Dunfermline Athletic

Points not goals that matter

Friday, 1st Jan 2021

Declan McManus: “If I stay top goalscorer, that’s obviously a huge plus but if I don’t then, as long as we’re challenging to get up to the Premiership, that’s all that matters.”

Declan McManus starts the new year as joint top goalscorer in the Scottish Championship but the 26 year old claims that he is only concerned about his own tally and even then that is not the main concern:-

“Sow and Naismith got a few the other night but, for me personally, I don’t really look at the charts. I keep tabs on my own goals and I want to get to at least 10 by the end of January, that’s always my target. Then you go and try to get to the 20.

“I’ll be focused on that. If I stay top goalscorer, that’s obviously a huge plus but if I don’t then, as long as we’re challenging to get up to the Premiership, that’s all that matters.”

Declan played in 27 games in 2020 and only lost just twice, once against Hearts while playing at Falkirk last season and then the reversal against Morton last month. He agreed that 2020 has not been that bad for him:-

“In terms of football, it’s been a pretty good year for me. Obviously, starting off with Falkirk and I was scoring goals and enjoying my football. We were doing well and going for the title but when the pandemic hit that killed that. I then managed to get back here and it’s just taken off from where I left off, in terms of enjoying my football and just loving being here.

Above: Declan is presented with the Player of the Year Award for season 2017-2018

“When I left, I didn’t leave because I wasn’t enjoying it or anything like that. There were other reasons. I was kind of worried when I signed because I knew it would be different management and different players but as soon as I was in the first day, I knew I was going to enjoy it again - and I have. I’ve got a few goals and I’m doing well for the team, and the team’s doing well, which is a huge plus.”

Declan who is in his second spell at Dunfermline after being the club’s Player of the Year in season 2017-2018, feels that he has to be happy to finish the year with a home win against Arbroath and and draw in Inverness, four points out of a possible six.

“Every game is tough - Arbroath are typically hard to break down and we found that with getting the last-minute goal. But I felt we played pretty well for the most part of that game.

“Then on Tuesday against Inverness I thought the boys started the game really well and got in front. Then, it’s a wonder goal - he would probably hit that to the corner flag the next five times he tries it.

“It set us back in the game and they got a wee lift from it but all in all, I think it was another good performance. To go up to Inverness on a Tuesday night with the weather the way it was, it’s got to go down as a good point.”

Declan had started every league match this season for Dunfermline and so it surprised most when the starting eleven was announced at Inverness without him in it but he pointed out that when the manager names the team and he cannot expect to start because he has got other options:-

“You saw that on Tuesday night. Kev (O’Hara) has played with me and I’ve played a lot as a lone striker, but big Lewis (McCann) has been chapping at the door as well; he did well against St Johnstone when he came on. He’s not really had a proper run at the team and I’m sure he’ll be chomping at the bit to get that run in the team. I don’t think he did himself any harm on Tuesday, I thought he was really good. He’s a handful.

“Of course, you want to start every game, but I’m old enough and ugly enough now to know that you don’t start every game, and other boys can play, especially when they’re doing well, like Kev coming off the bench and scoring last Saturday. You’re going to sit on the bench and it’s up to you to come on and make an impact, like Kev did against Arbroath.”

Indeed Declan almost did scored but his header from point blank range was miraculously kept out by Danny Devine:-

“To this very moment, I still don’t know how he cleared it. It just never worked out for us. But it was a good point all in all. I was a wee bit gutted with that chance, that we never managed to steal the three points.

“We’re going into a derby game in second position, three and four points ahead of the others and five points behind Hearts. So, we’ve still got everything to play for.

“After the first third of games we wanted 20 and we never quite got there, but 18 points after nine games is very good. If we can replicate that in the next two thirds we’ll definitely be challenging.”

Hearts are relentless and that makes every point precious, Declan confirmed that he and his team mates are still focused on the title:-

“For me, personally, at the start of the season our eyes were on going to win the title. It doesn’t matter who’s in the league, if you believe you’re good enough then you can go and do it.

“It’s fair play to Hearts. If they keep churning out results then, as it stands, they’ll be champions. But we’ll focus on ourselves and try to win as many games as possible. To come out of the first 10 games with just one defeat is obviously a plus.

“In that game we probably shouldn’t have beaten, we were a bit off it, but we had plenty of chances to make sure we never lost the game.

“It’s all pluses right now. Performances have maybe dipped a wee bit, in terms of our attacking threat and maybe our set-pieces in the last three or four games. That’s going to happen at times but the good thing is - the sign of a good team - we’ve managed to nick the last-minute goal against Arbroath, scored three in the last 15 minutes against Dundee.

“Games like that, where it doesn’t seem to be going for us, we’ve managed to find a way. That’s a massive plus and, I believe, a sign of a good team.”

Then there was comeback from 2-0 down against Raith as well.

“I forgot about that one! Listen, Raith are a good team and they’re one of the more ‘footballing’ sides in the league. The fact we gave them two goals from set-pieces is the most annoying thing.

“Generally, we’ve been pretty good at set-pieces. Attacking-wise, Muz (Euan Murray) has scored a lot but, defensively, we’ve been pretty sound as well. So, to give away two goals like that in a derby was annoying but we reacted well again, like we have in every game where we’ve gone behind, and we managed to find a way to make sure we never lost the game, at least. If we can keep that trait for the rest of the season it’ll stand us in good stead.”

Declan’s strike against Raith was possibly the best of the season but he offered other just as satisfying goals:

“Maybe the Inverness one at the start of the season, but in terms of enjoyment it was probably my best one - saying that, Dundee, being the last kick of the ball and a free kick!

“But there was that added touch of it being a derby and me with my history at Raith, and the fans not really liking me, it makes it that wee bit better for me. We still felt in the Raith game, because we got those two goals so quickly, and there was still 10 or 15 minutes left, that we could go on and win it.

“Although we never had any clear cut chances that you would have said we should have taken, we still felt we should maybe have gone on and won it, because we had them on the back foot.

“But it was like some of the points we’ve picked up, where people from the outside or people at the game have probably thought, ‘how have they managed to do that?’. It’s the sign of a good team.”

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