Dunfermline Athletic

Manager on Thursday

Thursday, 3rd Nov 2022

03/11/22: JM - “It was important, particularly after the negative result the week before, that we got back to positive performances

With Hibs playing Aberdeen on the Friday night and Rangers and Hearts not playing until Sunday few could dispute James McPake’s prediction that Saturday’s Falkirk v Dunfermline match will be “one of the stand out games” of the day in Scotland. Talking at lunchtime the manager said:-

“Everybody wants to be where Celtic and Rangers are at the top end but for the circumstances that we are in, and the league that we are in then it is probably a good advert for the league.

“It is a game that we are looking forward to it, in the sense that the crowd will be big and the rivalry is obviously there. The game earlier in the season was really good - they had a good half, we had a good half in the game - so it will be seen as a tightly matched game but it will be just another game where we will have to go with a game plan and try and come away with three points.”

The Pars are expected to take a sizeable backing to The Falkirk Stadium and James praised the boost that they give him and the players as “different class”.

“Even when we are playing at home they can get frustrated, we know that. Probably not our best performances have been at home but they still get right behind us. In the Peterhead game and in the Airdrie game when Airdrie came back into it, the Falkirk game the first time when they went in the lead pretty early. Then they got us over the line last weekend for example.

“The crowd have been excellent, and I know that it’s a cliche when you talk about the fans, but they have been ever since we came in the door. They have got behind us after what was a disappointing season last season so we need to keep doing that but that’s down to the players.

“For me that is players showing that they have the fight and the desire to play for this football club. As long as they continue to do that the crowd will keep following them no matter what is happening.”

For fans and players alike it was imperative to get back to winning ways last weekend in the West Fife derby, James agreed:-

“It was important, particularly after the negative result the week before, that we got back to positive performances and results albeit at Montrose we were alright in the game. For sixty or seventy minutes against Montrose we were better than we were against Kelty.

“I think in any league or in any team you always find a bit of apprehension after a setback, particularly if it’s your first one or if it’s a run of them. I think the two of them are quite similar. If it’s your first one you want to get back to winning, if you are on a run of them you are desperate to get that win.

“I have had both situations now at different times. Obviously at Dundee on a run in the Championship or at Dunfermline where we were on a great run of not getting beat. Then you get the Montrose game and it is another cliche, that one where you are desperate for a game quickly. We would have loved to have played on the Tuesday night to get that out of the system.

“I think you saw that we needed the 45 minutes because we weren’t great for 45 minutes but credit to Kelty, they were good in the game. I don’t think that you can just say watching it back that you could lay everything at us. The players worked really hard and it wasn’t for the want of that.

“We just looked a wee bit flat, not ourselves but when the belief came back into the side and the players started to sense that they could really hurt Kelty then second half we could have seen anything in the game. For me Kelty had their chances late on when they were really going for it but if we had been more precise at the top end of the pitch then we would have been really comfortable come the end of the game. That is credit to the players as well because that was a big test.

“I said that to them afterwards that it was a big test to see how they react in training and then in a match after we lose our first league game. It was good to see it but I don’t want to see that too often!”

The team has successfully changed its shape during matches this season and the manager gives real credit to his players for the way they have achieved that:-

“We work on a couple of shapes. Most games this season I think we have changed shape within game. That is something that myself and Dave (Mackay) have learned that instead of just asking the players to do it there and then in a game and you are putting subs on, can you work on it and be that bit more flexible?

“They know whether we are going with a back three or if we quickly need to change it to a four. It is great to talk about it and we know that you need to be organised but I think at times tactics and shape sometimes gets into people’s heads - you need to do that, need do this.

“When the game starts you are never really in your shape unless the other team is set up and the ball is taking a while to come in. Falkirk are a prime example of that Hogarth will play really quickly if he catches the ball. If we have wing backs in at the back post trying to header it and the other wing back crossing we are never in our set up shape so we need to be flexible. That is credit to the players, the work they do on training and the way that they can handle it in a game.

“There will not be many games in which we have not flipped between a back four and a back three and I don’t think that there has been a negative one yet. At the end of the day it is about getting three points, getting something that suits the players and I have found they are very adaptable. We are very pleased with that.”

As expected Paul Allan (pictured above) has trained this week and he is very likely to make the squad for the weekend:-

“He has trained well and he is a good player, we are delighted to have him back. Kevin O’Hara is still in his brace, Lewis McCann is a bit further down the road. Neither will make the weekend. Rhys Breen will be fine, we made a tactical change and with a tight hamstring added into the mix as well. We weren’t going to take any chances but he will be fine come Saturday.”

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