Manager on ThursdayThursday, 15th Oct 2020
15/10/20: SC - “It will be a good gauge for us, it is a game that we can win if we apply ourselves right.”
On Saturday Dunfermline kick off their league season at home to Inverness Caley Thistle and whilst the league will have different challenges to the Betfred Cup Stevie Crawford claims that it has just been great getting back into competitive football:-
“First and foremost the boys were desperate to get back playing games. It was a hard fought victory down at Dumbarton but scoring six goals in the last three games and not conceding any is pleasing.
“I have said after each of the victories that we have not to get ahead of ourselves, but it breeds the confidence and the pleasing thing for myself is that we have added quite a number of players this summer again but I think the foundation was there to build on this season.
“They are complimenting each other but it has not just been down to eleven players. I keep stressing it to the boys that to do well in football in modern day, it is going to take more than eleven players so there will be times when people will be left out.
“Whether it is tactical or through a dip in form they have to take that in the right manner and then prove their worth to what it means to be a Dunfermline player. For that they have got to be the right kind of character that when they aren’t in that starting eleven they can handle it and they are desperate to get back in again.”
Above: Steven Whittaker in action v Kilmarnock
On Tuesday night Stevie made three changes to his starting eleven with Cammy Gill, Iain Wilson and Kyle Turner starting, was it purely squad rotation or was it with an eye on Steven Whittaker’s suspension for the next league game and an injury to Aaron Comrie?
“It was not a case of trying to be clever with squad rotation. It was thinking about the right personnel in the right positions to allow us the chance to win games of football but also there are boys who are at different levels of fitness through missing some conditioning work in pre season.
“We are fairly happy that most boys have come through that and Saturday brings different challenges. We will be missing Steven Whittaker through suspension so we have had a look over the course of the League Cup campaign and there are a number of players who can play in that midfield position. We will work on a couple of things and see what is best for the shape of the team to cause Inverness problems on Saturday.
“Aaron Comrie (pictured above) had picked up an ankle knock in the game against Falkirk but Aaron is robust, he is a boy who doesn’t like to miss games - we saw that last year - he was back running on Wednesday and very much wants to play on Saturday. Whether it is the right decision to play him, we will have to make as a coaching staff.
“Lewis Martin was on the bench but Lewis is probably the one who has missed the largest chunk of pre season. It is frustrating for Lewis because he came back in a really good condition but maybe had a little adverse reaction to all the running that he has been doing on his own. Lewis is on the mend and training but it is just a case of not pushing him too early.”
Lewis Mayo and Kerr McInroy have both been away with the Scotland U21s and they will be back in contention for a starting position against Inverness Caley Thistle. Lewis played the full 90 minutes in both the Czech Republic and San Marino games and Kerr was a substitute midway through the second half in San Marino.
Above: Kerr McInroy and Lewis Mayo
Like all Dunfermline fans, the manager is hoping to have a successful league campaign that will let the fans get right behind the team:-
“We want Dunfermline fans going about with smiles on their faces. Whether it is in front of screens watching at home or looking from a far and catching up on things on the radio or through the Internet.”
Obviously with Hearts being relegated, the Championship title is going to a difficult one to win with challenges still expected from Inverness, Dundee and Ayr United.
“We cannot solely focus on Hearts. If we do that we are taking our eye off the ball. It is the old scenario of one game at a time. I am twenty months or so into my journey as the manager here and the talks were all in a positive manner when I spoke in the summer to the players that I have managed to bring to the club. We were looking to the play offs minimum this season. That probably attracted a few of the players.
“It was one of the reasons that Declan McManus wanted to come back. It is not setting ourselves unrealistic targets and if we can stay together and very much focus on taking a game at a time, looking at the different types of opposition that we are going to face in this competitive league, if we will do well this season.”
With all the Covid-19 restrictions, preparations have been difficult with possibly more aches and pains due to the lengthy spell away from football. With the league season reduced to 27 games Stevie knows that a good start is very important:-
“Confidence can play a big factor in how the season is going to pan out. I have always said that every game in the Championship has different problems, different tasks, different strengths in teams that you have got to face and adapt to.
Above: Declan McManus, Kevin O’Hara and Dom Thomas
“The pleasing thing with the players that we have brought into the club, there is room to manoeuvre and ask players to play in different positions, to play a different type of football at times. We have seen wee bits of that in the League Cup campaign. There have been times when we have been under pressure and we have managed to hold out and not concede a goal. That is the sign of a good side but it is still early.
“We are going to face on Saturday a very tough game against Inverness, it always is. Robbo has done some work in the summer to add to his squad. I know that he has lost a number of players but I think that he has been shrewd in the transfer market and that will be a really challenging game but one that we are very much looking forward to.
“We will go into it with confidence but also be respectful that Inverness have a good squad that compete at Championship level. It will be a good gauge for us, it is a game that we can win if we apply ourselves right.”
Dunfermline have won just two of the last ten meetings and last season Inverness won all three encounters. Stevie commented:-
“Last season when I look back at the games we were very unfortunate in the midweek game here just before lockdown. But I don’t want hard luck stories. When it was going against us in the Falkirk game towards the end of the first half, we dug it out.
“We will not get it all our way on Saturday and can we come through that period of the game knowing that we have given ourselves the best possible chance to go and win it? That will be a question that will be asked of us by Robbo’s side at the weekend. If we can deal with these challenges then we will get off to a winning start.”
Above: Kevin O’Hara scores from the spot at Dumbarton
Apart from the penalty converted by a striker at Dumbarton, goals have come from players in other positions. Stevie sees it as a positive that his strikers have allowed others to hit the net.
“It is no coincidence when your strikers work hard that the team ends up getting clean sheets as well. Everybody plays a part, and I am not just talking about Declan and Kevin O’Hara here, whether it is Lewis McCann, Gabby McGill, then your attacking players Dom Thomas, Ryan Dow, Fraser Murray with probably a bit more expected from your central midfield players and your back four and your goalkeeper but they will be the first to admit that these boys are working hard from the front and things that we work on in terms of possession it gives them a better chance to defend in situations.
“On that side we are delighted but I think that the strikers have goals in them. They must not become frustrated, they have played their part in assisting as well and they have just got to keep believing, keep getting into the right areas and the goals will come.”
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