm. For this match only, instead of "Into the Valley," Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World" will be played as the players walk to the centre circle, as this was Norrie's favourite song. All of the players, match officials and mascots will then line up on the centre circle facing the Norrie Stand so that they can see the fantastic card display that is planned in the Norrie Stand.

Fixture News: Under-20s match against Hearts will be played on Mionday 4th January 2016 with a 7.30pm kick off at Ochilview Park, Stenhousemuir.

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