Manager on ThursdayThursday, 26th Nov 2020
26/11/20: “The group are growing together and becoming stronger as a unit.
For as much as Stevie Crawford and Dunfermline enjoyed their first league win over Hearts since 2004, a win that put them on top of the league, Stevie warned:-
“I don’t want to take anything away from the result itself, it was a great performance on the night. One that the boys will have enjoyed, we enjoyed it as a coaching staff as well and everybody connected with the club.
“The focus is on the Arbroath game. I went up to watch Arbroath on Saturday and you just prepare for a game like you normally do. You don’t get carried away but it was a decent weekend.”
Sometimes the interruption for a cup competition is a welcome break away from league business but right now Stevie feels that his players just can’t get enough football:-
“We had that break with the Clyde game but I just think that the boys are playing with a confidence at the moment and I don’t think it will disturb, or can be an excuse for any difference in, our form or the way that we are applying ourselves.
“It goes back to the mentality of the group since we came back in pre season. We were just desperate to get back to playing football and I think that has shown. The group are growing together and becoming stronger as a unit. It is bits and pieces like that that have managed to get us over the winning line against Queen of the South and against Hearts at the weekend. It is just about keeping that focus.”
It certainly feels like a success for the manager to see his players buy in to a game plan that bears results like the one against Hearts. The manager is adamant that the buy in is also about the application from the players.
“At half time I thought our shape was really good out of possession. The chances that we did give up were few and far between in the first half. We just touched on a couple of things, we asked Dom Thomas to play a wee bit higher, Kyle Turner to play more on the shoulder of their midfielders rather than dropping underneath and make some more runs in behind.
“I thought the two of them took that on board in the second half to show their attacking qualities as well. It is pleasing that the players are picking up these fine details, they are believing in that and believing in themselves at the moment.”
Stevie doesn’t think it is fair to compare this squad with the one that he had maybe twelve months back. He stressed the improvements made by bringing in players and letting some go.
“I have said all along that as a club in every window that I have been in the job, I think that there is progression. Whether it is in the type of characters or the balance between experience and the younger ones. We have younger ones now with twelve months Championship football under their belts or competing to try and play Championship football. That for me is the key.
Anyone watching can see that it is not only Euan Murray geeing the team up on the park. Stevie praised the contribution from Steven Whittaker in addition to his captain:-
“Euan is vocal and that was of the attractions of making him skipper but when I watch back the game against Hearts, me being me looks at the small detail. Hearts were on the counterattack and Josh Edwards tried to clear one but it breaks to put Steven Naismith through on goal. Steven Whittaker was bursting his backside to try and get back at Naismith which doesn’t allow him a one v one. Josh Edwards has responded by getting himself back and made a last ditch tackle but what Steven Whittaker does to me is massive in the way that I want my players to behave.
“It was on national tv, he did not berate him he just went over, gave him a pat on the head as if to say ‘don’t do that the next time’. That will mean more to Josh Edwards, Steven Whittaker didn’t given him the finger and buy into in a blame culture. It was saying to him ‘don’t do that again’ but we are all in this together. I think that breeds confidence and I think Josh Edwards will know that he didn’t want to do that in the game.
“It happens, you make a mistake or wrong decision and then when people respond in a certain manner, you earn respect. That is why Steven Whittaker has had the career that he has had. If our younger players can pick up a behaviour like that not only are Dunfermline going to benefit from it those players will benefit from that for the rest of their careers.”
Arbroath have suffered only seven defeats in 34 league games at home and that home record has previously been pointed out by Robbie Neilson before Hearts went up there earlier in the season.
“Arbroath’s home record is as good as anybody’s in Scotland over the last two or three years. We have to give this game the respect that it is due. Going into the last 16 there wasn’t going to be an easy tie. It is great that we were seeded because it was the side of the draw that we wanted to be on but anybody we had drawn was going to be a difficult fixture. It is going to be tough but one where we have given ourselves an opportunity to go and try and progress to the quarter finals now.”
Can we expect a different set up as against Hearts?
“I watched Arbroath at the weekend. They went 4-2-3-1, 4-1-4-1, 4-4-1-1. They changed their shape as they were the ones pushing to try and go ahead in the game. It is going to be a competitive fixture and we must go up there ready for that side of the game. It is a cup competition that is slightly different from the league, if it is level at the end of 90 minutes there is extra time and a possibility of it going to penalties. We have got to consider that this weekend.
“You want to go through in 90 minutes but Arbroath are going to want to progress in this tournament as well and equally they will see it as an opportunity for their club to get to the latter stages of a tournament. We have to win the one v one battles on the pitch and then the collective side will hopefully come through in the end.”
The weather can be a factor at Arbroath but the forecast looks like things might be a lot calmer than on recent visits. Stevie agreed that Gayfield is a ground where the wind can play its part.
“The first game we played up there last year maybe should not have finished. We know that we have to face the conditions, it is next to the water and as the game progressed on Saturday the wind did get slightly stronger, so you have to be ready to play to the elements. It is something that we will touch on in training. The boys have experienced playing in games like this over their career to make sure that we are prepared and ready for what we are facing.
“That doesn’t guarantee you any right to win the game but it gives you an opportunity to win the game.”
“Aaron Comrie is back fully training amongst the boys which is pleasing. Lewis is still out, he has been told to take another two weeks just to try and let the tendon settle down. He has also had a problem with his outside toe on his right foot. Unfortunately he is getting restricted to doing very little.
“My heart goes out to Lewis because I thought that he was fantastic for us last season. He is a great boy who has possibly not played as many games as he would have liked. This season he will have been desperate to play his part. It is part of our responsibility as a coaching staff and manager to look after Lewis and try and keep him in a happy place because it will be a very frustrating time for him at the moment.
“Lewis Mayo was not deemed a close contact. We went through the right procedures in terms of touching base with the SFA and the doctor. Lewis was all fine. We were made aware of a situation so we acted on that on the Friday just before coming to the game to make sure that Lewis wasn’t deemed to be a close contact.”
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