Confidence in back three

In the world of football, injuries can often upset a team’s performance and morale. When a team is missing key players, especially in the defence, it can be a daunting challenge. However, despite having to cope with up to six players missing through injury, the Pars have showcased an impressive defensive prowess. Manager James McPake has managed to navigate through this challenging situation with tactical versatility and a committed group of players.

Last Saturday, James placed his faith in the same starting eleven that had previously faced Queen’s Park. This decision demonstrated his trust in the defensive back three of Aaron Comrie, Sam Fisher, and Ewan Otoo, who had played together for the first time against Queen’s Park. 

Despite conceding a goal on Saturday, the clean sheet against Queen’s Park bolstered James’ belief that he has solid defensive options at his disposal. He expressed his optimism, saying, “There will be certain games where it will be Benedictus, Breen, Fisher, and Benedictus, Breen, Comrie. Otoo will be playing somewhere else, he will probably play as a number ten at some point” he joked.

The manager’s ability to adapt his tactics and personnel to suit different systems has been instrumental in the success. James continued:-

“There were times last season when there were changed back threes like Aaron against Edinburgh playing left-sided when Breeny was ill pre-match. That was the first time that three had played together, but we got a clean sheet that day.

“I can guarantee that there will be times this season when we will play 4-3-3 or 4-3-2-1. We might try and be clever and go 4-4-2 at some point as well!  It is good fun chopping and changing the system as long as you get the result on a Saturday and the players buy into it.”

One standout player in Dunfermline’s defensive lineup is Ewan Otoo, who James praised as “excellent and great to work with day in and day out.” James firmly believes that Ewan’s potential extends beyond the Scottish Championship level and commends his receptiveness to coaching.

“I knew after a week of having him, just how good a footballer he was. He is rapid quick, good on the ball and as strong as they come. The biggest thing for me is that he wants to get better. 

“I don’t believe Scottish Championship will be his level for long, like a lot of them in there. They have to want to get better and he is certainly one of those who does. In fairness they all do but someone so early in his career, he is a joy to work with. He is a bit of a throwback. You can criticise him, you can build him up. 

“There is no set way with Ewan, he is just so relaxed in everything he does, you can see that on a Saturday. The way he takes the ball down. He has two strikers running at him and he will start an attack. The line that we hold is so high but no matter what three or four it is they will hold that high line because they have pace to burn as well. He has been excellent and if we cannot make him a better player then we are not doing our job properly. That’s how good and how receptive he is to work with.”

Dunfermline’s impressive defensive record, even amidst injuries to key players like Kyle Benedictus and Rhys Breen, is a testament to the team’s collective effort and concentration. McPake attributed their success to the group’s commitment to tactical work and shape adjustment. He noted that players like Aaron Comrie seamlessly transition between different roles, contributing to the team’s adaptability.

McPake also praised Michael O’Halloran as a versatile player who can slot into various positions effectively. He acknowledged that the players have had to concentrate and adapt during training, which is no small feat. James concluded by acknowledging the players’ dedication, stating, “The players deserve a lot of credit for that.”

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