A Review of 2018Date: Monday, 31st Dec 2018
Good, Bad or Indifferent? How has Dunfermline`s 2018 gone?
Another rollercoaster 12 months as a Dunfermline supporter has been and gone as the club continues to battle away in the Scottish Championship for a third consecutive season.
The year began with a 2-0 victory over arch rivals Falkirk at East End Park, to continue on the good work from the previous fixture on the 23rd December, 2017, which was also a home victory, over Brechin City. In a manic few days prior to the derby, Sean Murdoch received the injury blow that has saw him remain unavailable for the whole of this campaign so far, with Lee Robinson swooping in on New Years Day to sign for the club and take some, potential, pressure off Cammy Gill. The Englishman took to the field without really knowing his team-mates and put in a Man of the Match display to deny the Bairns a Happy New Year.
Just days later, a third consecutive victory would see Dunfermline rise up the table as a Joe Cardle stunner defeated Dumbarton. However, the next win wouldn’t arrive until the 13th of March – a 7-match run where the club drew 3 and lost 4 of those matches. One of which saw the Pars knocked out of the Scottish Cup in late January, with Greenock Morton doing what they seem to do best against Allan Johnston’s men – fire in a late winner to seal victory. Jai Quitongo would once again foil the Fifers as the pressure piled up on the management team.
Deadline day saw activity of a positive kind, with Daniel Armstrong and Tom Beadling joining the club on loan from English Championship sides Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sunderland, respectively, following the earlier arrivals of James Craigen from Falkirk, James Vincent on-loan from Dundee and the aforementioned Robinson.
A cold Tuesday evening saw a must-win match for Dunfermline against fourth placed Inverness Caledonian Thistle. Anything barring 3 points would virtually end Athletic’s hopes of finishing within the top four come May. An early left-footed strike by James Craigen following a free-kick would be the decisive goal and send the hardy 2200 or so home fans away with a sense of optimism. And rightly so, too, as the West Fife club went 9 matches undefeated until the end of the season, finishing off the term with momentum and giving the team an outside chance of promotion.
A monumental moment came in the penultimate match, away to ICT…once again, a positive result was required if Johnston’s men were to have any chance of finishing off the season strongly. An opening goal by Andy Ryan gave the Pars the belief that this may just be their time to shine once again; Joe Chalmers equalised pretty soon after before Nathan Austin fired John Robertson’s men ahead to set up a tense finale on the banks of the Moray Firth.
With everything bar the kitchen sink being thrown at Caley, it looked to be all in vein heading into the final seconds of injury time – step forward Nicky Clark to head home a Cardle cross to send the packed away end into raptures. Delirious scenes in the Highlands put the Pars in pole position.
A comfortable final day victory over Dumbarton at East End Park – in front of former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson – allowed Dunfermline to progress through to the promotion play-offs. Did the Premiership beckon? Many felt a win over Dundee United in the quarter-finals would secure at least a place in the final, with “just Livingston” in the semi’s, assuming a victory would arise following 180 intense minutes against Csaba Laszlo’s side.
An incident packed first leg at East End saw the match end in controversial fashion as the teams drew 0-0 in front of 6.500 supporters. Lee Ashcroft was shown a straight red card and that enraged all associated with the Fifers. A chance gone and all to play for at Tannadice.
Another storming start to the match by Dunfermline saw Declan McManus finally make their pressure pay-off; a one-on-one miss would come back to haunt the striker though. Two second-half goals, by Scott McDonald and then Sam Stanton, broke the hearts of many a DAFC supporter as Dunfermline’s season ended in tears for many who travelled to the City of Discovery. An unthinkable defeat considering how both clubs had acquitted themselves over the two matches: but, it is goals that change games and Dunfermline just couldn’t get over the finishing line on this occasion.
Despite the disappointment, it was positive vibes heading into the summer. Tom Beadling quickly signed up on a 2-year-deal as Johnston showed his intent early on. Despite wanting to hold on to their best players, Dunfermline would lose key men throughout the off-season. Callum Morris and McManus would join Ross County while top-scorer Nicky Clark and Canadian international Fraser Aird joined Dundee United. A rebuilding job was required: 11 new players joined in total in the summer, while others did sign new contracts or re-join the club on loan. It was a major, unwanted, period of transition for the Pars and you may forgive them for a slow start.
Ironically, it wasn’t though; a clean sweep in the BetFred Cup saw Dunfermline begin the season as they ended the previous – 12 points and 4 wins, including one over Premiership side Dundee, boosted expectations for the term ahead. Then, coincidentally, back to Tannadice they went for another opportunity to break the Tannadice Hoo-Doo.
And, wouldn’t you just believe it – a victory over United on the opening day of the 18-19 league season made everyone sit up and notice Johnston’s “title challengers”. 8 matches followed, though, without the green tick beside their name: despite a win on penalties and a mini-resurgence in form, mainly through a number of draws, Dunfermline plummeted down the division and looked in danger of being caught up in a dogfight for bottom spot.
Victories over Partick Thistle and Falkirk, combined with a draw against Alloa, brought them up into mid-table mediocrity, but, a further run of difficult results have continued to plague the Pars’ progress. In the final month of the year, Dunfermline lost only 1 of their 5 matches, away to Partick, while drawing with Queen of the South and Ayr United. Wins over Morton – only their second victory at EEP in the second-tier this term – and Falkirk, has saw a slight glimmer of hope return to those of the Black & White persuasion.
Only 3 points off the play-offs, albeit Inverness have a game in hand, despite dodgy spells throughout the campaign to date, can only be seen as a positive heading into the New Year. A run of positive results can turn the table on it’s head in just a matter of weeks. But, despite being 10 points clear of bottom spot and 9 of the relegation play-offs, it isn’t all plain sailing for the DA just yet and a lot of hard work remains ahead of the players and the management team.
Starting and Ending 2018 with 3 points over Falkirk cannot be sniffed at and everyone associated with the club will be looking to build on the results gained in December heading into the final half of the term. The Transfer Window will open and deals can be made; players will likely leave and new guys will probably join – can Dunfermline afford even more upheaval? Stick or Twist… that is the question AJ and his staff now face – freshness may be required after a testing season so far, but, the nucleus of a good and competitive squad for the Scottish Championship is there.
A Scottish Cup tie looms against local neighbours Raith Rovers while Alloa Athletic; Dundee United and Morton await over the coming weeks ahead. It is going to be another rollercoaster 2019, I am sure we all know that. But, isn’t that why we support this club? We know it ain’t always going to be happy and enjoyable, but, you know you will always have something to debate, something to be passionate about and something that can make or break your weekend!
Here is to a prosperous and successful 2019!
Here are a few stats, provided by dafc.net forum user ParsLoyal98:
Competitive Matches Played in 2018: 48
Wins – 21
Draws – 12
Losses – 15
Goals For: 68
Goals Against: 45
Goal Difference: +23
Competitive Matches Played in 2017: 48
Wins – 23
Draws – 12
Losses – 13
Goals For: 85
Goals Against: 52
Goal Difference: +33