Manager on ThursdayThursday, 8th Apr 2021
08/04/21: SC - “It will be a tough game but with the spirit that we showed on Saturday, we can go down there and definitely win.”
The Scottish Championship season has five fixtures remaining for Dunfermline Athletic and their results in these will determine whether or not the Pars make the Premiership play offs.
Of the five games left two will be away from home, including Saturday at Somerset Park against Ayr United. But with the current record showing just one league game won away from home, it is something that the team have to improve on insists manager Stevie Crawford:
“The two games that we have away from home are against sides that we have taken points from this season. That does not guarantee you anything. Without stating the obvious our home form has been very good and our away form has to get better between now and the end of the season but into next season as well.”
Both games against Ayr United this season have been goalless affairs but the Ayrshire club have had a change of management with David Hopkin taking over from Mark Kerr. Stevie expects a competitive match with the home side seeking to avoid the play offs at the bottom and Dunfermline still chasing the play offs at the top:-
“It is never nice to see Mark and big Mike McArdle leave but that’s the life of a football manager. David Hopkin has come in and he will be doing everything he can at Ayr to finish as high in the league as possible. So it will be a tough game but with the spirit that we showed on Saturday, we can go down there and definitely win.”
The manager’s confidence was boosted by a much improved performance in the 0-0 draw against Hearts last Saturday:-
“Albeit Hearts had chances in the game as well, we created a number of chances, we were aggressive in our attacking play, defensively looked solid and compact in our shape.
“As I said after the game, Craig Gordon has pulled off a great save from Euan Murray’s header, Vytas has hit the crossbar and Kevin O’Hara and Scott Banks were unlucky with efforts in the game so Saturday was better. It was a testing week but it showed that fighting spirit and togetherness that we are going to need for the next five games.”
The character shown against the Championship’s leaders was great with no hint of the two damaging results:-
“Credit to the boys, it started from the front, Kevin O’Hara was excellent in his defensive responsibilities and we looked to hit Hearts on the counterattack. Declan was great with his link play, Scott Banks and Dom Thomas played in the pocket areas making runs in behind and we defended situations as well with everything that Hearts threw at us.
“Big Vytas came in for his starting debut and it was a massive positive that we got a clean sheet with the big man coming in. It wouldn’t have been easy for him. It was a good solid performance where we had opportunities to score goals and I felt that we could have taken all three points.”
Ewan Henderson made his home debut when replacing Kevin O’Hara towards the end of the game and won a late free kick in a dangerous position on the edge of the left side of the Hearts box. Stevie praised the on loan Celtic midfielder for fitting in so quickly.
“To be fair Ewan hadn’t even had a training session with us when we introduced him into the Dundee game. All year we had done our homework on him, technically he is very comfortable on the ball, he sees a forward pass. It was a hard night for him in the Rovers game and then he came on and had a part to play in the draw against Hearts.
“He will be a big player for us in the coming games. When we brought him in we knew it was only for a few games but we are thankful that Celtic have made it possible for us to get him into the building. He will play a part as will all the players at the club.
“He brings a different dimension. Ewan has good body movement, he sends players the wrong way. He has got that slight pass in him, he is creative and I am sure that he will be an exciting player for us over the next five games.”
Stevie was at Ayr on Tuesday night to watch his next two opponents meet and Dundee take away a 3-0 win. Inverness’ 4-1 win at Cappielow on the same evening lifted them back above Dunfermline by two points but having played one match more.
Although it was temporary Stevie felt that regaining a play off position on Saturday was a positive after a tough week and collectively everyone knows what has to be done in the remaining five games to get into the play off positions.
Eleven points separate eight clubs, every club in the Championship still has plenty to play for, something that the Pars gaffer said was just unreal.
“If you listen back to managers talking in this league we all sound like stuck records, but the reality is it is that competitive and there is nothing in the league. We have all hit different bits of form at different stages of the season.”
Stevie has already described his season as a rollercoaster and he added:-
“We are working with a new squad, a young squad. Sometimes you have to face adversity but it makes more of a man of you. We are going to have to show that fight, determination, application that we showed against Hearts on Saturday to make sure that we are where we want to be come the end of the season.”
He said that the hurt of defeat at Stark’s Park is something that will last for a long time but he has admitted that tactically he got it wrong against Raith Rovers:-
“Sometimes you can hide in life but I want to take full responsibility for that. It is not a nice feeling and it is not that it comes lightly being able to speak like this. I am ask my players and ask everybody at the club to look forward and learn and try to give their best.
“I am not exempt from that and I think it shows the character that I am. I am far from happy with the way the game panned out at Stark’s Park but that is it and now let’s put it to bed because it is a learning one and the hurt will always remain there. That is never going to go away.
“What I really enjoyed about Saturday’s performance, other than taking the three points was that togetherness and I am massive on that. I think if I hid from the fact then the players would look at me in that light, and the supporters and everybody who has a feeling for this football club.
“In life you get an opportunity to move on, it is never ever going to go away. But the reality is we still have five big games this season and we have got to collectively stick together to end up where we want to finish.”
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