1) Dunfermline’s “outcasts” can still play a key role
IT was only two months ago that Andrew Barrowman was told by Dunfermline manager Jim Jeffries he could leave to find another club. Not for the first time in his career, Barrowman had looked to settle at a club, but poorly timed injuries and a change of manager had left him in a ponderous position.
However, the forward must have convinced Jeffries over pre-season he still deserves his chance in the team. Barrowman started Dunfermline’s match against Cowdenbeath as a lone striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation, which left Andy Kirk and Craig Dargo on the bench (and new signing Ryan Wallace out of the match-day squad). Barrowman barely got a sniff at Cowden’s goal in the first half, with neither side showing any attacking intent. However, with a couple of minutes before half-time, he found himself in the right place when Cowdenbeath goalkeeper Thomas Flynn fumbled under pressure from Ryan Thomson. Barrowman opened the scoring and will have ensured his place in the side for another week.
If Ryan Thomson could be credited with an indirect assist for the first goal, he contributed significantly more in the second half. Shortly after the restart, he headed in superbly from an Alex Whittle corner, glancing back towards the far post after meeting the ball from a run towards the front. Thomson bettered this with a left-footed shot into the top corner from the edge of the box with 12 minutes of play remaining.
Thomson is still only 21-years-old and has been on the periphery of the Dunfermline first-team squad for a number of years. The player barely featured when the Pars last won the First Division as Martin Hardie, Alex Burke, Gary Mason and Nick Phinn were regularly selected ahead of him. Thomson played more in the SPL when injuries hit the squad during a troublesome campaign, but on the whole, he has been utilised as a recurring substitute for other, more experienced players in the team. Now is the opportunity for the midfielder to assert his place in the first team as the more attack-minded central midfield partner beside Andy Geggan. JAM
2) If inexperience is the problem, Hugh Murray is the solution
The signature of Hugh “Shug” Murray was highly sought-after following his departure from St Mirren in May. Partick Thistle supporters were delighted when the player joined their club, given the relative lack of experience in Jackie McNamara’s squad. Against Falkirk, Murray showed exactly why the manager brought him to Firhill.
Playing in the middle of a midfield three alongside Sean Welsh and the versatile Paul Paton, Murray excelled. His deployment in front of the Thistle defence allowed Welsh and Paton to chase and press the opposition further up the pitch, and he was always available to cover for them positionally, picking up stray passes. He was also generally well-placed to receive the ball when possession was successfully recovered.
It was noticeable that after each of Thistle’s three goals, Murray was the first outfield player to return to his position for the restart, barking advice and instructions at his teammates. His maturity and professionalism has been lacking at Firhill in recent seasons – all too often, Thistle have been careless and complacent, but Murray’s experience will encourage the younger players, particularly Sean Welsh who benefitted from his counsel at various points throughout Saturday’s match.
Much has been made of Murray’s signing, but it looks as though McNamara might have found a key piece in Thistle’s promotion puzzle. VF
3) We have already seen this season’s first “six-pointer”
The last time Dumbarton travelled to New Broomfield, they dispatched Airdrie United with alarming ease in the playoff final and secured their passage to the First Division.
Three months later, the Sons travelled to Airdrie once again for the opening match of their league campaign. This time however, the Sons were on the receiving end of a thrashing by the same 4-1 score-line. Dumbarton were undone by a series of defensive errors and allowed John Boyle to score a fine hat-trick. So poor were the visitors’ Martin McNiff and Gerry Creaney, even Paul di Giacomo scored against them.
It was an awful way to begin the season. For Dumbarton, much will depend on their ability to win their matches against the division’s other promoted sides, with every match becoming, for want of a better phrase, a “six-pointer”. Dumbarton, Cowdenbeath and Airdrie United – as with most part-time First Division’s sides – are likely to spend the season attempting to avoid relegation. The matches between the three teams will be crucial.
If Dumbarton are as fragile and error-prone against some of the more fancied First Division sides whose attacking prowess is far superior to Airdrie’s (Partick Thistle and Livingston immediately spring to mind), they will make an immediate and ignominious return to the Second Division. CGT
4) Ally Brown is lacking backing at Ayr
Goalkeeper Ally Brown is facing a difficult challenge to win over Ayr United supporters after the Honest Men failed to live up to expectations in their league opener, drawing the match with his former club Stenhousemuir.
The rumblings of discontent among the United faithful had started before Brown even joined Mark Roberts’ side. More recently, following a disappointing defeat to East Stirlingshire in the Ramsdens Cup – after which he admitted he did not perform well – Brown’s contribution to the Warriors’ late equaliser on Saturday fell into the “could have done better” category as he flapped at Ross McMillan’s looping header.
Ayr have been here before. Barry John Corr was one of six former Stanraer players brought to the club by Neil Watt in 2007, but the goalkeeper lasted just four-and-a-half games before leaving the club. Replaced at half-time after conceding three goals in front of an infuriated Somerset Road End against Ross County, he was never seen again.
A confidence player, Brown can thrive in the correct environment, but he must improve his performances to avoid a similar fate as Corr. However – and rather paradoxically – the harsh reality for Ayr United fans is that Stenhousemuir could have won the match had it not been for a number of key saves made by Brown himself. AG
5) Jim McInally deserves more credit
After the 2-2 draw between Peterhead and Rangers, much of the attention inevitably fell on the abject nature of the visitors’ performance. Ally McCoist’s side looked uninterested and unfocused for the majority of the match – Doran Goian and Kirk Boradfoot in particular were a source of ineptitude once again – and for a team replete with seven full internationals whose resources vastly outstrip their opposition, far more should be expected from them.
Rangers’ poor performance will detract from a very decent showing from Peterhead, and Jim McInally deserves credit his enterprising tactical system and his team’s general performance. Lining up in a bold 3-5-2 formation, the Blue Toon intended to attack Rangers rather than contain them, and strikers Rory McAllister and Robbie Winters carried out their roles with tenacity and diligence. Their aggressive pressing tactic forced the visitors into lumping hopeful punts in the direction of Lee McCulloch – it was stuffy and attritional and for the best part, limited Rangers’ play.
That said, Rory McAllister’s goal was quite exquisite and the striker’s control, awareness and finish were all deliciously executed, while Scott McLaughlin’s powerful drive was sublimely struck. In truth, Peterhead were unlucky not to have won the match, and they passed up a series of presentable opportunities before Andy Little’s crucial intervention in the final minute.
The result goes some way to debunking predictions that Rangers would steamroller their way through the league. While the Ibrox club are rightly regarded as favourites and will more than likely secure the Third Division championship long before May, it might not be as straightforward as first thought.
It also makes nonsense of some of the recent criticism thrown in the direction of the Third Division. Speaking after the match, McInally rightly hailed his side’s performance and took the opportunity to dismiss the league’s detractors. “We were described as glorified Juniors by one journalist and that’s disrespectful to the Juniors, and to us,” he said. “I hope people respect the Third Division now.” CGT