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Thoughts on the Championship - 13-14/9/19

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McCall enjoys getting one over Dundee United and Shankland
As post-match trolling Just, wow.

Incredible from McCall. Neilson has been burned alive here.
— itzdrk (@itzdrk) September 14, 2019
Aye, so Ian McCall really doesn't like Robbie Neilson then. He certainly seemed to rather enjoy shackling Lawrence Shankland, who was anonymous against his former club; I bet other Championship coaches will be taking note. Shankland wasn't the only ex-Ayr player feeling grim after this one. Liam Smith got burned badly by Daniel Harvie when the left-back metamorphosed into a rampaging centre-forward to open the scoring, and seemed to be targeted by McCall. After being twisted and turned all day he eventually gave a penalty away by tripping Alan Forrest, with the winger scoring it himself to clinch the win.

Whilst a lot of the focus post-match was on how perhaps folk had been too quick to anoint Dundee United as certs for promotion (ahem) it's worth noting that Ayr, who lost several good players in the summer and who are so short of numbers that Kris Doolan was the only one of their five subs who is over the age of 20, are only behind them on goal difference. It's early days but that's still pretty impressive. Can they sustain it?

Crawford is running out of time
Dunfermline-Inverness had 0-0 written all over it from early on, until a Devine intervention - Pars substitute Daniel Devine gave away a foolish penalty for handball late on against his former club that gifted the visitors three scarcely-deserved points. So Dunfermline, who dropped to the bottom of the table after Friday night's game, could count themselves pretty unlucky.

The flipside is this:

Dunfermline's league record under Stevie Crawford:

Played 21
Won 5
Drawn 4
Lost 12
Scored 14
Conceded 20
Points 19

Those 5 wins all came in a row. They haven't won in 13 league games since 9 March
— Narey's Toepoker (@Nareystoepoker) September 14, 2019

Also, just 34 goals total in 21 games? How incredibly dull is that? Crawford has had to face arguably the three strongest sides in the division in the opening five games; they now have three vulnerable opponents to come in Partick Thistle, Alloa and Morton. If they're still bottom after that, the international break would seem like a logical time to replace Crawford.

Dundee look better with one up front
Apparently Alan Trouten hadn't missed a penalty in more than five years before Jack Hamilton saved his tame spot-kick at Dens Park. And that leaves me a nice easy stick to beat James McPake with (not literally!) - if only Trouten had been as reliable as usual, then Dundee would have been held to a draw.

But the Dark Blues hit the woodwork twice and kept Jamie MacDonald, signed on an emergency loan on Friday, busy in the Alloa goal all afternoon. Crucially, they appear to have found a system that works, eschewing a second striker and instead using Paul McGowan in a more advanced role. Moreover, Josh McPake was particularly impressive on the left. The eighteen year old, on loan from Rangers, set up Jordan McGhee's winner with some fine wing play and was a threat all afternoon. The change in formation leaves Kane Hemmings as a rather expensive substitute but if Dundee are starting to put it all together then that's not exactly a bad problem to have.

Is Miller the solution for Thistle, or part of the problem?
That was some finish from Kenny Miller to rescue a point for Partick Thistle, though it certainly wasn't a reassuring display from the Harry Wraggs; Albeit in blustery conditions, Arbroath should have blown them away in the first half and Luke Donnelly was denied a late winner by an erroneous offside flag.

For long periods Thistle looked devoid of ideas, even when Gary Caldwell hooked Tommy Robson for tactical reasons before half time. Only Reece Cole, playing at the base of midfield, looked comfortable. It didn't help though that often Miller, looking frustrated, would drop as deep as or even deeper than Cole to try and get the ball, or drift to the flank to try and get the ball, or, well, just wander anywhere. Given he was the lone striker, it often meant that there was no-one up front at all. Apart from disrupting the shape, it's worth noting that Miller's 39 year old legs no longer get from A to B as quickly as they used to and he would surely do his team a lot more good if he held his position and showed some discipline. Giving the best (or the loudest) kid in the playground the ball at every opportunity isn't always the best idea.

QOS (El) Bakh in business
Given Morton's recent defensive travails, Allan Johnston might feel disappointed that Queen of the South only scored once, but when you've only won three league games since mid-January you take what you can get. Given the Doonhamers' dependence on Stephen Dobbie they will have welcomed a first goal for Faissal El Bakhtaoui, who has been devoid of confidence for the best part of three years. Deploying El Bakhtaoui on the left and out-and-out winger Connor Murray on the right in a 4-4-2 is adventurous to say the least but it did the business on this occasion.

It will be interesting to see if Queens try that again at Inverness next weekend, who have a lot more attacking prowess than Morton do. That said, Dobbie limped off in the second half on Saturday and if he has to miss time El Bakhtaoui may be back at centre forward for that one anyway.

Lawrie Spence has whinged about Scottish football on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly.

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