Manager on ThursdayThursday, 27th Apr 2017
27/04/17: AJ - "We have just to finish this season as high up as possible and then try and improve as well.
Allan Johnston feels that there is a lot still to play for this season with players playing for contracts and a fifth place finish the priority. It appears that he will have to do that without the services of Callum Morris who he says will now be out for the season with a knee injury and the possible absences of Sean Murdoch and Andy Geggan who are carrying knocks. He told the media on Thursday:-
"Everybody wants to play at this time of year when contracts are up, everybody is desperate to play. We have a couple of knocks and a couple of injuries so there will be changes for the game against Morton on Saturday. We still want to win the game so we have to have as strong a team as possible on the park.
"It looks as though Callum will probably be out until the end of the season, he will be a big loss because he has been brilliant since he came in and been a big player for us. He is definitely out.
"Whoever plays I`m sure that we will have a strong squad on the park. We want to finish the season on a high as well. We want to get that fifth place so there is still a lot still to play for."
Callum Morris is only one of several of the first team squad who are out of contract but Allan remarked that was no different from every other club in Scotland.
"It is just one year and two year contracts and there is a big turnaround every year. There are still a lot of decisions to be made, you can see that we have a good nucleus of a squad, I wouldn`t want to change things drastically. It is always good to freshen up with a couple of new faces but we have a lot of good players and we are trying our best to try and keep them.
"It is important that these players are here next year because we want to be challenging up the top end of the table next season."
The match versus Morton is an important test for his players claimed Allan Johnston:-
"You want to try and pick up results, especially at home. You want to finish on a high with a good result at home after the dramas of last week as well.
"It is disappointing that we lost the game first and foremost because at 1-0 it looked as though we were the team in control. Then the penalty decision changed things. A couple of minutes later we got a man sent off, maybe we lost a bit of focus there."
The three games this season against Morton have brought the Pars six points with two wins and a defeat but that cannot be bad against a team that has ended up in the play offs. AJ commented:-
"They score a lot of goals from setpieces, guys like Ross Forbes who was here before, he has scored a lot of goals this season. He has had a really good season.
"O`Ware, for a centre half has scored an incredible amount of goals, but as a team they work really really hard and I think that is credit to Jim Duffy and the way that he has them set up. They work hard and they have had a really good season and I`m sure that they will be desperate to continue that form into the play offs."
Morton were promoted from League One in 2015 and their route is one that Dunfermline would do well to follow. The Greenock side finished last season in fifth place in the Championship with 43 points, one point ahead of Queen of the South and St Mirren. The manager added:-
"That is where we want to be as a club. We have just to finish this season as high up as possible and then try and improve as well. That is what we have to do because the one thing that has let us down this year has been against the top teams. We have not picked up enough points, we need that wee bit extra quality to try and win those types of games."
With no news on signing for the first team squad the manager did comment on the signing of youth players 17 year old Callum Smith and Stuart Morrison:-
"I am delighted to see them sign extensions as well, we have big plans for them. We see them having a big future in the game but they obviously have got to keep progressing as well. This year they have come on leaps and bounds and they just got to keep doing that.
"They are both young lads who have played a lot for the under 20s. They have had great experience and you just have to keep on developing them and hopefully get them as close to the first team as possible."
The young striker and central defender have both benefited playing both with and against older and more experienced players:-
"They talk you through the game. Big Stuart he has played alongside Callum Fordyce in a few games. Playing alongside an experienced defender who can point out little things that can improve your game.
"It is the same with Callum as well. You want your young players to develop. It doesn`t matter how young they are, if they are good enough they will play in your first team.
"It makes sense that we are going back to reserve team football next year. It makes sense because even for younger lads playing against somebody who is more experienced it is more of a test. That will bring them on because they will learn more playing against somebody who is maybe 25 or 26 than somebody the same age as them."
The manager confessed that his experiences of reserve team football included playing up front alongside his now assistant, Sandy Clark.
"It was a good standard then and I think we actually won the Reserve League at Hearts because there was a number coming through. The younger ones below me won the BP Youth Cup so there was a good crop who went on to have good careers at a good level."